What were you doing 18 years ago?
Comparing ski industry notes and some personal ones, from 1998.
You’ve been an engineer in the ski resort industry for 29 years; that’s nearly three decades of your neighbors watching you put your skis in your car when heading to work. You got your start in the wire rope business. How did that happen?
“I got started by pure chance: I was flat out of money, my wife and I had a new baby boy, and I needed a job! I had just graduated from Oklahoma State University and wanted to move back East. My brother Peter Geise, who was living in Sunbury, PA at that time, sent me an ad from the Sunbury Daily Item regarding a position for a project engineer at the Paulsen Wire Rope Corporation.
“My family and I drove an old police car I had bought for a few bucks at an auction through the worst snow storm on record. It took us forever to drive from Oklahoma to Pennsylvania. We felt like pioneers going in the wrong direction. Fortunately, I got the job. Peter later became a Paulsen Wire Rope salesman.
“We supplied wire rope to lots of businesses: coal mining, fishing, construction, elevators (I once rode the elevator at the World Trade Center on top of the car), and ski lifts. Most customers were dirty, grumpy people until I visited a ski area where everyone was smiling. Maynard Russell asked me if I knew an engineer interested in working for Pettit-Morry, a former ski area insurance company and I said – ask me! So he did.”
In 1998, you spoke about the value of experience. You remembered a time when you calculated, for reasons of economy, a design using minimum beam sizes for a crane to lift bobbins of wire rope. Your calculations were spot-on, but when employees used the same beams for raising forklifts, the beams bent like “a willow tree in the wind.” Do you have any other examples where best design intentions didn’t follow through for everyday applications?
“Some years ago in Innsbruck at the Interalpin show, I spotted a duel track snowmobile. It was an Alpina made in Italy. I thought US ski areas would love this vehicle as a work machine as it functioned between a snowmobile and a groomer. I bought one, brought it to the USA with the idea to import and sell them to ski areas. However, without a dealer network, a place for parts and repairs, this idea was not going far. It didn’t. I sold two and passed the business on to the next person. I am fond of the expression ‘we learn more from our mistakes than our successes.’ “
You were also quoted in 1998 that, in your opinion, the most serious problem facing the industry today is “the US industry’s inability to invest in new technology”. Your thoughts today?
“Today I think the USA is missing out on manufacturing. In manufacturing, you learn new inventions to make things better yet less expensive. It reflects the old expression, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” If [tiny] Germany can design and build the best automobiles in the world, then we can make some great things here. Skytrac is a good example. I’m for free trade. There is no reason why the US government can’t help US companies that want to manufacture things in the good old USA.”
In all your years of inspecting, give us a funny blunder that lift mechanics or operations tried to cover up during inspections.
“Once I was inspecting the stop gate of a rope tow in the winter. By skiing through the gate I noticed the stop was delayed. I tried this a few times and one time happened to look up at the top attendant. The gate didn’t work. He was watching me and pushing the stop button in the lift shack when I passed through the gate.”
Are you still the president of the Mid-Atlantic Audi Quattro Club?
“I gave up the club presidency long ago, but I’m still an Audi nut. I’m on Audi number 6. Still have Audi number 3, an S6 I took to Watkins Glen in 2012, still able to hit 125 on the back stretch.”