Shifting Into Summer (Vol. 3)

Shifting Into Summer Vol. 3
By Riley Polumbus

Although the kids (and some of our staff) have gone back to school, we are still open for summer activities. While you may think that means we are winding down, that is far from the case—most of us are ramping up. In addition to keeping the summer fun flowing, we are also knee deep into winter. You know, that snow thing we do? It’s time to start thinking snow!

Some of us up here on the mountain are required to have a brain that can think winter and summer simultaneously. Denise Summers is one of those people—don’t let her name fool you! As the Guest Info & Services Manager she’s poised to sell winter and summer products as well as answer any question about everything we do up here every single day. I’m pretty sure she has super powers.

Riley: This time of year you are ready to sell anything—all of the summer activities as well as winter season passes, winter programs and teams, parking lot passes, lockers—how do you prepare yourself and your staff to be ready for anything at any given moment?

Denise: Each season usually brings new staff members. Luckily though, I also have an amazing returning staff that, all combined, has somewhere between 30-35 years of experience. I rely heavily on their professionalism to get our new staff members up to speed. It is not always an easy transition for the new staff, as some have not experienced winter at our resort, neither as a guest nor an employee. They do not always understand where lockers are located, or which parking lot is which. They may not know the term “seasonal rental” or the difference between all the different types of winter season passes we sell (BMC, BMCA, Business Partner, Patron), along with the eligibility components to those passes. That’s why we conduct an extensive mid-summer training on “all things winter” so our summer staff are able to offer details about winter lesson programs for both kids and adults, and field inquiries about punch cards for daycare and making kid center reservations. We create an environment where questions are encouraged and welcomed. Knowledge is power. Communication is essential.

Late summer and into early fall, Bill Cubbage also needs to be in the present and future tense for the spectrum of services he oversees. His official title is Snow Sports Director, however in the summer he’s the one who directs summer activities from A (Alpine Slide, Aerial Adventure Park) to Z (Zip Line Tours) and most things in between (Spider Monkey Mountain, Strider Bike Park, Summer Tubing)

Riley: How do you keep summer operations going while getting our winter Ski & Ride School needs taken care of at the same time?

Bill: This time of year can be very unpredictable and my days tend toward being reactive; however I do my best to be proactive. While it’s easy to go on autopilot with summer it is important to remain aware of what’s going on. We’re still operating a wide range of activities and our late-August guests deserve the same high quality experience as we deliver in early-July. While one foot is planted firmly in summer I also try to get good footing on winter staffing. This is the time when people are making decisions about their winter jobs, so it’s a prime time to recruit in-house with the solid performers from this summer. We also keep lists in both seasons on operational and staffing ideas for the next season—focus can shift quickly so we try to get it all down on paper collectively in order to remember it all prior to next year. Again, staying proactive is key.

Another department ramping up now is Human Resources. There’s a little end of summer business to take care of as well as starting to recruit winter personnel. Sara Butterfield is our HR Generalist and she’s in the revolving door world getting us lined up for winter while letting go of employees this summer.

Riley: What’s work like for you as we shift from summer to winter? Do you find yourself in winter mode, or is there still a lot of summery employee things to take care of?

Sara: We still have quite a lot to do to wrap up the summer season, however in my mind I’ve 100% switched gears. Although I love the summers in Montana, I came to Whitefish in 2009 to ski, and winter is still the season that I look forward to most. Many winter positions just got posted on skiwhitefish.com/jobs so the applications are starting to roll in—I’m cranking my office AC so that I can wear sweaters and drink hot chocolate while I read emails from prospective employees who are as stoked as I am for snow. While a lot of our summer staff tends to be students home for the summer, our winter staff are a mixture of locals that come back season after season mixed with new people that come from all over the country and are passionate about skiing/riding or are super excited to try something new. So, between reconnecting with folks that I haven’t seen over the summer and getting to know the newcomers the energy is contagious and makes my job really fun. I moved “out west” from New Hampshire 13 years ago to spend one ski season in the Rockies and it entirely changed the track of my life, sharing that experience with a new group of people every season is truly incredible.

Note: this is the third article in a series that appeared on June 6 and July 18, 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 and Vol. 2 online at skiwhitefish.com/blog.