On September 6, 2023

Killington holds retirement party for Gene Syria 

 

By  Brooke Geery

Killington Resort’s longest-tenured team member is calling it a career after 46 years working at The Beast. Gene Syria first took a seasonal job working on the old Killington Gondola in 1977 on the referral of a friend, but he recalls getting the job initially wasn’t quite that simple.

His interview was set to be held in the Northbrook area, at the end of a road he described as a “Jeep road, at best.” But on the first day he drove out to meet the supervisor, the guy was nowhere to be found. When he finally got in contact, he was given an apology and rescheduled for the next day. This time, he opted to walk rather than drive, but his interviewer was again absent when he arrived. They say third time’s a charm, and Gene, once again stood up and walking back to the main road on that third attempt, was greeted midway by the man barreling towards him in a truck, who said, “I don’t care who you are, you’re hired.”

Gene quickly moved up the ranks and was promoted to foreman within his first season. He remembers those early years fondly. “I worked here 15 years and nobody knew who I was,” he laughs. “We were our own little entity out there. Nobody bothered us, nobody came knocking. We were the black dogs of Killington for a long time.”

Gene and his crew were the go-to guys for jobs no one else would do.

“I’d bring 15 guys and you got a ditch that was 4 feet deep and three quarters full of water. They’d say get in and we’d all get in the ditch and hand lower a piece of pipe in.”

As his career progressed, he was promoted to Killington’s lift maintenance manager. In that role, he oversaw the installation of over a dozen ski lifts including Superstar Express, K-1 Gondola, Skye Peak Express, Snowdon 6, North Ridge Quad, not to mention numerous retro-fits, upgrades and overhauls.

Over his time at Killington, he’s pretty much seen it all.

“I’ve seen every owner; I’ve seen every change of upper management. I’ve been here that long. I know the people who started this place.”

When he first started, there was no Bear Mountain. He recalls how that project went.

“The top of Bear, you can see is sort of bald now. That’s only because it caught fire. When we were up there cutting trails, we had big burn piles and it went underground and every now and then it would just pop up 100 feet away. That whole top of the mountain burnt. That’s why it is the way it is now.”

Through his career, he said, he never got bored and never stopped learning.

“There was a time where I was told what to do and how to do it. Now every day is different. The variety of things that we do is vast. And it’s transformed into new things.”

Gene will be remembered fondly by all who’ve gotten the chance to work with him.

“Gene remains one of the most positive and inspiring people to work with,” Director of Mountain Operations Tait Germon says. “There’s no challenge that seems to put him off his game: wind blowing 65 miles an hour from the southwest? ‘We’ll deal with it.’ Gear box blown? ‘We’ll get it fixed.’ Electrical components melted… ‘um, we may have a problem…’ And always: ‘We’ll unload the people, then let us take a look and figure it out…’ and, by gosh, they mostly do!”

Gene’s favorite part of working at Killington?

“Sunrises, they’re beautiful. Top of the mountain at the break of dawn. It’s gorgeous,” he says. “The people aren’t bad. I’ve met a lot of really nice people and worked with a lot of intelligent people. I like teaching, telling them how things go and why they go that way.”

When his retirement becomes official on Aug. 31 Gene has plenty of passion projects already lined up. He is looking forward to restoring a Jeep and getting his son’s 1969 Mustang back up and running. He’s also planning to ride his Harley and do some traveling.

“I’ve met a lot of people through Killington and there’s places I wouldn’t mind going. I plan on making a trip to Jamaica.”

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