Shifting into Summer
By Riley Polumbus
If you’ve looked up at the mountain lately you know the slopes have transitioned into summer mode—that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Long before the snow melts away our staff starts preparing to make the switch from winter to summer.
Summer guests experience the mountain in many different ways than skiers and snowboarders. Without the snow, we had to get a little creative. In addition to the “typical” ski area summer activities of scenic lift rides, hiking and mountain biking, our Aerial Adventure Park and Zip Line Tours appease the adventurer, and the Alpine Slide is fun for all.
We’re pretty fortunate to have many talented winter employees who enjoy and take pride in working outside all winter long, you may not be surprised to learn they enjoy spending summers working outside as well. Obviously, their job duties change just a bit. Let me explain by introducing you to four members of our staff.
While R.T. McCauley keeps his job title as a Lift Supervisor in both operating seasons, his summer job description is quite different, plus he has an “in-between” role as a Slope Technician in the spring and fall—a role that helps prepare areas for activities, for example, prior to opening for winter he’s a part of the snowmaking crew and in the spring he helps move snow out of the way, clearing it for other activities like the ever-popular Alpine Slide. Once we open, he returns to his post in the Lift Department.
Riley: What is the biggest shift in thinking you make as a Lift Supervisor in the summer? What are the key things you train your staff to do that is different from winter?
R.T.: The biggest change for myself is supervising a much smaller scale operation. It gives me the chance to have more one on one time with not only our guest, but my fellow co-workers. As far as our training goes, it is very similar in regards that the safety of our guests is our top priority. Our lift staff is prepared to accommodate visitors that are unfamiliar with the use of our lift system here at the resort.
Kate Atha’s job title swaps “ski” for “bike” as she maintains her post on the mountain helping the injured as the Bike Patrol Supervisor. Kate came to Whitefish Mountain Resort on a patrol exchange from Deer Valley six years ago and liked it so much, she returned to work summers and winters. She is the first ski patroller to keep the role in the summer months which has helped the Bike Patrol in several ways.
Riley: There are obvious differences between patrolling in the summer and in the winter, but what aspects are similar? How have you helped our summer crew using your ski patroller knowledge?
Kate: The similar aspects I find are in guest interaction as well as day to day operations. No matter the season, I may encounter guests in their best moment or in a stressful situation. In the winter, we deliver medical care, conduct avalanche mitigation, mark hazards, and provide technical rescue all in the same day. In the summer, we may be providing that same medical care in addition to placing signage, giving directions, and conducting trail work and maintenance. I feel like my knowledge of the mountain itself in the winter has carried over into summer. Ski patrollers know and learn the mountain in a very detailed way and that carries into summer as far as locations and communications go. I also feel as though my experiences in the summer carry into the winter. In the summer, you sometimes have to get creative with transport and think outside the box. In a way, I am a liaison between the two patrols. Sometimes we get a new piece of gear or try a new method in one season, and I’ll introduce it to the other season.
Nathan Hafferman is a manager in our Ski & Ride School in the winter and becomes manager of the Aerial Adventure Park in the summer, just a few hundred feet away from the Ski & Ride School lesson meeting area.
Riley: What’s it like for you to shift gears from managing staff in our Ski & Ride School to managing the Aerial Adventure Park? What’s refreshing about your summer role?
Nathan: Shifting gears from winter to summer can be a bit chaotic at first. The winter is all about logistics and lining up the right people for the right guest experience. The summer is very hands-on and starts with a mad dash to try and prepare the Aerial Adventure Park that endures the snow all winter. One of the most refreshing parts of my job in the summer is how well I get to know my staff. Every day I get to work right alongside them doing the same jobs and positions. I think that pays huge dividends on how well the staff interacts with the park’s visitors, and how well we get along with each other making it a fun working environment.
Our winter events department would be lost without Events Coordinator Hillary Howell keeping everything on track. For the summer Hillary shifts into high gear, up to 300 feet high as our Lead Guide for our Zip Line Tours.
Riley: It seems like your summer job is quite the departure from your winter position. What is it you like about shifting from winter to summer?
Hillary: Jumping into another department allows me to diversify my skillset and engage in activities that I absolutely love. With every change of season I find myself more and more excited to go back and take part in everything that Whitefish Mountain Resort has to offer. The best part of both Zip Lines and Events are my amazing coworkers who are supportive, fun, and continue to teach me new things each day.
You can see these four, and many more familiar faces, by coming up for a day on the mountain, open daily starting June 16 through September 3 and Friday-Sunday September 8-23, 2018. We’re having fun up here this summer, and you should too.