By Evan Johnson
KILLINGTON—Sam Budusky was standing at the merchandise booth at the recent Audi FIS World Cup on Sunday afternoon, Nov. 27, when Mikaela Shiffrin crossed the finish line to clinch first place. He looked up from where he was standing and saw a crowd of what he estimated to be 5,000 people erupt into cheers — and then they ran right at him.
“They were four-deep, waving credit cards and yelling, ‘Give me one of everything!’” he said.
Meanwhile, Jason Reuben was inside the K-1 base lodge, handling the requests of guests as they popped up. “When she crossed the finish line and the roar started, all of K-1 shook,” he said.
For Killington Resort and the surrounding region, having a record-breaking World Cup come to town was a feather in their cap. For the two students at Green Mountain College’s Killington School of Resort Management, the weekend was an opportunity to put their studies to use on the world stage.
“We had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be involved in a World Cup event,” Reuben said. “This is the biggest kind of event that comes to a single resort short of the Olympics. It’s eye opening to see the behind-the scenes aspect.”
As third-year students in the program, Budowski, 21, and Reuben, 20, were already familiar with the resort. As part of their program, they spend time every week on assignments and then head up the hill from Green Mountain College’s Killington campus to put lessons to work.
“A lot of places will give you the tools, but not the chance to see if they work for you,” Reuben said. “We have this $70 million laboratory, this incredible asset we can use up there.”
For example, Reuben went from learning about food and beverage training in class one day, to doing inventory at Killington the next day.
In preparation for the event, Reuben helped order and print the tickets and passes about 10 weeks before the Thanksgiving weekend event, including the grandstand, VIP passes and the thousands of comp tickets. These tickets were paired with parking passes and even lift tickets. He was also in charge of troubleshooting when visitors were missing items.
Budowski, who was working in merchandise, began ordering inventory as soon as Killington was confirmed as a location in the spring. The last shipments arrived on the Thursday before the event.
The weekend arrives
While their time at the school has gotten them familiar with the resort and how it functions, seeing it with a visiting crowd of approximately 30,000 was completely different. The workday started at 5 a.m. and the guys were cracking their first cans of Monster Energy drinks by 10 a.m. Throughout, the day was non-stop action.
“All around the base area and up and down the road was electric,” Budowski said. “It kept you going.”
At the end of the day, Budowski had worked from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. and still had energy to go out with friends, while Reuben left the K-1 Lodge in time to make it to the start of his shift at iPie Pizzeria on the Killington Road, where he delivers pizza.
Then they showed up for work again at 5 a.m. Sunday and rode that “electric” feeling through the day that ended with America’s own Mikaela Shiffrin on top of the podium. Their energy lasted long enough to assist in the tear-down and then most went to bed early.
“On Monday morning, we were all thinking, ‘What the hell happened?’” Reuben said.
Director of the KSRM program Frank Pauze said the students’ training in every area of managing a resort makes them a valuable asset for participating in an event as big as the World Cup.
“Our second- and third-year students were particularly prepared for an event like this,” he said. “They’ve seen the logistics and they know what it takes. It’s like we have a 35-person SWAT team,” he said. “They’re able to take their studies and bring it to use anywhere they’re needed.”
Killington Resort is home to over 20 of graduates from the KSRM program, who work in marketing, food and beverage, lifts and snowmaking.
“If you can think of an area on or off the hill, GMC graduates are there,” Pauze said.
Following the winter, students receive a review of their performance. At the end of their program, Reuben and Budowski will leave with a B.S. in resort management. It’s a degree that Reuben hopes to use in digital marketing for a resort (possibly on the coast of Southern California). Budowski isn’t sure he’ll want to start work right away and may do some traveling first.
“I would like to experience some other resorts and lifestyles, just to see what’s out there,” he said.
Both say their time working and earning a degree in Vermont will be well spent.
“It’s not a guarantee that you can work anywhere,” Reuben said. “But it gets you a foot in the door. Your job is to push it open the rest of the way.”