The Attitudes of a Ski Town

Over the past decade I have had the fortunate experience to spend time in various ski towns around the Mountain West US. At first they all seem the same; they all have a ski resort with a great town that assists in the overall experience. Great skiing followed by great food and drinks, the perfect ski day on an awesome ski vacation. Most would assume that the people who live in these towns must have it so good and life is like a vacation, but it’s not always so easy.
For the majority of us in ski towns we work in the service industry: hotels, restaurants, mountain operations, etc. This means we are here to serve the guest to make sure that their experience at our ski resort is better than any other ski vacation a family has taken. Seems easy in a ski town, right? Well, there are a lot of different variable that go into the attitudes visitors experience from the people who live in these towns.
If there is one major factor that will dictate the attitude of a ski town, it is snow. In the 2011/2012 ski season, the entire nation was dry. People were bummed, some had just finished college and wanted a ski season to blow steam and had dreams of deep days of endless powder and they spent the entire season waiting. Guests came with the same notion over a five-day period and were disappointed that their expectations weren’t met. This makes it hard to stay positive, so the attitude changes.
The scenario of a low snow season has a major chain effect. First, people wont book vacations which has a huge impact on a tourism driven economy, people aren’t making tips, and businesses aren’t getting bookings. Sucks huh? Some people who only had one winter in their life to take off and live the ski bum dream, feels they may have been born in the wrong year.
But, when it’s good, it’s really good. This season we have felt the opposite. I live in Steamboat Springs, CO and we have had an incredible season thus far. We saw a ton of snowfall during the holiday season, which is always a great way to start a season. But then the month of January was dry, and people got nervous. We were still a little traumatized from last season when the snow really never came and the attitudes started to shift. We need a storm soon, or we are in trouble” was a common phase heard around town. This is infectious and is a bad attitude changer, which can start to rub off on our guest who came from all over the world to experience our famous Champaign Powder. But then, it snows…
The past five days here have been filled with powder days and more snow than most can imagine. Once again the attitude has changed. People are running to Steamboat for the world class skiing, reservations are flying in, and the one year ski bum is saying to themselves: My timing was perfect, I will never forget this season for the rest of my life!”
When it snows, the workers in the service industry are smiling and talking about how great their day was on the mountain. This rubs off on the guest, they get excited and can’t wait to get their skis on. The skiing is quality and all the expectations of the guest are met. Their vacation become worth every penny spent, every hour traveled, and every turn down the mountain. The attitude becomes good!
Personally, I love skiing so much that even during the low snow seasons I still have tons of fun. I stay positive because I was lucky enough to be able to put a pair of skis on my feet. But when you live in ski towns for as long as I have you learn that snow is the one variable that will dictate the attitude of the town. The snow is here, and the town can confirm that the attitude is good with all the smiles you see around town, people just got some powder turns!

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