Mike Pratt: If the Social Benefits are Worthy…

June 5, 2016

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.

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