So what is TeamBoat? It is an inspiring group of people maintaining the lifts at Steamboat Ski Resort in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, who have the camaraderie to call themselves TeamBoat.
In my many trips to Steamboat, I have been fortunate to work with the mountain operations’ departments, which are all impressive in their dedication to providing outstanding service. Recently I had the opportunity to sit and talk in depth with the lift maintenance department, and the conversation was so inspiring it is worth sharing.
This was not my first meeting with this group I had a suspicion they were special but not to the level they imparted on me this time.
To lay out the structure, there are twenty three mechanics, electricians, electrical engineers and system engineers in the department. They maintain 16 lifts, including a Gondola that runs almost year round. Nothing unusual until you meet the crew or view their record, 10 minutes of total downtime over the 2014 entire Christmas/New Year’s holiday period.
What impressed me the very first time I met the crew was that, they were all in the lunchroom, eating together and talking in depth about what they were doing about a specific lift problem. I saw no egos, or sense of seniority, just a solid team working at solving a problem with enthusiasm and passion. This was different from what I have seen in many businesses.
On this recent visit I asked the crew what they attributed this great sense of team and cooperation to. Their answer was slow to come as I think they just thought this is how it is, and was not that special. But as I probed they began to share the sense of trust they have in each other, and how the older members of the team are willing to share the knowledge of their experience, as the younger more tech savvy members share their digital knowledge. Although it should be noted there is very little turnover in this department; average tenure is 15+ years.
Both sides of the age spectrum spoke to the issue of trust and sharing. Their perspectives were different but they came to the same central place, doing an excellent job. Each recognized they had something to contribute; the younger accepting they had to be patient, absorb what they were taught and prove their worthiness. The older realizing there may be better ways to do something, just because they’ve done it this way for 20 years does not make it the right or best way, and the acceptance that young doesn’t mean there is no intelligence or desire to do an excellent job. Several of the newer members of the team shared their understanding of having to invest the time to gain trust.
Digging deeper, I found that the situation wasn’t always so positive. It was shared in our conversation that it took a leadership change and that the new leadership making some changes with a constant reinforcement of the team concept brought harmony to the group. The adage that there is no “I in team” is a misnomer in my mind and this team certainly exemplifies that point. They all pull together but there is recognition of the contribution each specialty makes and the importance of each individual’s uniqueness. There is no jealousy of that specialty or reluctance to ask for help of those who have the specialty or answer to solve an issue; a team pulling together, each member doing their job as part of the whole.
As with any visit to a shop, you talk about what is being done and what’s new. Many know that with the newer technology, communication with lifts can now be remote, with a lift’s performance being monitored and investigated remotely. This can provide better diagnostics and significantly more efficient troubleshooting and repair often leading to less snowmobile time on the hill and most importantly less inconvenience for the guest. The Steamboat team was well aware of this technology but its newest lift already being seven years old they had a steep infrastructure climb and resource issue to install such a system. TeamBoat was not to be deterred, they partnered with the resort IT department and did all the work to install fiber optics to each lift, and researched and designed a much less expensive system than what the lift manufacturer’s offer. This ski season they are monitoring 6 lifts on line, troubleshooting faults, seeing performance and downtime, and on one lift, they can actually run the lift remotely from the shop.
After visiting with Frank Fidler, Lift Maintenance Supervisor, I walked back to the lunchroom to grab my ski gear and two of the younger technicians made the point to me that this isn’t just a job to them, “we love where we live, we love to ski, we have a great team and it means a lot us to be a part of it”. I walked away so impressed and recognized how lucky Steamboat is to have such a great lift maintenance department. I wish I had had such a team in my experience in ski resort management, if only I knew then what I learned from this group.
Hat’s off to TeamBoat;
Kurt Castor, Director of Lift Maintenance and Doug Allen, Vice President of Mountain Operations. They have all played a part in building a strong and healthy organization.