Author Archives: Skytrac

Mike Pratt: If the Social Benefits are Worthy…

If the Social Benefits Are Worthy and the Economic Benefits Are Real, You Should Be Doing It.

Mike is a Skier.

Michael Pratt is waiting when I call him Friday morning. Not for me, but for the new cable for Gore’s Northwoods Gondola. While the cable is stuck at the Canadian border, the crane truck waits, the crew waits, and the overweight, over-wide permit expires in two short hours, we talk.

Gore Mountain just won the Golden Eagle Award for overall environmental excellence in the medium–sized resort category at the NSAA national show. We can wonder about the details on a winning project like this.
How much investment in resources does an honor like this take?
Is this kind of stewardship both attainable and duplicable for other resorts with less money and manpower?

Mike: “The press release talked about money, we weren’t even going to mention the money. The real ROI is both social and economic. That is, doing the right thing as long as economics support your decision-making. This is attainable by any resort. What’s required is [the willingness to go through] the process.”

“For our experience, we started looking at a site in cooperation with the local Township. We interviewed commercial solar companies and received proposals to review. Through this process, we learned that there are efficiency incentives for developers to establish green initiatives. We started by investigating concept viability and determining what requirements are involved in getting a completed project. Our solar power source is about 40 miles away. We negotiated the rate for a power purchase agreement with no money down and agreed to purchase all power produced. 90% of this [process] was handled in-house. We had an attorney write the final contract. But the process requires work and work is a four-letter word.”

“We started this process 2-1/2 years ago but got serious 1-1/2 years ago. [At Gore] we all were proactive and aggressive towards our efficiency projects. We are not a large staff here and we all wear many hats.”

So when wondering if environmental projects and upgrades are worthwhile and doable for your resort, Mike: “If you decide the social benefits are worthy and the economics are real, you should be doing it.“

Environmental changes made at Gore were said to “positively affect the guest experience”, so I asked Michael, honestly – is it true that these changes gave your skier’s and rider’s a difference that they could see and feel?

“It is true,” Mike said. “For our Golden Eagle application, we referenced 12 action items in the past 12 months. For example, it was a lousy winter [for snow] but we had already built our boardercross out of earth and capped it with snow, so the boardercross existed to use this season. We had purchased high-efficiency snow guns. We replaced old drives with new drives on the pumps so we were working on making snow instead of working on getting the guns to operate properly. We also hosted nine regional nordic events. High school coaches had reported increasing the numbers of students participating and this was during a poor winter. Participation historically decreases during a bad winter but the excitement and synergy of having dependable man-made snow along with a lodge with food facilities had the students and coaches so enthusiastic that their numbers grew. We’re experiencing more requests to host events for the nordic community.

Mike shared a story with me back at the Eastern show at Killington that sums up his values of leadership without exception. He borrows it from a book that tells of how we all have five balls of life to juggle. Four balls are made of glass to portray our own health, family, friends, and integrity, defining what we cannot risk. The last is a rubber ball that represents our careers, interpreting what remains flexible and resilient when all five are thoroughly valued. “Gore is a place, a resort, and what we do here is great but it is the people that make it special.”

And the last comment Mike says to me,
“I have to add, my cable still has not arrived.”

The cable did arrive. I received a text with the photos below. The permit still allowed for 1 hour and 49 minutes.

Everyone waiting…

1 hour, 49 minutes of permit time to get the job done.

Meet Mark Thorpe, New Chairman ANSI B77.1

Lift Maintenance Manager, Snowmass, New Chairman ANSI B77 Committee.

Mark Thorpe is a Skier.

Two days before the NSAA Keynote speaker addressed the issue of aging resort leadership, the ANSI B77 committee announced Mark Thorpe as the Committee’s new Chairman. “Getting qualified younger people involved is crucial,” expressed Maynard Russell, who is stepping aside to vice–chair. “Mark’s leadership abilities also lends to recognize other member’s who are needed for other roles, like negotiate, or run an ad hoc committee.”

When asked about goals as the new Chair, Mark responded that his personal goals were recruitment and increased participation within the committee. And participation, he says, is an incredible opportunity to develop professionally. “I have 33 years in this industry and I joined the B77 to give back. This industry has given me a career and do something I’m passionate about. We have to find fresh blood to replace [tenured] lift professionals, some of these guys more than 30 years experience. [Finding these candidates] is like herding cats. They don’t like it but it can be done. I also left the Board at RMLA when taking on the B77 Committee. I had to make choices. I couldn’t do my day job, plus B77, plus RMLA.”

When asked about his 33 years in the industry, Mark says that it all really started by growing up in Aspen Valley. Yep – you read correctly. Born and bred and the FOURTH generation to grow up there. His house was three blocks from Aspen Mountain and he was always late to dinner because he was messing around on the hill and always outside. “It was a fantastic place to grow up when I was a kid. Aspen was a sleepy town with dirt roads. Hollywood and the jet set has changed it. Mom and Pop stores are now shops selling Louis Vuitton. Everything changes. Change is good. I also have a 15-year-old son who is a successful ski racer and is the third generation of racers including me and his grandfather.”

At 18 years of age, Mark started in the rental shop, attended the U. of Colorado for Business, and came back to work rentals for every vacation and break. After Mark graduated he was hired into the Aspen marketing department. He enjoyed marketing and felt he was good at it. “But then a new CEO came in and fired everybody because he wanted a different tone. I decided that was the end of the white collar world for me. Around 1988, I worked summer lift maintenance, enjoyed being outside. I transferred to Aspen Highlands in 1995 and then in 2000 went over to Snowmass and became lift maintenance manager. We have two of the original Poma detaches and this summer we are replacing 30-year haul ropes. There’re guys that will be working on those that are younger than the lifts.”

Maynard Russell, Mark Thorpe, Carl Skylling

2016 RMLA Maintenance Person of the Year, Mark Wait, Monarch Resort

Mark Wait received the RMLA Maintenance Person of the Year plaque at the awards breakfast held on May 5th. The function was attended by hundreds of resort and services lift people and the finalists included mechanics from Breckenridge, Steamboat and Vail. Mark was given the award by his manager who said “Mark Wait is a total team player”. Congratulations Mark from the crew at Skytrac Lifts!

RMLA’s 2016 Lift Operations Person of the Year – Daniel Last, Telluride, CO

At the May 5th RMLA Convention, Grand Junction, CO, Daniel Last of Telluride Resort,CO was chosen winner out of four finalists of Lift Operators from Crested Butte, Aspen Highlands and Vail. Daniel accepted the 2016 RMLA Lift Operations Person of the Year award from his lift operations manager, John Long who shared details of Daniels’s steadfast commitment to the Telluride Lift Operations team.
Congratulations Daniel, from the crew at Skytrac!

The 2016 LMS Lift Mechanic of the Year – Jasen Bellomy, Sugarbush Resort

From: Billerica, MA
Family: Dad of a 9-year old daughter
Offtime: Fish, ride dirt bikes, hang out with his daughter

Jasen is a skier.

Career History:
“At 18, my ski industry career started out as a lift operator at Waterville Valley, NH. While I liked it, I decided to move forward and join the U.S. Marine Corps. There I was trained to maintain missile defense radar systems which led me to work for Raytheon. This kind of work was both complicated and interesting but the serious downfall was working in an office environment every day. I liked working in the outdoors and returned to the ski industry as a snowmaker for Peak Resorts/ Crotched Mountain.”

“Crotched needed someone dedicated to the lifts department and I transitioned from snowmaker to lift maintenance.” Though I have changed resorts over the years, I’ve never left the lift maintenance.

From there Jasen said, “I went on to work for Windham around 2008 to run their department and then up to Saddleback Lift Maintenance for 4 years. I’ve been here at Sugarbush for about 9 months.

The biggest differences between Saddleback and Sugarbush?
“The environments were radically different. I went from 2-3 mechanics to more than 15 of them, with more details, more personalities. Trying to figure out which mechanics had experience and know-how on what parts of the lift systems. It’s been important for us to learn to work as a cohesive unit and to improve our maintenance records and documentation. When a lift is down, my former training supporting a radar system that could only be down for a few minutes has geared me to be calm and troubleshoot the issue. I believe the mechanics know and appreciate the fact that I’m working along side of them instead of just managing them.

Leitner-Poma & Skytrac – 2 Companies Become 1 Mission

Some things change and some don’t. We’re excited about that. The same people, the same products and the same lift options you count on remain intact.

Leiter-Poma and Skytrac together.
That’s good news for your resort.

“This acquisition will allow Leitner-Poma to better serve ski areas of all sizes,” said Leitner-Poma of America president Rick Spear. “By purchasing Skytrac, we will continue to care for all existing customers and expand our base.”

Skytrac will maintain the niche it has established in the market, providing modifications and upgrades to all types of lift systems
as well as engineering, manufacturing, and installation of new fixed-grip lifts. “Given the aging go the lift systems across North America, replacing and retrofitting older lift infrastructure has been a key element of Skytrac’s success,” Rick Spear said.

Skytrac will continue to serve its loyal customers, who are in line to benefit the most from the acquisition, according to the company’s general manager,Carl Skylling. “Our loyalty and support to our long-term customer base have always been of the utmost importance,” Skylling said.

This focus was part of the vision of Skytrac’s Leonard who died less than a year ago.

Read full news release on SAM Magazine

Fire in the Motor Room

“We’re only open weekends here at the Club,” says Bob Adams, Lifts Manager at The Hermitage Club, VT, “so every day we’re open is pretty much a busy day”.

On one such busy weekend, of the Club’s five lifts, the 1984’s Poma fixed-grip triple came to a quick standstill.

The stop was a phase loss, an electrical glitch. “But when we hit reset, that’s when we smelled the smoke”. There was a fire in the high voltage panel in the terminal’s motor room. ” It was a Bic-sized flame”, says Bob, “but not a good situation at all. It’s not every day that you use a fire extinguisher in a terminal”. The heated up old wiring, dust, and corrosion made a lot of smoke. Its appearance was pretty concerning.

Bob Adams, Lifts Manager, Hermitage Club.

This is the day your lift operators and maintenance staff train for. “Even our less experienced staff handled it well. Some didn’t even understand what was happening but followed protocol as instructed. There was an element of instinct that kicked in and we maintained our composure. We stopped loading and cleared the terminal area and got everyone off the lift within 30 minutes safely.

“When you have a finicky old drive you should have two things; a good stock of parts and support people who have a lot of experience with aged systems. “Fortunately, we had the lift back up in 24 hours. [From a management point of view] “I felt like everything went well, everyone fell into place and performed as expected of them”. Then there are decisions to make – replace the drive? – do major upgrades?

About Bob: Bob has spent 13 years in the ski industry, 4 years at The Hermitage Club. Originally from South Jersey, the first place he skied in VT was Haystack in 1999. He thought he knew what cold was until he worked one month as a lift operator at Mt. Snow. He has a lot of sympathy for lift operators.
Dennis Bills and Hank Darlington have been his mentors for whom he is grateful. And about his Lifts Manager position at The Hermitage? “There is always something new,” says Bob. “One hour I’m a guidance counselor, another I’m a coach, another hour goes by and I’m back as a lift mechanic.”

Andy Pierce on Finger-pointing, Relationships and Jamaica mon.

“Invest in training” is how Andy Pierce gets cracking with me. “Learn how the whole lift operates.   It happens all the time.. the lift stops and the lift mechanics say it’s an electrical problem and the electricians say the opposite. Very few resort professionals have a grip on this.  Take for example Tim Smith [GM at Waterville Valley]. I can talk with Tim over the phone and usually within a short amount of time we trouble-shoot the problem – right on that same phone call.  Tim has a depth of knowledge but it’s really his open approach helps us solve the issue.  More training results in better conversations, better preparedness and quicker fix-times”.

When asked about his background, Andy shares his start in Park City as a lift operator and then as an installer for Yanek Kunczynski.

But he believes his lift life established itself vacationing in ski towns like Durango, CO where his dad, an IBM executive planned annual family ski trips.  Andy skied for his first time as a toddler at Taos.The Pierce family moved about every two years.  Traveling as a working lifestyle has always been a passion, not a problem for Andy.  “I’m a chairlift technician.  I take on mechanics, hydraulics, electrical and do NDT inspections and load testing.  I prefer ropeway projects to any other”  

It’s simple to see on AP Electrical Services, LLC Facebook page you see this is true.  And as well as continental U.S., you can also see St. Lucia and Jamaica among the selfies of native clients, happily holding  up AP Electrical business cards.

“I worked installing lifts for Jan Leonard when Jan was with Garaventa CTEC but my mentors over the years were John Schilly – that Schilly man.. he taught me so much but I have to credit Shane Gurule and Michael Carhart too. 

“Though I worked for Doppelmayr until 2013, cognitively I’ve been on my own since 2007 when I wired a lift for Dave [Metivier] and Jan [Leonard] at Bristol Mountain during a vacation break. I never looked back.” 

When asked what is the essential reason why resorts hire Andy Pierce? Andy laughs. “I’d say – I care more for less.  But my work ethic is the  reason. I don’t stop for lunches or breaks.  I get tunnel vision when I’m working.  I also take on way more work than the average human.  In this industry, it’s all about relationships.  I consider my customers as friends.  I answer the phone on the weekend.” 

Andy works in partnership with Skytrac Lifts, Inc. We will vouch that he or his wonderful bride Meghan answer the phone on weekends.
AP Electrical Services, LLC 802-236-7416
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Arizona Snowbowl

Arizona Snowball, AZ. Humphrey’s quad fixed grip, 200 hp

Crotched Mountain

Video Credit: Green Mountain Control Systems.

Crotched Mountain, NH: grandstand view of tower construction. Credit: Green Mountain Control Systems