By Karen D. Lorentz
As a member of the Vail Resorts family of ski areas, Okemo has two programs that seek to reinforce excellent service so that guests can have the Experience of a Lifetime, which is the company’s mission.
Okemo Communications Manager Bonnie MacPherson noted that recognition awards are an important part of promoting that goal and that there have been many shining stars among the resort’s workers over the years.
One of the most unique situations of shining service concerned a Jackson Gore Inn bellman. Because a family had lost their car keys and no rental agencies were open on Christmas, Matt Fortuna volunteered to drive them to their Greenwich, Connecticut, home in a resort van. He also drove back to Vermont to get their car (with their spare key) and delivered it to them the next day. That necessitated a second volunteer, his dad, driving his car so Fortuna had a way back to Vermont.
For saving their Christmas and giving up his own family Christmas, Fortuna was nominated for and received an annual EpicService Award. It was pre-Covid and included being treated to a summer trip to Whistler, British Columbia, where, along with other EpicService recipients, he enjoyed activities, tours, and festivities with Vail Resort leaders.
That was certainly going above and beyond providing good service, MacPherson said, adding that the EpicService Award is the highest level of recognition for guest service at a Vail Resort.
“EpicService is about creating an emotional connection with our guests and colleagues through a personal interaction to create a memorable moment,” she added.
“The recognition that accompanies a nomination is important,” she noted, saying that workers are humble people who aren’t seeing themselves as anything special and are just doing the right thing as part of their job. However, that makes a big difference in the guest experience, and nominations reinforce the appreciation for their efforts. Leaders and front line employees are encouraged to nominate colleagues when they are seen providing EpicService to a guest or to a fellow employee, she said.
In addition to a congratulatory email that includes the story of why they were nominated, recipients are entered into a monthly raffle for prizes and receive EpicService Pins at team meetings. Top stories are shared on the EpicEmployee online newsletter, and the nominated employees are invited to celebrate with resort Senior Leadership Team members. Annual winners are selected by resort/region for advanced recognition.
Core values recognition
The On-the-Spot program rewards employees’ for demonstrating Vail Resorts’ core values of “Be Safe, Do Good, Do Right, Have Fun, Be Inclusive, Serve Others, and Drive Value.” Leaders and employees are encouraged to recognize colleagues’ through nominations that share the story of the core value demonstrated. Nominated employees are automatically entered into a raffle for prizes and the employee’s manager presents them with a Value Pin. Being recognized by peers reinforces the fact that they are making a contribution and a difference by doing their jobs well and are appreciated for that, MacPherson noted.
As a ticket scanner at the Clock Tower Base Area, Eric Lavalley is the first person many people see as they access the mountain and has received On-the-Spot recognitions as well as being nominated for an EpicService Award.
“Year after year, Eric’s friendly and positive attitude is something that greatly affects the guest experience, and guests consistently give him a shout out in guest experience surveys,” wrote Daycare Manager Brittany Comfort in her nomination that also praises him for bringing “a great memorable experience to those who encounter him.”
“Eric is a superb example of dedication to Epic Service. He loves the job and excels at his role. He goes above and beyond every day to engage with our guests, fix outstanding ticket issues, and keep the scanning team organized,” wrote Guest Services Assistant Manager Michael Charles Bell in his EpicService nomination.
Ski and Snowboard School Coordinator/Head Coach Barb Newton is another On-the-Spot recognition recipient.
“Barb coordinates our Women’s Alpine Adventure program and has been a driving force behind the program for years. Her dedication to the quality of this product has helped to capture a high percentage of new participants for this season,” Ski and Snowboard School Senior Manager Chris Saylor wrote in his nomination.
When asked what this recognition means to her, in addition to expressing her appreciation, Newton said, “It is the Women’s Alpine Adventure family of guests, coaches and supporters that are the shining stars. I get to capture that energy and shine it back. I am very excited to see all the new guests coming to the Women’s Alpine Adventure program this year. It makes my day when I am at the mountain and a guest says, ‘I heard about the women’s clinics and I am thinking about joining a program’.”
With a 2022 season start where snowmaking was absolutely critical, snowmaker Montana Manship was recognized as an On-the-Spot recipient. Okemo Senior Director of Mountain Operations Eb Kinney noted, “Montana Manship has really stepped up to the plate this winter in snowmaking. Like many of his coworkers, Montana is a great person and moves Okemo forward each day.”
MacPherson noted that the aforementioned “shining stars’ are just a sampling of the many who are nominated for enhancing the experiences of guests and fellow workers. Okemo has “a long history of recognizing the importance of workers,” she added, noting that they are “the shining stars responsible for the heralded Okemo Difference.”