Taking the entrepreneurial passion route to the ski life
By Karen D. Lorentz
Growing up in a family of seven boys and one girl, Pico’s Director of Operations and Killington’s Director of Summer Operations Rich McCoy will tell you it was natural to play sports and love waterskiing and boating on nearby lakes.
That background may have also engendered his entrepreneurial spirit and the upbeat demeanor that exudes cheerfulness as well as a zest for life and loving what he does.
Born and raised in in Albany, New York, McCoy didn’t learn to ski until he became the ski club president at Colonie Central High School his freshman year.
“The first kid I met there was a big skier. Because he wanted to start a ski club, I helped him set up a meeting and found myself elected president,” McCoy remembered.
McCoy, who had never skied before at that point, was soon arranging bus trips. On the first trip to Bromley, friends took him to the top of the mountain and he ended up walking down. Retreating to the bus, he found a girl who had had the same experience.
“We had four hours to kill so headed for the bunny hill and taught ourselves to ski by watching others,” McCoy recalled.
McCoy arranged bus trips for four years, including to Killington where he said Foster Chandler gave “good group rates.”
Having worked part-time during high school, he continued to operate his own landscaping business full-time after graduation in 1975. He also fit in courses at Hudson Valley, Siena, and Schenectady colleges with a focus on business management.
After 10 years and facing a decision to invest heavily in his business or sell, he sold and worked two more years for the new owner.
“I’d seen landscapers with hunched over backs and my own back was giving me problems so I decided to do something else that I loved,” he said of his move to Florida.
Utilizing his love of boating and business skills (he had a real estate broker’s license but preferred boats to homes), he became a yacht broker and worked the west coast of Florida attending boat shows in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Sarasota, Ft. Myers, Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and numerous others.
This job was a dream come true, he said. Working for E&B Marine, McCoy started his retail career and eventually moved up the ranks working on a transition team building new stores and eventually opening up stores in the Midwest and Rochester, New York, among other places. Wanting to raise children near family, he transferred to Rochester in 1993. In 1996, McCoy joined Jumbo Sports, working with Albany, Syracuse, and Rochester stores. He managed a 60,000-square-foot sporting goods store and arranged ski bus trips again for the store.
When the chain started to close, McCoy thought about his two passions – waterskiing and snow skiing – and applied to Killington, where he became the resort retail director in September of 1999.
His job was to oversee all retail operations at the resort, which included eight shops and the purchase of thousands of items, including skis for the demo center.
During this time, he had staff participate in industry on-snow testing events and trade shows, “a nice combination of work and play,” he said. And when skis designed for women specifically took off and became popular, he had female retail staff test the new women’s skis and help select those lines and models that they thought would work for Killington skiers. The industry reps love Killington and were great to work with, he said. Many have become lifelong friends, he added.
Training and mentoring young people working their first jobs in retail, McCoy taught a good work ethic in a positive and fun way. His ready smile and upbeat demeanor modeled the kind of positive influence that young people need to succeed in the workplace, especially in customer service.
Part of his job had also included helping in retail at Pico and he also was involved with summer planning for both resorts, which led to hi becoming the director of summer operations. Having been a 10-year member of the Pico Ski Club, when the Pico position opened up, he applied and started his new job in October 2016.
Q&A with Rich McCoy
Mountain Times: What are your Pico job duties and responsibilities?
Rich McCoy: I oversee day-to-day operations of Pico Mountain. I assist every department – tickets, ski patrol, lifts, food and beverage, retail etcetera.
MT: So with Pico closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, do you get two days off?
RM: Not really. On Tuesdays I attend resort leadership team meetings. We usually rent Pico to private parties on those days, so I am here then, too. This year we couldn’t support those rentals due to Covid.
MT: Has Covid brought other changes, too?
RM: Yes, we spread the tables out and can only accommodate 75 people per floor in the base lodge and have a very limited menu. Lessons are reduced – privates only. We follow masking and lift riding protocols as mandated by the state of Vermont as well.
MT: What is your take on Pico Mountain?
RM: It’s always been considered a family mountain and always will be.
Pico caters to families and offers strong support of the racing tradition here. We put new snowmaking pipe on B Slope two years ago and we’re working with the Pico Ski Club to raise funds to do A Slope next.
Growing the ski club and race programs ties in with Pico’s strong tradition of offering a race-inspired program for kids.
It’s family-friendly for visitors, and a lot of members of the Pico Ski Club remain social members (after their kids have grown) for the love of skiing and support of the club.
MT: What do you like about your job? What are the best parts? Challenges?
RM: Every day is different and a challenge and it’s great to make a difference.
I love the people and seeing people skiing and the smiling faces when they learn to ski.
I especially like that during this year with Covid challenging a normal life, people stop me and compliment the conditions. I think they appreciate the mountain more this year.
I also like seeing Pico support the local economy and getting kids into skiing.
It is exciting being part of Killington and Powdr, allowing Pico to complete projects such as increased snowmaking, RFID gates, and others.
MT: When you trained young people in their first jobs, did you enjoy mentoring them?
RM: Yes, and I taught in the Green Mountain College resort management program at Killington for 12 years.
I’ve been here 21 years and I love what I do. You’re able to have creative ideas. I worked on the summer program and got to visit other summer operations to come up with ideas for [Killington’s] Adventure Park and mountain biking. I enjoy sharing things like that with people.
MT: What are some changes you’ve been able to bring to Pico?
RM: We now have the Pico Lodge at the Summit. We moved the Dog Sled, which had been at the mid-Pike area, up to the top of the mountain. People skin, snowshoe or hike up to the hut. There are tremendous views there.
We put in Lasso, which is a connector trail from the Prospector trail to three trails at the Outpost area that weren’t accessible before when the Outpost Double wasn’t running. Now they can get there via Lasso and take trails back to the Golden Express.
We put in Peekaboo two years ago. It provides a connector from Lower Pike to the top of Exhibition, which was underutilized before.
We moved the terrain park to Prospector two years ago. It provides a nice setting for small and medium sized elements in a great location with beautiful views.
MT: Other sports or hobbies?
RM: Skiing with family around Vermont, snowmobiling, boating, waterskiing, wake surfing, mountain biking, hiking, camping. The outdoors are important – I enjoy exploring Vermont.
MT: What advice would you give to someone thinking about moving to Vermont?
RM: Move here for the lifestyle.
The industry allows you to meet and work with great people and is a great lifestyle.
There’s something for all age groups – family-friendly things for young people, night places, choices of restaurants. The outdoors offer so much to do with the lakes and mountains.
Working in the ski industry is a great way to combine work and winter.
MT: Favorite book or movie?
RM: “Caddy Shack” and “Hot Dog” the ski movie.
MT: Any advice or words of wisdom?
RM: Find something in life that you enjoy and do that.
Do what you love and you’ll love what you do. You will become an excellent at it and make a career out of it.