How did you first get into the ski industry?
I have the reverse story than most who currently work in the ski industry. Many start with a passion for skiing or snowboarding and decide to pursue that dream of skiing daily (which doesn’t actually happen, BTW) into a career. I, on the other hand, only learned how to ski after I worked two winters at Mount Snow during college for ESPN at the Winter XGames in 2000 & 2001. I was a production assistant for a wonderful woman who was responsible for all the on-air talent and special guests! My job was to give all the on-air announcers their uniforms, help attain items necessary for athletes and special guests, and they even gave me a brand new Volkswagen Passat to drive! I picked up skateboard legend Tony Hawk from the airport and got to spend a few hours with him. I digress--oh to be 21 again. But after spending winter break at Mount Snow, I met a few people and ended up getting a gig after college as the Event Coordinator (basically I put up fences, time races etc). And my love for the ski industry grew from there.
What’s the first memory you have of skiing?
It is a hazy beginning. You have to remember that I was in college. It wasn’t with Mom and Dad when I was 6 going to a "BIG Mountain." Most trips from UMASS were to Mount Snow or Killington, and typically featured as much “apres” as they did skiing in those days. I think one of my favorite memories was up at Killington when my friend Todd went skiing (more like flying) off the side of a trail right under the Gondola and disappeared into the woods. At first it was a little scary, because he was hauling, but once we realized he was ok the four of us just started cracking up because the crash was epic. Total yard sale everywhere. I don't think we ever found his goggles.
What’s your favorite memory from a family ski trip or from teaching your kids to ski?
The winter after my son Ronan learned how to walk, we put him on skis. This was at Mad River Mountain in Ohio in March. At first he wasn’t into it, but after we gave him a little nudge and helped him move a little bit - a smile broke out over his face. The photo above is from that day and I’ll always remember it.
Ronan will be 7 this month and he absolutely rips. He’s been on the Wildcat Ski Team and his abilities make me proud every time I ski with him. Adult friends of ours have asked us if they can go skiing with him. I’ll be stoked when the day comes where he’ll be waiting for me at the bottom! Sooner than later I think. You might see Ronan quite a bit this winter as he's already asked for a job.
What was your first impression of Wausau?
A town with a ton of cool spots and loads of potential for fun outdoor activities, events, and experiences. I was a raft guide for a back in college and in my 20s, so having a white water park right downtown is exciting. In New Hampshire we spent a ton of time during the summer months on lakes and rivers. There seems to be a bunch of water in the region, so we are excited to explore that. We hope to find a home not too far (if not on) some body of water here later this year.
What has skiing meant to your family, both personally and professionally?
It’s pretty much life in the winter. I never would have thought back in college that I would be where I’m at today. I studied Sport Management and had my eyes focused on working in professional sports like baseball.
Skiing actually brought my wife Mary and I together. (We met on her first day of work at Mount Snow back in 2005 and we’ve never been separated since...a good story for another time.) During the winter we will take our kids out of school to go skiing if the conditions are prime. We don’t travel to a ton of resorts--(like I said before, when you work in the ski industry it's rare to get to ski elsewhere)--but we do like to go to the ones we can within a short drive to change things up a bit. Our closest friends work or have worked in the ski industry. I couldn’t imagine life without it. I have a chairlift and snowflakes tattooed on my arm if that gives you any indication of what it has meant to me.
What is your craziest ski-related story?
Not sure how crazy it is, but it’s a vivid memory: Back when I was the Marketing and Event Director for Mount Snow, I convinced our GM to drop ticket prices to $17 for St. Patrick’s Day. I'm proud to say that Mount Snow was one of the first resorts to do this! (It is now a common thing on the East). It was a huge success, bringing tons of guests out for a typically quiet midweek day in March. The second year we did it there was an ice event a few days prior, but St. Patrick’s day was a beautiful, spring day with tons of sunshine. Ice began to melt and a birch tree actually sprang back up and knocked out the main power to the summit around 9:30am. All our lifts were top driven and the power came from the top. We already had lines everywhere at that point and people were still coming in. I remember standing on the 4th floor of our base lodge balcony looking out at the chaos as our chairlifts limped on auxiliary diesel to get everyone off. I called our F&B director and asked if the bars were open yet. He said they weren’t slated to open until 10:30. I said open them now. He quickly moved on it, Guinness was flowing and we even got an employee who happened to be a musician to start playing outside on our deck. Within an hour the power was restored, we kept the lifts running for an extra 45 minutes because it was so perfect and it was one of the best "working days" I had ever experienced at Mount Snow.
What’s your favorite way to embarrass your kids?
Logan, who’s 3, has trouble with L’s, so he can’t even pronounce his name correctly. He says WOAH-Gan most times. Ronan is pretty personable. He'll talk to you about anything and there are few things that will embarrass him. Maybe his love for Taylor Swift? Logan recently declared his love of the Beastie Boys and my love for him grew 10 times that day.
How do you think COVID will affect this upcoming ski season, and how is Granite Peak preparing?
Yeah the year of COVID...Jumping into this right away with the team at Granite Peak...It’s a little unnerving that we’re continuing this roller coaster across the globe with this virus. Our approach will certainly be one of caution this season, but I believe you’ll find that the skiing and riding will still be the same. It is all the indoor things that I am focusing my energy on immediately. If you think about it, right now we are asking people in the summer to do what they normally do in winter all the time. Wear a mask. Skiing is a sport in which “social distancing” is the norm. You have these long sticks on your feet, you are wearing gloves, goggles, and most likely a mask. We’ll be asking you to wear masks for sure this winter and for our season passholders we’ll even give you a branded one when you pick up your pass this year. We are all responsible for our own actions, but I am confident that we can deliver a great ski season in 2020/21 as long as we all work together to combat the transmission of this between one another.
What are you most excited for in taking this new position at Granite Peak?
Getting back into the driver's seat. In my previous role I wasn’t responsible for making decisions on where we would make snow, what beers we might have available to guests, or what type of chicken fingers we would offer. I really enjoyed that at Mad River Mountain and while my colleagues respected my opinions (and I offered them often) it was ultimately their choice to make .
What’s your favorite quote and why?
Good question. My high school quote in my yearbook was “Don’t have a role model. Look up to no one because all you’ll ever be is second place.” I do have a few role models and one helped me land this job, but I do try to make sure that I am doing the best job I possibly can and have confidence in my career path. Another one that I do try to follow is “Life is short. Spend time on things that matter.” To me, that is my family and making sure we are all enjoying this time on earth together.
How do you think managing Granite Peak will differ from experiences you’ve had and places you’ve worked at in the past?
Each place has its own challenges. I think at Granite Peak, it will most certainly offer guests a memorable experience while also providing them peace of mind that they are safe from a virus that has changed life as we know it. Outside of that, I’m excited to look at summer and fall operations here. I think we have opportunities to bring in some events and have some fun in the “off-season” too.
What’s the one Midwest/Wisconsin stereotype you’ve found to be the most true?
Passion for college sports. Having grown up in the East (Long Island, NY is where I spent my childhood), professional sports pretty much rule: theYankees, Red Sox, Patriots, Mets, the list goes on. Having been outside of Columbus for four years, and knowing what I know about Wisconsin in the short time I’ve been here, everyone is proud to support their state college! I’ve been blessed to have been to a number of college football games, and outside of Ohio State the one team I’ve seen the most of has been the Badgers. I’ve been to Madison for a game and also saw them in the Big10 Championship game. The one thing I haven’t seen them do in person? Win. Sorry, my wife went to Ohio State and we’ve had your number for a little bit now. I’m excited to get back down to Madison for a few games in the future and I think I could easily become a Packer Backer. My childhood team the Jets… lets just not talk about them. ;-)
Anything else you want to tell us about yourself?
I’m really excited to be here. Granite Peak has such a great history and promising future. Our family is looking forward to exploring the region and all the activities it has to offer. I, for one, am excited to check out the local craft beer and cheese scene! We’ll see you on the slopes this winter.