Why is maintenance important at a ski area? Why are you a lift mechanic/technician, vehicle mechanic, ski patroller, or snowmaking mechanic? Two distinctly different questions but somewhat related or maybe the same question.
The obvious answer to the first question – Why is maintenance important at a ski area? – is that we want to keep everything running, lifts turning, groomers grooming, pumps pumping. But is there a more meaningful WHY? I would argue there is.
The WHY of why we do maintenance should be in sync with: WHY is the ski area in business? This may seem a bit strange but it really is quite simple once you get your head and arms around the thought process. If we examine the WHY as the fundamental motivation of doing something or the existence and purpose of the ski area, we understand the core belief of the ski area. It is this WHY that builds loyalty with your skiers and riders, it becomes what the ski area is.
Not all ski areas have a well-articulated WHY or understand what their WHY is and thus treat skiing and riding as a commodity, manipulating pricing and trying to steal customers from other ski areas. Two different but excellent examples of ski areas with well-articulated WHYS are Stowe Mountain Resort and Mad River Glen in Vermont. The WHYS of these two historic ski areas are certainly different but to their staff and customers the WHYS are clear and believed. Their actions support the WHY. It is strongly argued that customers are loyal to your WHY not WHAT you do. I’d say these two ski areas and certainly others are excellent examples of this.
From a mountain operations maintenance perspective, the WHY we do maintenance is not just to keep things running but to support the WHY of the ski area. Without a good maintenance WHY, the existence of the ski area would be in serious jeopardy. As we have all seen how a poor maintenance ethic catches up with a ski area. It would be probable that such a ski area has poorly defined WHYs thus allowing their maintenance WHY to become fuzzy and non-essential.
The essence of WHY is so simple to me now but I can’t say I have always thought of WHY. I like most, always thought of WHAT I do rather than WHY. Luckily I have always chased my passion in my work so my WHY never personally became fuzzy. I can’t always say that my management was true to the WHY, losing site of the WHY were my darkest times in management. I did not see it then but in hindsight I can clearly see if I had stayed true to the WHY the dark times would have been nonexistent.
The theory of WHY has become a relative new concept in organizational structure and development. If you have interest in learning more, I’d suggest reading the writings of Simone Sinek, Start With Why and Leaders Eat Last, published by Penguin Group. Sinek’s TEDTalk is the second most popular video of all time on TED.com.
So the WHY are we lift mechanics/technicians, vehicle maintenance mechanics, ski patrollers or snowmakers is an important and meaningful question for the ski area you worked for. Give it some thought.