January 2020

Mountain Spy :: January 2020

"Do you have childcare?

Written by Dave Meeker | 0 comment

The Question: We’re thinking about coming there this winter, but we have two little kids so I need to figure out childcare. What are our options?

There’s a whole generation of parents whose kids are too young to take ski or snowboard lessons, but mommy and daddy still want to—nay, need to—get some turns in. If you think that’s neglect, stop right there. New parents need time on snow as much as anyone.

At some areas, there’s no such thing as childcare. At others, the cost is shocking. And yet some ski areas make it super easy and relatively affordable for families with little kids. We talked to them all. This wasn’t a test of whether a ski area has childcare for little kids or not. As always, it’s all about how staffers handle the calls.

That said, childcare is important. Not just for guests, but for staff, too. It could be the difference between retaining and losing that superstar employee who just became a new mom, but that’s a whole other story.

Got a question we should use for Mountain Spy? Does anyone even read this part? If you don’t skip straight to the calls, and have a question our Spy should use, send it to dave@saminfo.com. If we use it, your mountain will be immune for that issue.

Mountain 1, VT

Answering phone: Automated system. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: We do! Let me connect you to childcare.
SAM: Thanks! (holding…)
Second contact: Female.
SAM: Hi! We have a one-year-old and an almost three-year-old. I’m not sure when we’re coming up, but I was hoping to gather some info.
Staff: Sure. We do take children as young as your youngest, so that’s no problem. Reservations are highly recommended because we do fill up during busy times. It’s a state-licensed facility and we need to adhere to certain child-to-teacher ratios.
SAM: Got it. We’re thinking about coming for a couple days, but may not need to have the kids there all day. What are the rates for a half-day?
Staff: The rate is the same no matter how long they’re here. It’s $XXX per child, per day.
SAM: (…after pulling jaw up off the floor) It’s how much?
Staff: It’s $XXX per child per day.
SAM: OK. Whoa. Thanks.
Staff: Is there anything else I can help you with?
SAM: No, thanks.
Staff: OK. Bye.

Score: 6
Comment: Mountain Spy is all about how staffers handle the call, and in this case the two staffers did just fine, albeit a tad robotic. The price, though. Holy crap. Probably a deal breaker for lots of families.

Mountain 2, NY

Answering phone: Automated system. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yeah. There’s childcare at the mountain. It’s at the ABC Lodge. I believe it’s like $XX for kids. It’s kind of like a first-come, first-served basis, but unless it’s a holiday week it’s typically not super crazy busy. And it’s not like a certified daycare.
SAM: OK, what does that mean? It’s not state licensed?
Staff: Yeah. I wouldn’t call it a daycare so much, but, well, my child goes there. I’d call it more a babysitting service. They provide lunch and everything, but it’s not like a daycare that you’d enroll your kids in every single day.
SAM: Gotcha. What are the ages?
Staff: They need to be walking.
SAM: Potty trained?
Staff: Yes. Well, I believe they need to be at least a year old.
SAM: Cool. Do you like it?
Staff: Yeah, I do! It’s a really nice space, and the ladies are really sweet. It’s nice.
SAM: So we don’t need to make reservations?
Staff: Unless you’re coming on a holiday week, you should just be able to go there and sign your kids up. Pretty easy.
SAM: Sounds good. Thanks for the info.
Staff: You’re welcome. Have a nice day.

Score: 7
Comment: I’m glad I asked if she likes it for her kids, because the description I got initially didn’t make it sound like the kind of place I’d want to leave my kids.

Mountain 3, MN

Answering phone: Automated system. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Sorry, we don’t have any onsite childcare here. Ahh, I don’t know. Were you thinking of staying in the area or just coming for the day?
SAM: Probably just the day. Our kids are little, one and almost three, so they’re not quite ready to get on skis. But we’d like to get on skis ourselves (laughs).
Staff: Sure, yeah, yeah. Sorry, we don’t have anything like that here.
SAM: OK, no problem. Thanks.
b: Have a nice day.

Score: 6
Comment: Hey, if they don’t have it, they don’t have it.

Mountain 4, CO

Answering phone: Automated system. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yeah! There is childcare on the mountain. Let’s see… I’m pretty sure you can just show up in the morning and drop the kids off (laughs). The ticket office will know for sure. I can connect you over there and they’ll be able to give you details about how much it costs and that kind of thing. Let me transfer you.
SAM: Cool. Thanks!
Second contact: Female.
SAM: I was just connected to you to get more information about childcare.
Staff: Gotcha. Let me get into the right… (silence) Alright, we have childcare (provides hours, location, price, age range, etc.) Would you like their phone number?
SAM: Sure, but do you know if we need to make reservations in advance? The other person made it sound like we could just drop off.
Staff: I would recommend making reservations in advance. That way you know the kids will have a spot. There are limits for how many kids they can take, so…
SAM: Makes sense.
Staff: If you want to hop on our website when you’re ready to make your reservation (explains where to navigate to and what I’ll find there).
SAM: Great. Thanks for pointing me in that direction.
Staff: Yeah, you bet! Anything else I can help you with?
SAM: That’ll do it. Thanks!

Score: 8
Comment: Other than the drop-off vs. reservations confusion between the two staffers, this was well done. Super friendly, lots of good info, and bonus points for the help navigating the website.

Mountain 5, WA

Answering phone: Automated system. Chose guest services.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: (interrupting) We do not. We do not offer any childcare, no.
SAM: OK. Are there any options in the area?
Staff: Umm. Not that I know of, no. I mean, it’s a pretty small town up here. I know there’s nothing established. I don’t know what people may offer privately.
SAM: OK, gotcha. (silence…) Alrighty. Thanks.
Staff: Mmm hmm. Good luck.

thumbs downScore: 1
Comment: It’s fine that this place doesn’t have childcare, but her dismissive tone was off-putting at best. Attitude aside, lots of ski areas much smaller than this one are in small towns, and they do offer childcare. Young families must not be in its target demo.

Mountain 6, PA

Answering phone: Automated system. Chose operator.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Yes, there is. Let me transfer you to ski school, they'd be able to help you. (holding…)
Second contact: Susan.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: What are their ages?
SAM: One and just about three. 
Staff: OK. Um, we do offer what's called X, but they have to be potty trained.
SAM: The little one isn’t quite there yet.
Staff: Yeah. But I'm also a mom, so I get what you're trying to do. And one of the things that I've done is bring along a high school, a babysitter, you know, like a neighbor kid or something that could watch the kid while you're out. Then you can come back, feed her or rock her because they're crying too much, you know what I mean? But your three year old could take an hour lesson in X. That's a private lesson. They do also need to be potty trained. You don't want her to go out there with a wet diaper and have it freeze on or anything (laughs).
SAM: (laughs)
Staff: Um, yeah, that would be a bad experience (laughs). But the lesson does get them exposed to skiing if you're inclined to pursue that. And the babysitting service is the only thing that requires reservations at least 24 hours in advance. And it's really for at least two years olds that are potty trained. So your three year old would fit into that so that she could do a lesson, go and retire over at the babysitting service if that's something that you would be inclined to do.
SAM: Cool. Thank you.
Staff: Yeah, it's usually like a half day. You could do it for a full day. I don't remember how much it is. I have to look that up.
SAM: No worries. Thank you very much for the info, Susan.
Staff: All right, great. Take care.

thumbs upScore: 10 (WINNER: TIED)
Comment: Good humored and friendly. Offered all sorts of helpful info and suggestions for ways that our kids could get taken care of while we get some skiing in. Nice job, Susan!
Identity revealed: Elk Mountain

Mountain 7, CA

Answering phone: Automated system. Chose HR. Note: The phone menu is tough and runs into lots of dead ends. HR seemed the best option for my query.
First contact: Female.
SAM: Stated question.
Staff: Um, we don’t, but let me make one call. Can you put you on hold for a second?
SAM: For sure, thanks very much. (holding…)
Staff: Hi! Thank you so much for holding. Are you going to be staying in the hotel?
SAM: Ah, we don’t know! Maybe.
Staff: Yeah, so if you do stay in the hotel, they have a babysitter list that if you just let them know you’re looking for one, they can provide you with some options. We don’t have a childcare onsite, so if it’s just a day visit you can put them into ski school if they’re old enough and they can get a ski lesson.
SAM: Cool. Are the babysitters, like, vetted and stuff?
Staff: Yes, a majority of them are employees.
SAM: Oh, terrific.
Staff: Yeah, I actually used to be on that list a few years ago. Most of the time the guest would call me to see if I had availability for that day. It’s the same now. Employees do it on their extra time.
SAM: Nice. Thanks for tracking down that information for me. What’s your name?
Staff: Of course! My name is Danielle, I’m the HR manager here.
SAM: Thanks so much Danielle.
Staff: My pleasure! Hope to see you this winter.

thumbs upScore: 10 (WINNER: TIE)
Comment: Danielle could’ve easily passed me to whomever she called to check on the babysitting stuff—but she didn’t, which was awesome. Getting transferred all over and having to ask the same question repeatedly is annoying. Danielle took the time to save me from doing that. Nicely done!
Identity revealed: Sugar Bowl