by Joe Stevens

Hello Everyone –

There is a number of reasons why most of us got into this business, but I think easily the main reason is to be able to play outdoors on the snow, whenever possible. Yes, it’s a job and as they say, “it pays the bills.” But this season, like none other, it seems for a lot in the industry, those days on the hill are few and far between.

We luckily live in Scott Depot, West Virginia, which is only 90 or so minutes away from Winterplace Ski Resort in the southern portion of the mountain state. That means on any given Sunday, Christian, a friend of his and I can shake the cobwebs out early and head for a day on the slopes without much fanfare. By the way, those 90 minutes are mostly on the interstate so it is an easy drive.

As most of you who enjoy being on the slopes know, you enjoy it even more when you are skiing or snowboarding with a friend. For me, one of those industry friends is Tom Wagner, the Executive Vice President for Winterplace Ski Resort. Tom and I have done a considerable amount of whitewater rafting and playing on the frozen whitewater (snow) for decades. In fact, on a lift ride a few seasons ago, we found out that I am one day older than him.

Whenever I make the trek to Winterplace, I always try to drag him out onto the slopes with me. He usually tries to blow me off by saying he is just much too busy doing other things like emptying trash cans and answering questions from guests. You know all those important duties that are in the job description of an Executive Vice President. I can usually drag him away from those fun duties by saying he has an obligation to do some “Product Evaluation” on the slopes, just to make sure everything is perfect outdoors for his guests.

But this year things are a lot different for folks like Tom and other resort executives in the industry, not only in the southeast but all over the country. The COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic is definitely throwing the monkey wrench into executives like Tom in getting out on the slopes for that “Product Elevation” I have been referring to. We have now made the trip twice to Winterplace this season and both times, I have been unsuccessful in my attempt to get him out on the hill. Very disheartening to say the least.

When I was trying to come up with a topic for this week’s column, I really wanted to shy away from any mention of COVID-19. I realize it is a top-of-the-mind subject for most folks, but other than mentioning that Mother Nature provides the best natural social distancing, I wanted to put some space between us this week. As you can see from the previous paragraphs, that didn’t work out very well, did it?

I am scribing this week’s column sitting in Winterplace’s cafeteria during lunchtime. Overhearing some of the conversations is an excellent reason why Tom and his cohorts can’t get out on the slopes, some just don’t get that this year has been different from day one and will continue to be different until the last rope is pulled across the slopes later this season. The biggest question on some of the folks’ minds are the face covering requirements. I have already given my opinion on that matter, so there is no reason to rehash my thoughts there. What I am trying to get at is that chief bottle washers like Tom have a lot more items on their plate this season, keeping everything running smoothly, than to have time and the availability to get out on the slopes and that is truly a shame.

During my many trips around the sun in this industry, a really bad day in the office can turn into a great day after making a few turns on the slopes. As you can imagine, you are away from the phone and the computer and you can just let you mind wander into your happy place. I say that knowing that most executives also have a radio bolted to their hip so they can be in an ear shot to help solve an emergency.

In last week’s column I asked everyone to stop and take a breath. Well since then I have come to learn that the amount of f-bombs that have been tossed in the direction of employees this season have increased tremendously. That’s sad because most of them have come when employees have just been doing their job. A friend of mind recently said to me that she calls it the “COVID Brain” and I think she is right on the mark with that one. Again, it’s a different season and we just need to adjust our thinking a bit.

I know many of you have heard of the national Ski Well, Be Well program this year. It’s the guidelines that have been set up for the safety of guests and employees during the pandemic. Long hard hours went into establishing the guidelines so that everyone’s experience on the slopes this season will be a safe one. If you still haven’t read the guidelines that have been set up for your favorite resort, please take the time to get up to speed on what is going to be expected from you. If for some reason you don’t think the guidelines are for you, that’s okay, you may want to skip this season and join everyone out on the slopes next year. You are not going to hurt anyone’s feelings.

With that said, for me, it’s time for some more “Product Evaluation”, but sadly without Tom.

That is it for this week, thanks for joining me this week. Just remember whether it be cold or whether it be warm, we will weather the weather, whatever the weather will be. I still believe this season is going to be a lot of fun but challenging. Remember, Mother Nature provides the best social distancing these days.

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