Powder days don’t justify rude behavior

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The flakes fell heavy in the early dawn as I made my way up the mountain Saturday, Feb. 25. Often enough the forecasters don’t quite get it right, but as the oncoming snowplow came toward me pushing large amounts of snow, I thought that maybe this time they were correct.

I settled into my chair with my morning “cup of Joe” and checked the resort’s snow report. Of the over 50 resorts at which I’ve worked and skied at over the years, I’ve always considered our average snow conditions to be better than anywhere. This was re-enforced again. “Wow, 10 inches overnight,” I thought, “and more on the way. The pass holders are sure going to be happy.” I didn’t expect to make too many turns today, but I eagerly awaited to interact with the happy people in the lift lines that day and the next few.

The vast majority of our pass holders are good-natured, impassioned about the sport, and treat each other wonderfully. I interact with many of them on a daily basis and it usually results in my remembering how much I like working in this complicated and challenging industry. Over the course of the next few days of this “Snowmaggedon,” I heard many “best day skiing in my life” comments. It seemed everyone on boards or skis was having a great time.

Unfortunately, it only takes two or three cases of bad behavior from a pass holder to ruin the day of several staff members and/or other guests. I’m a fairly tolerant guy except when it comes to unwarranted foul verbal abuse directed at my employees, who try incredibly hard to make every guest’s visit a great one, or to other customers. Then, I get very protective. I understand that 6 plus inch powder days, let alone 10 plus inch days, don’t come around that often, but do they justify outright rudeness?

I’d like to share just a few instances with you.

Chairlifts, especially high-speed lifts, are incredibly complicated and sensitive pieces of equipment. When something breaks down or heavy “rimeing” of the mechanism causes problems, it certainly isn’t what management or staff would like to happen. It isn’t because of budget cutbacks or understaffing .. stuff just happens as in all businesses and our hard-working staff does everything possible to get that lift up and running. While all the stress and sweat is going on behind the scenes, however, it doesn’t seem to matter to the individual who rushes over to another lift, pushing and cutting in front of other guests. When asked by guests, why they are doing this, they respond to the legitimate question with foul verbal responses and threaten bodily harm to the other guests.

A similar occurrence of bad lift line behavior happened when Ski Patrol was looking out for everyone’s safety by keeping the upper mountain closed until the extra heavy avalanche conditions were eliminated. More foul comments were uttered by another pass holder.

Finally, several staff members in the rental shop and ticket office were yelled at by a pass holder using foul language around many children and families because they felt entitled to free equipment. Even some other guests were greatly embarrassed and were not happy that their children had to hear this, not to mention the pass holder’s own child.

So why take the trouble to voice this? Primarily, to thank the vast majority of pass holders who enjoy themselves day after day in peaceful bliss and appreciate the 500 plus staff members that do their best to provide every guest with a memorable moment.

To those few, who seem to think it’s appropriate to mistreat people just because it’s a powder day, I would politely remind them that in the large scheme of all the troubles in the world, is it really worth being so upset? You’re in a beautiful environment far from the horrors of other places in the world. Do you act this way at your grocery store, restaurant, or hardware store? Do you demand free products because you shop often? Do you mistreat your waitress or salesperson? I doubt it. We so appreciate longtime pass holders, but it’s not a license for bad behavior.

To the many, many good and faithful pass holders — enjoy the rest of the season. It’s going to be a beauty.

Dan Graves is the CEO of Whitefish Mountain Resort.

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