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September 2022

Mountain Spy :: September 2022

The Best and Worst of Spy

Written by The Editors | 0 comment

It may be SAM’s 60th this year, but our beloved Mountain Spy is celebrating a big birthday, too: sweet sixteen. In recognition of this milestone, we’ve trawled back through the archives to find some of the best—and worst—calls over the Spy’s career. Sometimes the questions are funny while the answers are thoughtful, other times, it’s the inverse.

Quality customer service is evergreen. Go back in time with the Spy to parse out what makes the difference between a winning call and a losing one.

 

WORST

 

May 2006
MOUNTAIN 6, MT

Answering phone: Automated answering machine. Four options, waited for operator.
First contact: Young female. Friendly.
SAM: My friends and I are planning to come up and ski this weekend for the day. We thought it would be something fun and new to do, but we've never skied before. Ever. What do I need to know?
Staff: Uh, well… I'm not really certain, but let me transfer you to our guest ski services.
SAM: OK, thanks.
Answering phone: Young male. Sounded like he just woke up after a night of drinking...and was still drunk.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Uuuhhh. (Pause) Do you have skis?
SAM: No.
Staff: Do you want to take a lesson?
SAM: I don't know. Should I?
Staff: Uuhh, well, if you want. I didn't take a lesson when I learned how to ski and, uh, I'm pretty good. I catch onto things fast. (Long pause—my laughing started at this point.)
SAM: OK, well, what do you think I should do?
Staff: Ummm. (Really long pause) I would probably take a, uhh, lesson. I think you can get one of those, uhhh, whatchamacallits, uhh, packages I think, for a lesson. You need to go to rental and get skis and then go to the ski school. (Just stops talking.)
SAM: OK, well, that's all great. Thanks. But what should I be wearing?
Staff: Ummm. Snow pants and a jacket.
SAM: OK. Can I rent those or do I need to buy them?
Staff: Uhh, well, we don't really rent out clothes here anymore. And it's prolly cheaper if you buy that stuff around from where you are. It'll be cheaper than at the mountain.
SAM: Oookay. Well, where do I go first when I get there? Is there a main building or where should I go?
Staff: Ski school, I think.
SAM: Where's that?
Staff: Uhh. The Plaza. Second level of that building.
SAM: Wow. OK. Thank you.
Staff: Yeah dude, anytime.

Rating: -3. But 10 for the entertainment.
Comment: There really are no words to describe the customer service rep. Drunk, high, ate too many paint chips as a kid? Who knows.

 

September 2006
MOUNTAIN 1, VT

Answering phone: Automated machine. Three choices, none were HR, chose reservations. 
First contact: Female.
SAM: I’m a snowboarder who moved here from Colombia a few years ago, and I do have a green card. I am calling to see if you have any openings at your area?
Staff: OK, let me transfer you to someone that can help you with that.
(transferred…)
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: We actually go through a company called IWS, which is International Work Solutions. If you want to give them a call. Let me get their number for you. 
SAM: OK, thanks. 
Staff: Do you have an H-2B?
SAM: No, I’m a legal resident. 
Staff: What kind of visa do you have?
SAM: No, I don’t need a visa. I’m a legal citizen. 
Staff: Where are you from?
SAM: I live in Massachusetts. I’m looking for a winter job because I know this is the time of year that you usually start to hire people. 
Staff: Well, we don’t have any housing or insurance here, though, so you might not like it. I would probably suggest XX ski area or XX area. I would check there…OK?
SAM: OK.
Staff: OK then, thanks a lot. 

Rating: 2
Comment: First, she assumed I needed to go through an international program even though I stated at the beginning that I am a legal resident. And even after I restated that fact, she clearly had her doubts. In HR, the person answering the phone should, minimally, understand what a legal resident is. And punting me down the road to two other ski areas? I am utterly baffled.

 

May 2012
MOUNTAIN 1, CA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Male.
SAM: I'm a season passholder and want to know whether you are offering any credits or vouchers for next year's pass thanks to all of the days I missed this year. 
Staff: Not that I’m aware, but I work in human resources. (Silence…)
SAM: OK. Is there someone else that might know a little more?
Staff: Let me get you up to tickets. (Transferred…)
Second contact: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Nooo, we’re not. (Silence…)
SAM: OK. Well, I thought I would ask.
Staff: Yeeeeah, we don’t do that here, sorry.

Rating: 3
Comment: Yeeeeeah, I’m sorry, too… for the lack of any personality whatsoever.

 

September 2014
MOUNTAIN 4, MN

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female. (Sounded like she was chewing food!)
SAM: My husband and I want to try out your zip lines, but my husband is on the heavier side. Are there any weight restrictions?
Staff: Um, it’s a total of 450-pounds combined weight.
SAM: What do you mean combined weight?
Staff: Like the two people stand on the scale and if you’re over 460 you have to split. (huh?...)
SAM: I’m still not sure I understand. Do you go together?
Staff: You can sit together, yeah.
SAM: Gotcha. So, if we exceed that max weight can one person still just go?
Staff: Yeah, they would pay for a single ride to go by themselves.
SAM: OK, now I get it. Well, that’s a good alternative if we max out the combined weight. Thanks for your help.

Rating: 2
Comment:
 She gave me two different weight limits and was short with me. No thanks.

 

March 2017
MOUNTAIN 2, CA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: “I’m a decent skier, but I’ve never skied powder before and it looks awesome, but I hear it’s different. What do I need to know?”
Staff: Ummm, you’re asking when it’s going to be a powder day?
SAM: Oh no, I understand you can’t predict when it’s going to snow. I am just trying to get some general information. With the winter we’ve been having and the people who have suggested I join them on a ski day, I assume that we’ll plan to go the next time Mother Nature brings us some more snow.
Staff: Ummm, uh, so right now it’s raining. That’s all I can tell you. The weather forecast I have only runs through Tuesday, so I can’t really tell you what it’s going to be like in the weeks to come. It’s been snowing a lot then raining a lot, so I really have no idea what to expect in the coming weeks. We do have a base of, like, 130 inches right now. Umm, and when it’s not snowing the base is what we call Sierra cement. It’s pretty firm snow, especially with this rain we’re getting it’s probably going to solidify it. So if we do get some snow, it’s probably going to be powder. So I can’t really give you an idea of what it’s going to look like past this week, so I am not going to be very much help for you.
SAM: Well, I understand that you can’t give me a long-term forecast, but I am making this call under the assumption that we will have another powder day this season and my friends and I will plan to come ski then—whenever that may be this season. I am not experienced skiing powder, so I am just trying to make sure that I am prepared for that type of conditions.
Staff: Ummm, OK, well do you mean gear-wise? Because I can’t really give you an idea of when there is going to be a powder day because we don’t really know. I have the weather up until Tuesday, so I am not really going to be much help predicting the weather for you. Gear-wise, I can transfer you to someone in the repair shop who can help you on planning what kind of skis to bring….
SAM: Yes, that’s what I am looking for. If you could transfer me that would be great.
Staff: Yeah, cuz it’s been kind of a crazy winter so it’s kinda hard to predict the weather. Right now we’re actually closed because of rain so there’s nobody here at work, but if you do need help planning gear I can transfer you over to the rental-repair shop and you can leave a message and when we open maybe someone could call you back and help you with information. Other than that I am not really sure when the next good ski day is going to be.
SAM: OK, I will call back on another day to speak to someone in rentals.
Staff: OK, I assume we’ll probably be closed tomorrow looking at the weather. It looks like this weekend it’s going to be pretty sunny, but past that I have no idea what to expect. We should be open Saturday, maybe Friday at the earliest.
SAM: Great, thank you.
Staff: Alrighty. (click)

Rating: 0
Comment: Why is this dudette answering the phone when no one else is there? Please, put her outside, away from people. I’m not asking for a forecast, and don’t offer to transfer me to someone who isn’t there. Ugh.

 

January 2018
MOUNTAIN 7, WV

First contact: Female.
SAM: I’m planning to come for the day with my family. Where do we go for a non-binary bathroom?
Staff: Say that again. What are you looking for?
SAM: Just looking to see if there’s a non-binary bathroom at the ski area. A family member of ours doesn’t identify as male or female.
Staff: (impatiently) Uh huh.
SAM: (uncomfortable pause) Uhh. So, at her school there are bathrooms that aren’t gender specific. So I just wanted to see how that works there just to know what to expect.
Staff: Ours are male and female. We don’t have anything special for that, um, that I know of (snickers). I mean, I haven’t seen anything different, OK?
SAM: OK.
Staff: Everything I’ve seen is just male, female.
SAM: OK, gotcha.
Staff: You got me? (condescendingly snickers again)
SAM: I sure do. Have a great winter.
Staff: Uh huh. Buh-bye.

Rating: 0
Comment: Whoa. It’s pretty clear where this lady stands on the topic. If you’re in guest service, though, please leave your beliefs at home and just answer the question. If you really aren’t comfortable answering it, find someone who is.

 

March 2020
MOUNTAIN 7, CO

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose guest service agent.
First contact: Male. 
SAM: I’m a local college student, and I can’t afford a pass right now. Are there any opportunities for me to earn free lift tickets or a season pass? 
Staff: No. Like, like, free? No, we don’t have any of that. 
SAM: You guys don’t have any opportunities at all? Like, I’d be willing to work on weekends and holidays if staff get a pass. 
Staff: We’re just not… we’re just not hiring right now. 
SAM: OK. 
Staff: So, no. Unfortunately, no. 
SAM: OK. Thank you very much.
Staff: Alright. Have a good day.

Score: 0
Comment: This was pretty awful. A fully staffed resort? No. There were jobs listed on its website.

 

March 2021
MOUNTAIN 6, NC

First contact: Female.
SAM: Do you allow boondocking at your resort?
Staff: Give me one second... (didn’t put me on hold, talks to co-worker) “Hey, this guy asked me if we allow boondocking.” “What?” “Boondocking.” (long pause…) “What is that?” “I don’t know.”
Staff: (talking to me now) No, we do not allow that.
SAM: Oh, OK. So, I can’t camp in my sprinter van overnight?
Staff: Nooo.
SAM: Thanks for letting me know.
Staff: No problem, have a good day.

Rating: 1
Comment: First, learn to hit the mute button. Or at least put your hand over the mic. And second, it’s OK to say no—but know what you’re saying no to.

 

May 2022
MOUNTAIN 5, CO

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Male.
SAM: Can my family and I camp on your mountain this summer?
Staff: Uh, not right on the mountain. You will need to do that elsewhere. You can camp on the other side of the highway; I’ve camped over there before. Um, but not on the mountain.
SAM: OK, gotcha. So, any idea where I can find more information on camping in the area?
Staff: (Long pause…) Um, Google (condescending chuckle).
SAM: Google. OK. Thanks.
Staff: Sorry.
SAM: Bye.

Score: 0

Comment: Really, dude? Sassy, mean-spirited answers don’t fly with the Spy. “Google” is about as little effort as a guest representative can give. Too cool to help a dad looking for info, I guess.

 

 

BEST

 

March 2007
MOUNTAIN 3, NH
 

Answering Phone: Automated machine. Chose general info. 
First contact: Young male, full of energy.
SAM: I am heading up to your mountain with a couple of my friends, and we're interested in your park and pipes. Could you tell me a little about it all?
Staff: Yup. We don't have pipe right now but it’s on the way. We do have a fully loaded park, though. We got jumps, rails, hits, and jibs and a quarter pipe. So you know, it's like a halfpipe but not really because it's a quarter pipe, so half of a halfpipe. You know what I mean? A quarter pipe, you can still go up. Got that? (I was laughing out loud at this point. This guy was a comedy show. I could barely type as fast as he was spitting out lines.) 
SAM: Yeah, I do, haha, thanks. 
Staff: The halfpipe is on its way, though, no worries. What you'll definitely want to do though is go onto [website] so you can actually see what I'm talking about instead of trying to visualize what I'm saying because that's not really the easiest thing in the world. Once you do that, though, you'll probably want to come out because it's pretty much the best place to come around here.
SAM: So, you're saying you're the best park around in your area? 
Staff: Well, I didn't say that on record, buuut, yeah. It's the best place I've ridden in the past two days. 
SAM: Ha ha! Do in the last two days, your mountain is where I want to be.
Staff: Oh yeah, it's the place to be. 
SAM: Sounds good to me, thanks for all the info. What about beginner parks? Anything? 
Staff: Yeah, we do, Burton progression park. It's a lovely park compliments of Burton that came down here to put it in. Do you know Burton? Snowboards? Up in Burlington? They've been around...
SAM: Yeah, I've heard of them. 
Staff: Of course, right. So, you progress through this park, obviously, so you can work your way to do what we call slammers. And we're building a small pipe in there. It's all more to have fun than for brutal competition. 
SAM: It all sounds great. Thanks again. 
Staff: Oh hey, yeah, no problem. Visit our site, you'll definitely want to make your way up here once you do.

Rating: 9.5

Comment: I was laughing the whole time with this guy. He was so eager about it all and joked around with me. He instantly made the conversation personal because of his attitude, which is such a relief for the caller. Covered the basics well with website info and even a shout out to Burton. All great tips. Well done, my man.

Identity Revealed: Waterville Valley 

 

November 2008
MOUNTAIN 6, CA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female. Sweet sounding. 
SAM: I’m a legally blind skier and recently got a seeing-eye miniature horse. Can I bring him with me to your resort?
Staff: Oh, OK, that’s a good question. Let me see, I’m going to direct you over to Jane and she’ll be able to help you with that question. Hold on one second.

(Transferred to Jane. Super kind and patient.) 
SAM: Restated question. 
Staff: Um well, sure, we’ll make whatever accommodations you need. How would that work exactly, though, as I’m a little unfamiliar?
SAM: Well, very similar to a guide dog. He would walk with me to the ticket booth and lodge, wherever I went basically. And then my friend would stay with him while I went skiing. 
Staff: Well, we would make any accommodations necessary and I’m assuming because it’s a seeing-eye animal then it’s exempt from any health codes. If you could just let me know when you’re coming we would be able to have everything in order so it wouldn’t be a surprise for our employees and a hassle to you. How big is he exactly? 
SAM: Um, he’s about 30 inches high. So, about the same size as a golden retriever. 
Staff: Ohh, OK then. 
SAM: Oh yeah, he’s not like a large pony or anything. He’s more like a dog.
Staff: Alright. Well, um, is he housetrained? I guess that would be our biggest concern. It might be a problem if he decided to go in the lodge. 
SAM: Ha ha, of course, that would turn some heads. He is housetrained, though, yes. So, he won’t go unless he tells me he needs to and with my friend there I’ll have more help. 
Staff: Perfect. And of course we’re happy to have you come and ski with us, so why don’t I give you my direct line and cell phone number to call when you come. If you think of it, give me a call a day or two ahead, but if not, that’s fine and you can call me on your way. This way, I can make sure everything is in order for you. 
SAM: Perfect, thanks so much. I really appreciate your help. 
Staff: No problem. We look forward to seeing you this winter. 

Rating: 9.5
Comment: Great attitude, super welcoming and made me feel comfortable. Big points for Jane.
 

Identity revealed: Sugar Bowl

 

January 2009
MOUNTAIN 8, MT

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose guest services. 
First contact: Male. Super polite and nice sounding. 
SAM: How can I get to your resort using public transportation only?
Staff: OK, well, I’m not quite sure we run any public services from Billings, but we do offer a shuttle from Bozeman from the county fairgrounds daily. So you could easily do that—you would just have to find a way to Bozeman. 
SAM: Hmm, OK. 
Staff: I do know there were some group trips that ran from the Billings local high school, or you could even check with the ski shops in town for any group trips that come this way.
SAM: So, they’re just organized local trips over to your mountain?
Staff: Well, there’s a local company, and I can’t remember their name at the moment, but I know there used to be a flyer up. Let me actually make some calls to see if I can track down their information for you. What’s your name and number? (Gave fake name, real number.)
Staff: OK, great, Sharon. Let me check around and I’ll give you a call back. We’ll figure out a way to get you over here.
SAM: Great, thanks so much.
Staff: Oh, you betcha, no problem.
Our good man called me back exactly two minutes later. Yeah, two minutes. 
Our Good Man: Hi, this is Chuck, how are you doing, Sharon?
SAM: Great.
Our Good Man: So, I found the old flyer that the company had up here. What they did was run day trips to [our area] every Sunday in January and February last year. They picked up from Sports Authority and the local high school at 6 a.m. So they would then leave here at 6:30 p.m., and you’d be back in Billings at 7 p.m. I have their number and website and the fellow’s name is Charlie. I’m not sure what their schedule is this year. Like I said, this flyer is from last year along with this contact information, but it’s what I have at the moment.
SAM: Oh, no it sounds great.
Staff: No problem. And it looks like it was twenty bucks for just the shuttle service option both ways and there’s another package for seventy bucks that includes your lift ticket and two meals that day.
SAM: Oh wow, awesome. Thanks so much.
Staff: Anytime. So, yeah, I would take a look, but if you have any problems just give me a call back, I’ll be here all season.
SAM: Perfect, thanks for all your help.

Rating: 10
Comment: Read all of the above. Also, the only one to give prices!

Identity revealed: Bridger Bowl

 

March 2015
MOUNTAIN 7, BC

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: I want to buy new skis and was wondering if I get a discount since I bought a season pass to the resort this year?
Staff: I’m not entirely sure, but I can connect you with the X shop in the village who can definitely help you, if that’s all right?
SAM: Sure, thanks. (Transferred)
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: Yup! We do 10 percent off our regular hardgood items, but there is a bunch of stuff that just went on sale as well. Like, it literally went on sale today!
SAM: Awesome. So, your sale items are probably a better discount?
Staff: Yeah, for sure. What kind of skis were you looking for?
SAM: An all-mountain ski. Somewhere around 110 under foot.
Staff: Yup, OK! Did you have anything specific in mind?
SAM: Not necessarily. I was just curious if I got any discount at all.
Staff: Yeah, so the selected skis that are on sale, you don’t get a discount on those, well actually, let me make sure, hold on ... Correct, so you don’t get a discount on the sale items. The more popular skis probably aren’t on sale, but you do get the discount on those, so you have some options.
SAM: Great. So if I come in, I can just see what’s available, and you can help me?
Staff: Of course!
SAM: Thanks. And how long is the sale going on for?
Staff: It’s pretty much the new price point for the rest of the season, so come in whenever works for you, and we can get you all set up.
SAM: Thanks!

Rating: 10
Comment: That’s how it’s done, ladies and gentlemen.

Identity Revealed: Whistler, B.C.

 

May 2016
MOUNTAIN 6, VT

First contact: Automated machine. Chose weddings and sales.
Answering phone: Male.
SAM: My fiancé and I are naturists. Would you be OK with hosting a small, private, nudist wedding ceremony?
Staff: Umm, that’s fun! Let’s see…
SAM: Yeah, and we understand it could make some guests uncomfortable, so we’re happy to be somewhere secluded on the mountain. We just love the mountains and would love to have our ceremony somewhere like your resort.
Staff: OK, yeah sure. So, you know, we don’t really do weddings here all the time. It kind of depends when you want to get married. Like, we can accommodate smaller weddings that aren’t in the summer or winter. So, like, most people want to get married in June, July, and August, but that’s tough for us because the areas we have that can host a typical wedding are areas that we use for our summer activities. In the, um, the fall and spring, like, how many people?
SAM: Small, maybe 20 people.
Staff: OK, so pretty small. And do you have a date yet?
SAM: We don’t. And we’re flexible. We’re really just trying to gauge venues right now. So if your schedule works better for fall and spring we would be totally open to that.
Staff: I’m just trying to think where we could do that. Because, like, I think it’s great, I just know a lot of guests who come here might not, because you know, some people have their old-fashioned ways. And it would just be the ceremony?
SAM: Yup.
Staff: OK, I’m just trying to figure out where we could host 20 people.
SAM: Sure, thanks. And if it’s something you can’t host, no worries.
Staff: Yeah, I mean, I think it’s pretty unlikely, but I’m just trying to think of the spot. We have a huge mountain, OK, and a lot of beautiful spots, so I’m sure we can find a place, but the problem is what if it rains? You know, like, we don’t have an actual wedding facility. So then there’s the X down the road from us who could probably do it, but it could be an expensive spot for just 20 people.
SAM: OK. No problem.
Staff: You know what, one place I would maybe check is the Y Inn.
SAM: OK.
Staff: Which is beautiful and private! And people do get married there. And there’s a really nice place I went to a wedding in Y town. Are you from Vermont?
SAM: Um, not really.
Staff: OK, sure. What’s your name?
SAM: Kate. And I can check on the inn you mentioned. That sounds nice. Especially if you don’t think the resort would be the best option.
Staff: I think it would be tough because I can’t really think of where to do it unless you want to put up a tent so we can guarantee enough privacy for people who might not appreciate what’s going on.
SAM: Of course. It’s not a big deal if you can’t do it so I appreciate your honesty.
Staff: Yeah, it just might be tough. But the other place I’m thinking of is the X Inn, which is a beautiful, secluded spot. They have a little pond, and a barn, and I believe they let people camp and have some hotel rooms. And I can’t imagine they would have a problem with this at all. But just, for us, I think it would be tough. I just always get back to “what if it rains?”
SAM: Sure, of course.
Staff: But now that I’m thinking about it, why does it matter if it rains? Not like your clothes are going to get wet! Ha ha ha.
SAM: Ha ha ha, exactly.
Staff: Right?!
SAM: Well, no worries. Let me check out the other two places you mentioned.
Staff: Yeah, they are both beautiful and have great websites, too. And you know, I can check with the resort again, but I would say probably not going to happen. And the nudist part is just a small part of it. It’s hard for us to do weddings, anyways.
SAM: No problem! I’ll call the other places. Thanks again.

Rating: 10
Comment: Personable, patient, and found other options.
Nicely done, Smugglers’ Notch!

 

January 2018
MOUNTAIN 8, VT

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose general info.
First contact: Female.
SAM: I’m planning to come for a day with my family. Where do we go for a non-binary bathroom?
Staff: Let me check on that. Can I put you on hold so I can get you to someone who can help with that?
SAM: Sure thing. (waiting)
Second contact: Female.
SAM: Restated question.
Staff: I’m sorry, say that one more time. What kind of bathroom?
SAM: A non-binary bathroom. A member of our family doesn’t identify as either male or female.
Staff: Oh, totally got you.
SAM: Cool. So I’m just calling ahead to see what the situation is so we’re prepared.
Staff: I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I understand that in a lot of places it’s really strict. But I will tell you that up here we do employ quite a few people who are in that same situation and they can go in whichever one they want. I don’t want to misspeak, but does that make sense?
SAM: Yeah, totally.
Staff: [Proceeds to explain further that it’s a comfortable atmosphere at the resort, and reinforces that she’s confident individuals can go in whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable.] I’m almost positive that’s the case, but just to be sure let me check with some other folks. Do you mind hanging on for one second?
SAM: Sure thing, thanks.
[Waiting, but the staff member came back to let me know she was still finding out and apologized for the delay.]
Staff: Hi! I’m 100 percent correct, ha! It’s whatever the person is most comfortable with! We don’t have a policy either way, so come up here and have a good time.
SAM: OK, great. Thanks!
Staff: See you soon!

Rating: 10
Comment: From start to finish, this was handled very well. The first girl who picked up immediately recognized she didn’t know the answer, and sought someone who did. And the girl who did know the answer made sure it was correct before letting me off the phone. Well done!

Identity revealed: Stratton Mountain

 

March 2019
MOUNTAIN 5, VA

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose general information.
First contact: Female.
SAM: I’m afraid of heights and I get really nervous when the lift stops. To help get over that, I want to understand what happens if the lift can't get going again.
Staff: You know, I can transfer you over to see if Glenn is in? He’s ski patrol.
SAM: Sure. Thanks.
Second contact: Glenn.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Well, I’d be glad to help you out with that.
SAM: Thanks!
Staff: So, I don’t know if it helps ease your mind a little bit, but I can tell you that internationally the safest modes of transportation are the aerial ropeways. Across the world. That’s aerial trams, gondolas, and chairlifts. One of the reasons for that is there are so many safeties that go into operating these lifts—several braking systems, several safety systems, things that sense if something isn’t right and shut the lift off so whatever is going on can be addressed before there’s any kind of other issues. Tons of built-in safeties.
SAM: Wow.
Staff: There’s so much that goes into these things. The maintenance that’s required by insurance, it’s like operating an airplane. [Glenn explains various maintenance steps that each lift undergoes, and explains major parts and of a chairlift, including haul ropes and why they are called that.] Haul ropes are evaluated and inspected annually by an expert who comes here with all sorts of tools and instruments to make sure the rope is in good shape. Every year, one-third of the chairs have to be removed and go through what we call non-destructive testing. Again, a third-party expert comes in with tools and, well, essentially x-ray equipment to evaluate what we call the grips [explains what a grip is, what a hangar arm is, etc.]. That’s something that’s mandated across the country, at every ski resort everywhere.
SAM: That’s great to know.
Staff: As far as what happens if the chair stops—we’ve had that happen when we’ve lost power to the resort. [Glenn explains bullwheels and motor rooms.] In those motor rooms, the gear set that’s in there is extremely dependable. It’s actually the same gear set that’s in a Caterpillar bulldozer. Extremely dependable. The gear oil in those things is tested annually. We send it off to a lab to get tested and see if there’s any metal shavings or anything that would show wear and tear on the parts. Of course, if they find anything, we have experts come out and fix or replace whatever needs to be done.
SAM: Geez. Very thorough.
Staff: [Explains the variety of backup systems, including diesel and battery backups, in order to get the lift going and get everyone off. Also explains reasons why they’d need to engage these backups.] Now, in the event that something mechanically happens or something were to happen at a tower—which is extremely rare—we have a third backup system, which involves resort staff, me being the chief guy here at Bryce, for a lift evacuation. At some resorts, it’d done with a ground crew. Here, we evac you from the chair. [Explains the trolley used to ride the haul rope to chairs, and the system used to lower guests to the ground, where staff await.] That is a very, very rare instance. However, we practice that particular function on a quarterly basis. So if it does happen, we’re well prepared.
SAM: Wow. (I’m about at a loss for words at this point.)
Staff: [Thoroughly explains the braking systems of the lifts, the different levels of lift staff, what they’re trained to do, and what their functions are. Then explains loading chairs, the importance of a safety bar, and why hitting the brakes won’t fling you off a chair.]
SAM: Are you familiar with SAM magazine?
Staff: Yes, I am. I’ve been a subscriber for many years.
SAM: (At this point I couldn’t help but to identify myself and let Glenn know how much I appreciated his thoroughness, confidence, and expertise.)

Rating: 11
Comment: Glenn Jackson could’ve simply explained how they perform a lift evacuation and called it good. But instead, he started at the 30,000-foot level in order to instill confidence in and ease the mind of an acrophobic guest. Clearly he’s the right guy for the job. Glenn is a retired Fairfax County firefighter, which only boosts my respect for him.

Identity revealed: Bryce Resort

 

September 2020
MOUNTAIN 7, ME

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose lodging.
First contact: Female.
SAM: I’d like to book a trip with lodging for this winter really soon, but I’ve heard there could be limited lift tickets available and they may need to be reserved in advance online. How can I be sure I’ll have lift tickets?
Staff: Yeah, yeah, they are. We can definitely do ski and stay packages. We’re not sure exactly, we haven’t gotten confirmation with what’s going to happen with buying individual lift tickets yet, but if you book a ski and stay package, you’ll be all set.
SAM: Is that right? Awesome.
Staff: Yeah. Even if we have to limit the number of people that are on the mountain daily, if you have a ski and stay package—to my knowledge, what’s been explained to me—is that you would be included in that daily count. So it would be only the spots that haven’t been taken by ski and stay packages that would be available.
SAM: It’s cool that you guys have already thought about that.
Staff: Yes! We have. I mean, it’s still kind of up in the air, but that’s the gist of what is going to be happening if we have to limit the number of people.
SAM: Great. I’ll give you a shout back soon.
Staff: Sounds good. [Provides days and hours that she is available.]
SAM: Thanks!
Staff: Have a great day!

Score: 10
Comment: It's comforting to know the resort has already discussed the lodging and lift ticket situation and settled on a solution. And she delivered the information politely and confidently. Great job.

Identity revealed: Sugarloaf

 

July 2021
MOUNTAIN 6, WI

Answering phone: Automated machine. Chose office manager. 
First contact: Female.
SAM: Can your bike park accommodate our tandem mountain bike?
Staff: A tandem?
SAM: Yeah.
Staff: Hmm. So, it has two seats on it?
SAM: Mm-hm.
Staff: I don’t know if that will go on our lift. I’ll have to get back to you. Can I have your phone number?
SAM: Sure. [Gives number]
Staff: [Repeats number] And your first name again?
SAM: [Gives name]
Staff: Let me ask the operations guys and see if we can handle that, and I’ll give you a call back.
SAM: OK. Thank you.
Staff: Alright, thanks. Bye.

(Calls back two minutes later. SAM let’s it go to voicemail.)

Message: Hi, this is [Area Name] returning your call regarding your tandem bike. Unfortunately, we’re not able to allow you to ride the tandem bike at our bike park. Our lifts and our trails are not designed for a tandem bike, and we have to keep in mind, you know, the safety of you and our operators and everyone else on the trails. They’re just not designed for that bicycle application. But thanks for calling in with that. We will clarify on our website now that you’ve asked that it’s for single rider, single bike use only. I’m sorry about that, but I hope you find a place that you can ride your bike. Thanks a lot. Bye. 


Rating: 10

Comment: You never know when you leave your number with someone whether they’ll actually get back to you. This staffer found an answer for me straight away and reached out within minutes. And, I mean, that voicemail—prompt, clear, consolatory. Also, how great is it that they took the call as an opportunity to add info to the website, instead of dismissing my inquiry as an eccentric one off? The Spy’s mission is accomplished. 

Identity revealed: Little Switzerland