2:43PM Update: John Costin to handle management of the resort.
Ski Beech just experienced what many will agree was the stormiest season of their existance and the storms that we are alluding to were not falling from the skies. Fans and disgruntled visitors bombarded our SkiMail INBOX and presumably Ski Beech’s with numerous complaints about how the resort’s status had fallen compared to the rest of the ski areas within the Southeast, Mid Atlantic and North Carolina. Our messageboard has received WAY more than the normal commentaries about how poor the lifties deal with customers, how poorly the trails are groomed and how the management just didn’t seem to care anymore.
Last season we posted a rant that included the combined input of numerous Beech area business owners and while we received hundreds of emails in agreement with our accessment, we also received some silly responses from the management. We will not get into what transpired after that situation because it serves no purpose now. More about that in a moment.
Then this season rolled around and Ski Beech began fielding more complaints from fans and visitors. We received more complaint emails about Ski Beech this season than all of the complaint emails than we have ever received from ALL of the other ski areas in the region COMBINED. While that may seem like an exaggeration I can assure you that it is not. It was as though those who love Ski Beech and those who visited it in the past sensed "blood" and people began posting messages in droves about how and what Ski Beech needed to do to "get back" to their glory years.
Messageboard members such as "JackFrost" (I still do not know his identity) and others who claim to be Beech Mountain business people and residents took up the mantle that "Dave Snow" started last season and who knows if any of that press had anything to do with anything, but Wayne Hoilman has stepped down as the General Manager of the resort.
According to a few people that emailed me, he has retired and the Costin family is beginning an all out campaign to revitalize and repair the damaged reputation of Ski Beech.
While I could relate numerous emails and "history" of what’s going on or not going on up at Ski Beech, I simply don’t operate that way. While I never met Wayne Hoilman (I tried and was declined) I was told by countless people about what a nice fellow he is. I have my own ideas as to his strengths and weaknesses but there’s no reason now to go into those now. According to reports, he has retired. Whether he retired of his own free will or was asked to retire really isn’t important either.
The bottom line is that it is a new day at Ski Beech. Even their own website was pulled offline earlier this morning and a postcard replaced it saying just that. It is almost as if with one strategic move, Ski Beech is starting a "healing process to improve AT LEAST the preception that Ski Beech CARES about their guests. Trust me – THEY DO. I have had some many conversation THIS SEASON ALONE from fans, guests, employees, ski patrol, instructors, and some of the management and I can tell you that EVERYONE who is involved with Ski Beech cares.
We have some phone calls in to the Costins and Marketing Director, Gil Adams and since they are closed we have had no response as yet, but when we do speak with them, there’s a good chance that they will downplay the importance of Wayne Hoilman’s departure, but their timing of the new front page on www.SkiBeech.com says otherwise. The truth is Wayne Hoilman is not "what is wrong" with Ski Beech. However he IS where the buck stopped and he certainly is the guy who drove the groomer such that it prompted many emails and comments to me from Beech staffers who said that they all "joked" about cutting the higher speed gears out of the groomer.
While there are serious issues as to what and how much needs to be invested into the resort to make it a top notch resort again, there is also no question that Beech will win LOT of "votes of confidence" from its fanbase by simply changing the person in control of day to day operations. Some will argue that Ski Beech also needs a change in attitude but I will play the devil’s advocate on their behalf and say that literally EVERY person that I have been in contact with at Ski Beech HAS a great attitude. No I don’t deal with the lift operators and support staff and perhaps there’s some "tweaking of attitudes" needed there. I was told a couple of times about lift operators offering customers the single digit finger (without subsequently being fired) but I can vouch for the fact that some of the negative attitudes that have come from some of the Ski Beech staffers came more from frustration that anything else. I can tell you how many times that I was told by top management staffers, "Mike, I’d love to (do this or that) but my hands are tied." I often countered, "well somebody needs to start untying some hands."
…and now it looks like the Costins or perhaps Wayne Hoilman himself has done so.
A NEW DAY AT THE BEECH…
Regardless of who instingated the move, this off-season change in management will be the biggest news of 2008 among the Southeast and Mid Atlantic ski areas, unless Sugar Mountain announces in a week or so that they are constructing a new high-speed quad lift this summer. The change in management WILL have a positive effect on things up at Beech regardless of who takes on the day to day leadership. It is simply human nature that change is good. A change in management will no doubt spike some new ideas and attitudes that will be immediately well-received by everyone. Early season traffic for the 2008-2008 season WILL be better. Bet on it. Look for early as possible snowmaking, initial, phenomenal snow grooming, etc.
If Beech’s new GM crosses his or her T’s and dots the I’s then expect some initial "rah-rah" meetings wherein all staffers from top personel down to the lift chair guys and gals are told to meet and greet people with a smile and provide the best possible care to every visitor – without fail. Hopefully some asthetic subtleties will be noticeable such as the careful wrapping of obstacles trailside, etc. The truth is if Ski Beech’s owners (The Costins) and new General Manager can do nothing more than improve the quality of their on snow experience – fans, season pass holders and new guests will fall in love with the resort all over again. The rest of the improvements (paint, lifts, etc) will take some time and hopefully everyone will not jump to the mistaken conclusion that there will be an ALL NEW Ski Beech from opening day on.
All new perspective – probably.
All new attitudes – hopefully.
Better communication from the top brass – anything will be better.
A better on-snow experience – COUNT ON IT.
WHO WILL BE THE NEW GM? (See the 2:44pm update)
We have some calls in and I can tell you that the inside feel is that is "needs to be" young, 20-something, Ryan Costin. Ryan is the son of owner John Costin and grandson of North Carolina native Ray Costin, who purchased Ski Beech in 1985. I met Lisa Adams, (who is a ski patroller up at Beech), while up at Snowshoe this past weekend and she expressed great disappointment with the way things had gone this past season at Beech and several others have done the same both privately to me…and via email. Several, including Adams, expressed that Ryan Costin should be given a chance. The first time I heard an indication that he just may be the next GM at Ski Beech was from his father, John. In a conversation with him post yet another on-mountain fiasco just a couple of weeks ago, Costin hinted that he had been grooming his son for such a move. The younger Costin has been taking ski resort management courses and studies. I think that it’s safe to say that those plans were meant to happen further into the future, but perhaps Ryan Costin’s time is – now.
There is no question that the youngest Costin would have all of the support staff one could have. A father and grandfather who has owned and operated the mountain for 23 years will be a huge help. Gil Adams, the longtime Marketing Director and "wearer of numerous hats" at the resort will be a great mentor of how to deal with the public. There are numerous other longtime employees who will hopefully add to the betterment of the a "New Day at Ski Beech".
If the Costin family decides that young Ryan is not quite ready to take on whatever measure of control is needed, then look for some interim leadership (perhaps even by John Costin). While we have ZERO influence up there, I personally think someone with the experience and love of the mountain like Gil Adams would be a great GM, but the truth is Gil may not even want the job. I can tell you that owner John Costin (last year) shared that he hated the period that he was asked to manage the resort. He expressed how all-encompassing the job was.
We’ll try to get you some REAL news as soon as we are made aware of it…but until then – "WE SPECULATE, YOU DECIDE!"
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