MALONE — Winter is right around the corner — and so is ski season. The Titus Mountain ski area is preparing for another season, not just by getting the lifts and snow guns ready, but with upcoming job fairs to help build staff.
Ben Honahan, Titus Mountain’s marketing director, said the job fair represents a major step in getting set for the ski season.
“Without a staff, none of this is possible. You can’t run a lift if you don’t have lifties. You can’t run a ski school if you don’t have instructors and you can’t serve people in the lodge if you don’t have servers. That’s really the main piece in getting the season started, it’s the job fair and making sure we have the proper help and have people who know what they’re doing,” Mr. Honahan said at the ski area.
More than just a job
Bruce Monette III, Titus Mountain brand ambassador, said job fairs are a great way not just to find work at the local ski resort, but to gain valuable experience.
“I think everywhere right now the people are struggling with finding workers and things of that nature. So we’re just trying to, being a seasonal opportunity, we’re trying to get people through the door that would be a great fit for our team,” he said. “A few years ago, we were voted the No. 1 family-friendly ski resort in North America. We try to hold to that standard every year and continue with that standard. So when people come walking through the door and we go through the hiring process, we want people to know that’s what we’re looking for, somebody that is committed, a team player and likes the family-friendly atmosphere.”
According to Mr. Monette, working with families in a service-related environment is a special experience, one that is enhanced by the reward of teaching others how to ski.
“It’s a huge role. We know that a lot of kids come walking through the door and your staff has to know how to deal with kids properly, being friendly and things of that nature,” he said. “There’s no better feeling than being out on that bunny hill with Johnny or Suzy and to see them not being able to put a ski on and then after their fifty-minute lesson, see them zipping around the mountain. It’s a very rewarding feeling.”
Mr. Monette said that anybody who thinks they have what it takes to be a ski instructor should apply, not just for the job, but for the job experience that will last a lifetime.
“If you learn how to be an instructor, the right techniques, you can pretty much get a job anywhere in the world where there’s a ski resort,” he said. “And with that on your resume it’s going to help you immensely.”
There is also the added benefit of employees getting compensation packages.
“Any day that you’re working, you obviously have to put in your shift or shift that week, but if you do your work and want to ski on your day off or after your shift, you get your ticket and get out there,” he said, adding that it’s important to the ski area to not require past experience in ski-related work.
“The ski industry is like no other business out there,” he said. “It’s tough to ask someone to come on with lift experience or experience teaching people how to ski. It’s a huge aspect in the ski industry to be able to train people on the job, because they don’t get experience like that unless they’re at another ski resort. We feel like it’s a great opportunity.”
Mr. Monette said high schoolers are encouraged to apply.
“The high schoolers make great instructors,” he said, adding that in the past they have also worked everywhere from the customer served areas to the rental area. “They’re a huge part of what we do here and are good to have as employees.”
“It’s one of those things, you’re talking about working in the service industry, and when you’re talking about experience, I don’t think there’s a greater experience than that. I think everyone should work in the service industry at some point. And it’s a fun atmosphere,” Mr. Honahan said, adding that it is also a good idea for those attending college to apply for a job, even if it’s only to work during the few months they have off for break.
The food and beverage department at the ski area has scheduled a job fair from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 9 and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 12.
Other preparations for the season are underway at the mountain including as trail work and safety checks.
“Every day we are making progress,” Mr. Monette said, adding that even on the recent warmer days, mountain staff is working in some fashion to prepare the trails. “Guys are in the woods and going along the sides of the trails doing trail maintenance to get ready for the season. We’re trimming trees and workers are going through every trail to make sure they’re in good shape.”
He said there were a couple of hard rain storms during the summer that have led to added measures to ensure mountain safety.
“We have to make sure there were no washouts or anything like that,” he said. He said that workers have been on the lookout for erosion along the trails. “It could be detrimental on one of these trails after a rain storm if there was a washout. You can’t fill it in with snow, you have to bring in material and fill and get the ground in the right shape for the season to start. Every day we’re getting a day closer and we’re getting more ready.”
Last week, workers were busy near the Chair 6 and the Bernardi’s Party and Vern’s View trails constructing a new glade trail.
“It’s going to be a completely new glade,” Mr. Monette said.
He said the main reason for the expansion is to cater to the higher demand for glade skiing, which are trails that cut through wooded areas of a mountain. He explained that he has seen a shift in popularity from terrain parks to glade skiing, where kids can get an adrenaline rush without going upside down.
“It’s a great little feature to add to mountains,” he said. “We clear out some trees leave some there and skiers weave through the trees. You can go down the trail and not take the same path. It makes it more fun for the younger generation. It will definitely be a named trail, we’re just not sure what we’re going it name it yet. We’re still in the process, we still have a few more roundtables to go over it and make the decision.”
“We try to add a trial or two every year,” he added. “Last year we added Huskie Lane. We named that one based off a house we put on the trail named The Huskie and we needed a trail to go by it, so that was the name we came up with. We try to come up with the best fit for the mountain and the area that the trail will be. This trail is on the middle mountain so we’ll try to come up with something that goes with that.”
A big part of getting ready for the ski season is checking the equipment, including the chairlifts.
“We’ve actually completed 100% of our lift maintenance. It’s a state requirement every year we take a certain percentage of our chairs off the lift and do maintenance and tests, including load tests,” Mr. Monette explained, adding that the load test involves placing enough weight on a chair to sufficiently represent skiers on the chair, this will ensure the chair is safe to handle the weight of skiers. “That’s already happened. The lifts are in great shape for another season. Safety is our most important thing. We want to make sure everything is operating smoothly. If the state requires we check it once, we check it twice.”
The one thing that is difficult to test out right now is the snowmaking equipment.
“That’s sort of a play-it-as-it-goes type of deal. There’s no way to test when it’s 70 degrees and sunny,” he said. “You’ve got to wait for the right temps, start it up and keep your fingers crossed that they all turn on and start making white snow. We try to wait for a 10-day period when we can go straight and make a bunch of snow.”
Most of the equipment is fairly new, so he said he doesn’t anticipate any issue making snow when the time comes.
So far, ticket sales have been steady, and mountain officials said they are happy to know that skiers from Canada will be able to cross the border to visit Titus Mountain.
“We’re excited for another good season hopefully. This year we’re getting the Canadians back and I think that’s going to be great for the mountain. It’s going to be great to see them back,” Mr. Honahan said. “I think if we improve upon what we’ve done over the past few years, then I think we’re going to have another great season.”
“We’ve definitely missed the Canadians and we’re looking forward to having them back,” Mr. Monette said, adding that Titus is the only mountain in the country that hasn’t raised lift ticket prices. “I think the community really appreciated it and we’re seeing ticket sales coming in pretty strongly at this point, and we’re looking forward to a good year.”
“It’s an exciting time. It’s always fun when the ski season rolls back around,” he said. “It’s one of those things that once it gets into your blood. It’s fun seeing all the kids’ smiling faces, all the parents having fun.”