Shifting Into Summer Vol. 2
By Riley Polumbus
Many ski areas sit quietly in the summer waiting for winter. Not in Whitefish! We’ve long been looking for more ways to bring guests back to the mountain in the summertime. Sure, skiing and snowboarding bring more people to the mountain per day, however over the last decade we’ve been adding a variety of activities and services making Whitefish Mountain Resort a summer destination for all kinds of people looking for outdoor fun.
We are widely-known for a friendly, helpful team of employees who have fun making sure our guests have a good time. Many of our employees return year after year and work in the winter and in the summer. We always get questions about what our employees do when there’s no snow. Obviously their job descriptions change slightly, however some changes are welcome!
Nearly everyone who skis here in the winter is impressed by our food. We receive comments to the effect of, “This is really unexpected for ski area food—it’s very good!” In the summer, menus do change a bit thanks to Chef Ben Heese who is always looking to add new, delicious things to his menu.
Riley: Since you started here four years ago, you’ve brought many unique and delicious new items to our menus in the winter. Because our summer dining is at a more leisurely pace, how does that allow you to approach the summer menus?
Ben: Our cafeterias are completely switched around for summer—we make dishes to order, and are more handcrafted. Therefore our summer menu mix can be a bit more exotic, yet it features straightforward recipes the team can confidently create. Also, in the summer we are fortunate to have access to locally-grown produce. I can get these great tomatoes and cucumbers from a local greenhouse Mountain View Growers in Kalispell. I like to showcase them as much as possible.
One of our key departments in the winter—our Ski & Ride School—is replaced with our mountain biking school, namely our “Learn to Bike Downhill” program. This is a lesson packaged with a Bad Rock Zone lift ticket, bike rental and protective gear rental that is offered daily. Nathan Hafferman, who supervises our snowboard instructors in the winter, oversees our bike instructors in the summer.
Riley: There are obvious differences between teaching snowboarding and mountain biking, but what aspects are similar? How have you helped our summer crew using your winter teaching knowledge?
Nate: Teaching mountain biking and snowboarding parallel each other very well because they both rely on the same concept of some simple body mechanics in relation to the equipment you are using. Like how to absorb bumps and shock, how to edge and how to move your body independently of your board and bike. As in winter I teach our instructors and throughout the season we’ll sharpen our skills while learning how to teach others. Our summer crew is full of ripping bikers who, like most riders out there, are self-taught. I have been really excited to share some very simple concepts with our team to help them ride faster but safer. Those small changes have made the difference with them teaching others. Many first time mountain bikers experience has gone from over the bars to shredding berms.
Just like our Ski & Ride School shifts to bikes in the summer, so does Village Rentals. As the Manager at Village Rentals, Dave Wickner shifts our rental inventory from skis, snowboards and boots to bikes and protective equipment. Just like winter he manages a staff, inventory and keeps everything in perfect working condition, however the fleet of Norco downhill mountain bikes are a bit different from skis and snowboards.
Riley: How does this change the nature of your job in terms of managing the equipment and staff? What’s different or similar for the guest’s experience?
Dave: Summer has a totally different pace than winter. In the winter you know you are going to be busy, weekends and holidays, and especially Christmas. In the summer we know mid-July to mid-August will be busy, but day of week doesn’t really seem to matter. It can be slow and steady or we can get slammed with bikes going back out minutes after their return. Downhill bikes also require more maintenance than skis and it is more time-intensive to stay on top of what parts I will need to keep the bikes rolling. Although I am extremely lucky to I have a great staff, we are always looking for more people who love bikes and mountain biking—all of our staff receives a Bike Park Season Pass.
Note: this is the second article in a series that first appeared on June 6, 2018 that profiles selected Winter Employees who shift from winter to summer and keep things running smoothly on the mountain. You can find Vol. 1 in the June 6, 2018 issue of the Flathead Beacon or online at skiwhitefish.com/blog.