On March 13, 2024

Okemo: A family affair and home for Fortuna

By Corey Gambardella, Okemo

Terry Fortuna smiles on a sunny day outside Jackson Gore at Okemo Resort.

 

Submitted

Terry Fortuna (left) and her husband Bob enjoy their time with grandkids.

 

 

 

By Karen D. Lorentz

Born in Rockingham, Vermont, Terry Fortuna grew up the second of five children in Gassetts, Vermont, and graduated from Green Mountain High School in Chester in 1978. At age 17, she learned to ski with friends at Magic Mountain and Timber Ridge.

“I started skiing while working at Magic and could afford to do it. Prior to that it was an expense that was not possible for my family,” she said of beginning a lifelong connection to skiing that soon included Okemo.

Starting in December 1983, she worked at the Sitting Bull “to help a friend for Christmas vacation. I ended up staying the rest of the season,” she remembered.

She also met Bob Fortuna during a winter carnival, and they married later that year.

As weekend warriors, the Fortunas commuted to Okemo from Fairfield, Connecticut, “every weekend from November to mid-April. Bob was a former racer and very into skiing, so we got our kids started at 18 months,” Terry noted.

She taught each tot on the lower mountain and her husband took over when that child graduated to the upper mountain. Since the boys were all a few years apart, “it all worked out well. Ryan, Matthew, Zack, and Cody became competitive snowboarders and also worked at Okemo for periods of time, with Matt and Cody still working here,” Fortuna said of Okemo becoming a family affair.

Having traveled around the country for competitions and having lived in Park City for two years due to a job transfer, the family moved to Ludlow permanently in September 2001.

Q&A with Terry Fortuna

Mountain Times: What positions have you worked in at Okemo?

Terry Fortuna: After the 1983-84 season, I worked on the patrol part-time for nine years. Then I went back to Food and Beverage and for periods of time managed every food outlet except the Summit Lodge. This led to becoming manager of Wedding Operations/Banquets in 2016.

When Vail purchased Okemo [2018], I was offered an amazing opportunity as general manager for hospitality [title since changed to senior manager of lodging]. Although I did not have hotel experience, I was told that I was recognized for my leadership and work ethic. I have learned a lot about the lodging and hospitality business from Vail leaders. Being part of the larger Vail family of resorts, we have so many learning and leadership opportunities.

MT: What do you like about the hospitality business? How is it a good fit for you?

TF: In the hospitality business, our goal is to make people feel welcome, relaxed, and happy.

We are faced with daily challenges with guests that span a spectrum of issues. We need to prioritize and solve as many issues as we can as quickly as we can with the goal of guest satisfaction always in mind. I am so fortunate to work with an amazing team that cares about people.

Challenges and crisis are an area I do very well in. If there is a crisis or emergency, this is the area I thrive in. It could be my 34 years working part-time as an EMT here and in Connecticut. While handling a crisis, I get very focused and seem to see the creative solutions easily. 

The flood really tested us this past July. I was here with my two front office managers and a desk agent — no other employees. We had 125 guests who could not leave. We had to figure out how to feed them and take care of everything … it was a challenge!

MT: What is the best part of your job? Rewards?

TF: Best part? For sure the people — guests and employees.

We meet a lot of people. There is nothing better than knowing we helped guests make memories for a lifetime. I still have wedding couples that stop in to say hi, eager to catch up, and show me their growing families.

I met my best friend here 40 years ago. I met my husband here, too. I have made so many lifelong friends.

It is also rewarding to know that we as Okemo managers and leaders have helped shape the lives of so many of our employees.

MT: Any special influences or situations that have helped shape your life?    

TF: My parents for sure. My dad had high expectations for me, higher than I had for myself. I had aunts who were determined to teach me that etiquette and manners matter and the value of being kind. 

At Okemo, I could see over decades that it was possible to advance and make a career here. I now sit on the senior leadership team with managers like Bruce Schmidt, Eb Kinney, and John Neal who have been here for three or four decades.

MT: How do you spend time out of  work?

TF: I spend time with my sons, their families, my mom, and local relatives. The best is time spent with Sage, Maple, and Cedar, our grandkids! I’m an avid skier but due to injuries, I’ve had to put a pause on that but hope to restart next winter.  We all play golf. If we can’t ski, we are looking for a golf course.

I’ve also been active in community fundraising, most recently working with a group to raise money for the Ludlow Fire Dept.

MT: What would you tell someone who was thinking about a job at a ski area?

TF: Experience Okemo because if you come to Okemo for a job, you could be here for a lifetime. 

MT: Any insights to share with readers?

TF: At some point in life, you are offered opportunities and later you wonder if you should have made other life choices. That’s only been a fleeting thought for me. I would not change a thing. We are happy here. This was a great place for us to raise our kids and to put down roots. We have lived in Ludlow for more than 20 years. Okemo is not just where I work, it is my home.

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