This year’s 10 are an impressive bunch. From Alberta to Massachusetts, nominations poured in from operations big and small; from urban ski hills with 300 feet of vertical to mega resorts with more than a million annual skier visits. Many of this year’s group received multiple nominations, one from people who work at competing or neighboring mountains
The accomplishments of the industry’s twenty-somethings never cease to surprise. Their dedication has received the attention of resort higher-ups—nominations mostly came from directors, GMs, vice presidents, even owners.
On the flip side, many of this year’s candidates were quick to acknowledge their managers, who they say have given them the tools and resources to grow their industry know-how, whether in the form of added responsibility or by identifying them as a successor.
And that’s a good thing. Millennials and Gen-Xers will inherit the ongoing issues of conversion and climate change, the challenge of upgrading infrastructure and lifts, and of shifting into multi-season operations. For these younger generations, these challenges are all they’ve known. Who is better able to understand the issues faced by the next generation of customers than their peers on the business side of the resort game?
Senior VP of Operations, Peak Resorts
Age: 30 (but 29 through the winter season)
Hometown: Wildwood, Mo.
Six-word bio: Always be grateful for every opportunity.
Fun fact: Listens to symphony music when stressed.
Jason Boyd comes from solid ski industry stock. His father, Tim, built Missouri’s Hidden Valley Ski Area in 1982, and the family operates 14 areas under the Peak Resorts umbrella. Boyd, his sister and two brothers have all migrated to the business. In 2011, at age 24, Jason moved to Ohio to run Boston Mills/Brandywine. Now, as Peak’s Senior VP of Ops, he travels to resorts in the East and Midwest to ensure they are running smoothly. One GM acknowledged Jason’s understanding of the industry and called him “thoughtful and respectful. He is not quick to judge, but also not afraid to make a decision.”
TELL ME ABOUT YOUR SKI INDUSTRY UPBRINGING.
I grew up completely immersed in the industry. We’d have family dinners at Hidden Valley and be up there almost daily in the winter. My first “job” was in fourth grade, handing out gear at the rental shop. I worked as a lift operator in middle and high school, and managed the lift ops department once I was 17.
WHAT ABOUT LATER?
Through college, we’d always have projects. We’d just purchased Mount Snow and Attitash, so during summers, we were doing huge snowmaking installation projects at both areas. I’d go work with my brothers, and we installed snowmaking systems, mainly fan guns. Once I graduated, I managed lift ops at Mount Snow for a winter.
WHAT’S A DAY LOOK LIKE ON THE JOB NOW?
Pretty hectic. Essentially, nine GMs directly report to me. I’m in constant communication with all of them, talking about operational plans, ticket pricing, ticket strategy, marketing strategy. Pretty much all aspects of operations.
WHAT WAS A PROUD MOMENT?
Probably the rebuilding of the lodge at Brandywine, because that was a huge amount of responsibility for me at 26 years old. Being in charge of a $5 million lodge rebuild was pretty daunting.
WHAT ABOUT A CONFLICT YOU’VE HAD TO OVERCOME?
We had a fire at the lodge at Mad River on September 16, 2015. It was a traumatic event. A lot of things run through your mind. It’s September 16. Your lodge is on fire. How do you get the resort operational for the winter when you don’t have a lodge anymore? You don’t always have a plan for that. You just go, and you react to it.
IN 10 YEARS?
Probably doing the same thing. I don’t have a ton of upward mobility at this point. I think in 10 years we’ll be doing what we’re currently doing—trying to acquire new ski areas, grow the business, and help skiing and the industry continue to grow and carry on the legacy it has in providing an awesome and unique experience to people.
Ski School Supervisor and Instructor, Okemo, Vt.
Hometown: Water Mill, N.Y.
Six-word bio: Work thoughtfully. Engage thoroughly. Play frequently.
Fun fact: Performed in front of royalty when Princess Anne, Princess Royal of the United Kingdom, visited the performance arts building at her high school in Scotland.
Katie Brinton grew up a Ski-Wee at Okemo before she headed to Scotland for boarding school, then on to college at the University of Bristol in England. After a few years working in film in L.A., she headed back to Okemo for a “gap year” as a ski instructor. Four years later, she’s still there and on the rise as a PSIA Alpine Level III certified instructor and trainer.
I grew up skiing there. After I got a job as an instructor, I decided that I wanted to do more skiing, not less. I realized the ski industry could be a real-life job. It’s an addictive lifestyle, and a wonderful industry to be a part of. For people who don’t realize how complex the industry is, and how satisfying intellectually and physically it is to teach outside, it’s a real eye opener.
Tell me about getting PSIA certified.
Okemo offers paid training hours throughout the season, an opportunity I could take advantage of being a full-time instructor. I completed my (PSIA) Level I, II, and III—it was a big educational process for me. The opportunity you have as a full time instructor to try things out, challenge yourself, run ideas back and forth, and make changes is really incredible.
What’s an accomplishment you’re proud of?
I’m proud of my level III as a personal achievement. I worked really hard to get that. Training for the skiing and the teaching part was a huge process. I made huge changes to the way I: ski, understand skiing, and teach other people.
How about a challenging situation at work?
Stepping in to supervise people who are your friends can create challenges. Also, when you have a client that you can see getting frustrated. It’s really important to take a step back and make that click for them, so they can come away from the experience with a positive takeaway. You have to take a step beyond your usual tips and tricks to help someone through his/her barrier. I want everyone to come away from the situation and want to ski again.
In 10 years?
I’m not sure it will manifest, but as a ski professional I’d like to continue moving forward with PSIA and eventually be on the development team and become a trainer. I’m also about to start a master’s program in English at Middlebury College (Vt.). It’s a summer residency program for six weeks each summer for four or five years. I’d love to be able to do some writing about skiing, to try to capture some of that joy on paper and bring that to people.
Guest Services Supervisor, Steamboat, Colo.
Hometown: Breckenridge, Colo.
Six-word bio: Find your joy and follow it.
Fun fact: Sells beanies equipped with speakers through her company LahLah Designs (lahlahdesigns.com).
Shelbie Ebert attended SUNY New Paltz and studied theater, though she returned to her native Colorado to pursue life as a river guide. After working as a liftie at Loveland to fill the space between guide seasons, she landed in Steamboat, where she found herself in guest services, climbing the ranks of the ambassador program, where she now manages a large staff and wrangles little red wagons.
How’d you get into guest services?
I was a lift op for half a season, and then tried out for the ambassador program, a guest services position. I enjoyed it, so I came back year after year. Last season was my first in a managerial role.
What’s your day look like?
Every day is different. We have a morning meeting and get everyone up to speed. We go over the schedule, so everyone knows where they’re going. It’s pretty fast paced. We walk around and greet people, send some up to ski around with First Tracks, check conditions. We coordinate on-mountain tours. By late afternoon, most of our ambassadors are at the base area to help people and answer questions, give out hot chocolate, and deal with the little red wagons that we put out in the morning for people to tote their gear around.
Does anyone report to you?
I supervise the entire on-mountain volunteer staff, the Steamboat mountain masters and our full-time staff, probably about 80 people.
What kind of manager are you?
I like to lead by example and be straightforward. If there’s something that needs to be addressed, I like to talk to that person one-on-one in a setting that’s not intimidating. I tend to think that people are doing the best they can, and I assume that everyone has the best intentions and give every employee the benefit of the doubt.
What are you particularly proud of?
The schedule. I schedule about 90 people on a week-by-week basis. As I mentioned, our day not only changes on the fly, but if you’re a full-time ambassador that works four days a week, you’re scheduled each day by the hour.
In 10 years?
I want to keep being around ski areas, and I’ll definitely be doing my summer job, which is raft guiding. I think I’d like to move toward guiding in the winter as well. I’d love to share my love for the outdoors and the natural world around us, and whatever I’m doing will involve that process.
Marketing Director, Attitash and Wildcat, N.H. (Marketing Manager at Mount Snow, Vt., at time of nomination)
Hometown: Simsbury, Conn.
Six-word bio: Skiing will always be my passion.
Fun fact: Spent a summer at a Native American Art Institute in New Mexico as group leader for a community service trip for high school kids.
Skiing has been a constant for Fagone, whose parents started him in the sport at age 2. While at the University of New Hampshire, he served as president of the ski club and joined the season pass rep program. Later, he took a job as the snow reporter at Mount Snow and moved up the marketing ladder. In May, he started as marketing director for New Hampshire’s Attitash and Wildcat mountains.
Tell me about your former position, and your new one.
At Mount Snow, I was a first point of contact for other departments—there was constant communication to make sure we had accurate information and were getting that out in the world. Many of these responsibilities transferred into my new job: making sure we’re marketing the resort correctly, that there’s nothing expired out there, really just staying on top of our messaging. Of course, in the winter, you have to get out and ski at least a few times a week.
Describe your style of management.
I’ve adopted a more hands-off approach. I tend to trust that people do their jobs well, and I’m there for guidance. I’ll step in if I need to, but day-to-day, we all have our to-do lists, so let’s do them well.
Do you have a professional mentor?
Mount Snow’s marketing director, Thad Quimby, definitely shaped my role in the industry. When he started in December 2015, he basically asked, “Where do you want to go from here?” The natural progression would be marketing director, so he basically took what he could off of his plate and gave it to me. He gave me a lot of responsibilities, found out my goals, and helped me work toward them.
Have you had to adapt to changes in media?
Absolutely. Technology is moving so fast, and marketing has to keep up and learn new strategies all the time. We’re definitely seeing a big shift to digital and social media, and definitely a large shift toward social media advertising.
In 10 years?
A big part of taking my job here was the location (North Conway, N.H.). Once they presented this opportunity, I figured that would be it. Hopefully I’ll still be here doing ski area marketing.
Rental Shop Director, Ski China Peak, Calif.
Hometown: Lake Shore, Calif. (from age 5)
Six-Word Bio: Young mind. Wild heart. Free soul.
Fun Fact: Newly married; met his Brazilian wife through the J-1 Visa program.
Corinthian Jones was 19 and running a lodge in his hometown near China Peak when his boss suggested the ski industry might be a better fit. Jones heeded the call and jumped ship, first working in janitorial and maintenance before moving into the resort’s rental shop the following year. Now he manages the ski shop and serves as director for three other departments.
Did you know you wanted to work in the ski industry?
At 19, I didn’t know what the hell I wanted. I didn’t care what job I got at the resort, I just needed some money. But working at China Peak was probably the best decision I ever made.
What’s a typical day on the job?
I direct the rental shop, repair shop, and facilities (trash, restrooms, chairs, signage). I clear snow from decks, start morning set up, deal with customer service all day, and then put everything away at the end of the day. Customer service is the number one thing I deal with.
Describe your style of leadership.
Close to 40 people report to me, and I’m a big believer in leading by example. If I’m not the one working hardest, there’s a problem. Usually that motivates others to work hard. If not, there’s a bigger problem at hand. Also, rewarding hard work: buying drinks after work or having a company barbeque. A little goes a long way as far as company morale.
What’s your biggest challenge?
I’m kind of a perfectionist, so anytime someone’s unhappy it bothers me, and I try to make him or her happy. Often they’re stuck and don’t get over it, so I’ve learned to let that roll off and not get hung up on one person’s bad time.
Who’s your professional mentor?
Bruce Gillett, who ran the rental shop here for 43 years. I was a supervisor for him for four years. I let him know I wanted to be a supervisor my second year under him, and he kind of trained me to take his spot when he was done. That’s how this mountain is—we’re ready to make the leap from old generation to the next generation.
In 10 years?
Hopefully doing the same thing in the same position, but with more snow.
Interactive Marketing Coordinator, Jay Peak, Vt.
Hometown: Evansville, Vt.
Six-word bio: On board and behind a lens.
Fun fact: Can’t grow proper facial hair so just rocks sideburns.
Lanoue grew up in Vermont, building “poorly shaped jumps” in the backyard and filming friends with an old VHS camera. Jay Peak was the second mountain he ever rode, and it was all downhill from there, literally. He found his way back to the resort after college in Burlington, and made a job for himself creating video content and ramping up social media.
Tell us more about how you got here.
I started teaching snowboarding at Jay in high school and stayed on part-time through college. Later, I decided to go back to being a snowboard instructor. I had no plan at the time for any type of media job, but noticed the resort didn’t really have any videos, so I had a talk with a friend in human resources and my responsibilities became part-time instructor and part-time filming on the mountain. I was offered a full-time position in marketing after a year.
What’s a day on the job look like?
In the wintertime, you gotta go out and find a way to get shots of the mountain and highlight the beauty of it and the challenge of the terrain. Then I deal with all the social channels, read all the comments and reviews and keep track of that, post different content on each page so they’re not all the same, do website updates and help our online manager with digital signage. Also, filming, making sure we get photos and video every day, especially in the winter.
What’s been a challenge?
The big one would be last winter (2015-16), we didn’t really get any snow. Going out and finding ways to show that shredding is still fun was a big a challenge.
Is anyone your mentor?
Steve Wright, my boss. He exemplifies good leadership, he listens to everybody, and he’s passionate about what he does.
In 10 years?
I’d say probably still at Jay Peak, honestly. I see it still being the same avenue, maybe slightly changed, but I still see myself in digital marketing.
Reservation Manager, Taos, N.M.
Hometown: Ruidoso, N.M.
Six-Word Bio: Life is better with green chili.
Fun Fact: Camped for six weeks one summer outside of Crested Butte, Colo.
Alison Rigsby grew up in southern New Mexico on the slopes Ski Apache and the Sierra Blanca. She went to Texas Tech to study marketing, but knew she’d get back to the mountains eventually. She did, and recently made the move from Crested Butte to Taos, where she was hired to start the new reservations department for The Blake, the area’s first resort-owned hotel, which opened in February.
How did you end up at Taos?
I had an opportunity to open a brand new hotel and start its reservations department from scratch. It was a great opportunity, and closer to home. Now we’re transitioning into taking over third-party reservations for the entire valley. Taos only owns one lodge, but there’s an opportunity to sell quite a few properties in Taos Ski Valley and the town.
Your small staff will grow next winter. What do you think makes a good leader?
Working as hard or harder than my team and leading by example. Also, having a positive attitude.
Helping open the hotel and then get my department running from the ground up. This is Taos’ first in-house reservations department. It was a big undertaking, and I’m proud of how the winter went. It exceeded estimated profit, which was a big deal.
Why the ski industry?
I fell into it, and fell in love with it. Working with like-minded people makes work more fun. That’s what drew me in and has kept me in the industry. I tried my hand at city life (a year in Dallas), but wouldn’t do it again.
In 10 years?
Taos is undergoing a lot revamping, and there will be a lot of opportunity here over the next five years. I see myself in a similar position as my old boss Jill (Higgins; Crested Butte), reservations and central reservations manager. I like dealing with people, so I see myself becoming a director somewhere.
Business Manager, Blue Hills Ski Area, Mass.
Hometown: Brockton, Mass.
Six-word bio: Work hard and love your job.
Fun fact: Once drove a duck boat—an amphibious WWII-style vehicle—through the streets of Boston while working for a tour company.
This year’s youngest nominee, Molly Ross spent her teen years skiing the slopes of Wachusett Mountain with the ski club. During college in Boston, she worked as a cashier at Blue Hills and was offered a full-time job upon graduation. Ross quickly progressed from customer service to HR to business manager, a role she’s held for the past three years.
What’s the job of business manager entail?
Blue Hills is a small ski area, so we all take on a multitude of responsibilities. I’m responsible for recruiting, hiring, payroll, overseeing indoor departments like customer service and F&B, and tracking different projects. On any given day I’m doing like 50 different things, but it keeps it interesting.
Do you supervise anyone?
Yes, the customer service, F&B, and rental managers.
How do you define a good leader?
Being a good leader in the ski industry, you have to be adaptable. Every day is completely different than the day before.
What’s a proud moment for you?
I am proud of the recruitment program I put together last spring. I analyzed issues that we’ve had with recruiting seasonal employees and developed several new recruiting programs and a plan to solve these issues. The results were incredible. We had the largest turnout out we've ever had at our on-site job fairs and the largest group of applicants through our online questionnaire.
In 10 years?
Definitely still in the ski industry, in a management role. This is kind of my niche. The opportunity to do so many things at Blue Hills will definitely give me the skills to manage in this industry.
Director of Marketing, IT and Slope Maintenance, Ski Cooper, Colo.
Hometown: Bellefonte, Penn.
Six-word bio: Ski obsessed cigar smoking jazz musician.
Fun fact: Likes to sleep to the sound of an idling diesel engine. (A good recording will do.)
Patrick Torsell grew up around the ski industry—his father was in the business for 40 years. He planned to study music in college, but decided to pursue ski resort ops instead, heading west to Colorado Mountain College’s Leadville campus. He took his knowledge back East to Sugarbush, Vt., for five years before landing at Ski Cooper, where he has his hands in just about everything.
Tell me about a day on the job.
I might arrive early to hop in a cat and help the graveyard shift finish up the grooming plan. I might snap a quick powder or corduroy photo to put on Facebook. I'll check in with my guest services and marketing teams, and then log on to the server and make sure the IT systems are up and running. I like to head up the hill to interact with guests and employees, and to check on the snow and grooming quality. I'll make an afternoon round through the base area, maybe write some copy for a blog post or a social media ad, or update the photo gallery online.
What do you think makes a good leader?
Good leadership is all about giving your team the training and tools they need, having their backs, making your expectations clear, and then getting the heck out of the way so they can do their jobs.
What was a proud moment in your career?
In 2015 I was selected as Colorado Ski Country USA's "Slope Groomer of the Year." While I've had the good fortune to advance my career into senior management, grooming is still my greatest passion, and being formally recognized for that passion may always be my personal favorite accomplishment.
What’s a conflict that you’ve dealt with on the job?
This past season, I had the distinct pleasure of tracking down, terminating, and then rebuilding from a ransomware attack.
In 10 years?
Founder, major stakeholder, and COO in a small multi-resort holder, dedicated to operating "anti-resorts." I'm very passionate about the small- and medium-sized ski areas that buck the trend, keep it about the skiing, and give real soul to the industry.
Guest Services Manager, Lake Louise, Canada
Hometown: Maui, Hawaii
Six-word bio: Striving to be humble, grateful, fearless.
Fun fact: Has lived in seven countries on five different continents, most recently working as a dive master in Honduras.
Anya Whiticar grew up in Hawaii, but spent family vacations skiing. Strip away the obvious differences, she says, and beach and mountain towns are similar: outdoorsy people who love adventure. The dual citizen—her dad is Canadian—went to university in Montreal and migrated west from there. She landed at Lake Louise in Banff National Park four years ago.
Tell us more about how you got here?
After college I spent a year doing corporate real estate in Toronto and wore a suit to work every day. That got old fast. I traveled in South America for a few years, and then moved to Lake Louise. I was hired as guest services assistant here four years ago.
Does anyone report to you?
Yes, up to 25-30 people during peak Christmas time.
What’s your style of management?
Really hands on. If anything, too hands on, because I moved up the ranks within my department, so I know what it feels like at every level. I try to put my staff first, which pays off ultimately—it’s good to know you’re prioritizing what they need. For example, I want to make sure everyone gets to experience this place, which means working extra days if they want to go on a ski trip, etc.
A particularly proud moment?
The general nature of this job itself, because it’s so seasonal. Most people don’t come back after one season, so every season you’re training an entirely new crew.
In 10 years?
If I’m lucky enough, I’ll still be working within the industry. Lake Louise has just gotten its long-range plan approved to figure out where it can develop. Should be some exciting things happening here within the next decade, and I hope to be here.