Bringing the ski bum back to the resort

Waterville Valley’s workforce housing project fills a big need

Since coming off the worst season in Waterville Valley’s 50-year history in 2015-16, we have managed to start Green Peak expansion, close up our summer wedding season with over 30 happily wed couples, host thousands of conference center guests, launch a new website design, create a new sales portal, purchase a new groomer. But of all we’ve done, I’m most excited about our partnership with General Properties in the purchase and acquisition of the Northstar Inn.

The Northstar Inn will now be called the Snowstar Inn, providing workforce housing for Waterville Valley Resort employees and off-season rentals for groups and camps. We have long thought that this facility would work well as workforce housing, a home for the Resort employees where they can enjoy what Waterville Valley has to offer.

Having a hard time finding seasonal labor is nothing new to the ski industry, and with unemployment at its lowest level in years it is only becoming harder.

We understand that one of the greatest hardships for employees is housing, so, to combat this problem, we took action and have made plans to accommodate all levels of employee. We will offer housing for short-term employees who are only here for the winter, and for the full-time, year-round employees who want to call Waterville Valley their home. 

During the spring, fall and summer months, the property will also serve as a place to sell group business that otherwise may not come to our valley. We will be able to offer group and camp accommodations to be used for transient employees during the winter months. 

When I was in college aspiring to be a professional ski bum, I had the opportunity to go anywhere in the nation for my internship. I knew that I needed a place to live that was easy, convenient and cost-effective. By this criteria, I found my options limited to major West Coast resorts. These resorts had housing established for just my situation: rent was taken from my paycheck, the room was set up upon my arrival, and the housing was on the bus route, so no worries about a vehicle. I just had to concentrate on my job and the enjoyment of being a ski bum.

Being a ski bum is nothing new for this industry. However, it has been a long time since we enjoyed having these fun-hearted individuals in our community. We have a few employees who live in town, but we haven’t been able to have many transient workers living and enjoying what Waterville Valley has to offer.

The experience of living and working in a ski town makes working at the mountain more than a job. It becomes a lifestyle. This lifestyle is what brings the labor force in, it’s what movies are made of, it’s the magic, and it creates memories that last a lifetime. 

In addition to providing a great experience for the employee, having employees live in the valley will bring a sense of community to our guests. When a guest wants to know more about what’s happening around the resort, they always ask the nearest employee. If that employee is excited about an activity he/she is partaking in that night or had a great time the night before, guess where they recommend the guests to go? The ripple effect is noticeable, the employee can and will drive guests to business and activities around the valley.

I’m proud to say that Waterville Valley Resort is taking action to bring the ski bum back to the resort. To live in the town that you work in is very important for any resort: It enhances the skiing lifestyle of our community, and it strengthens an employee’s work-life experience, and it provides the security necessary to pursue this lifestyle career. I’ve always said that it’s the people that make the resort, and the strongest asset in Waterville Valley is our people, no matter if they are our guests or employees.

Tim Smith is general manager of Waterville Valley Resort. 

Categories: Opinion