A Healthy and Well Led Ski Area

A Healthy and Well Led Ski Area

How to gain a competitive advantage

In these unique and uncertain times, leadership and organizational health will be the keys to success going forward in the ski industry.  The information I am sharing here I did not have in my quiver while running a ski area, I wish I had. I do feel compelled to share with the ski industry as it is simple, low cost and so on target that I believe it will be the future of the ski industry going forward. I have summarized information from several of Patrick Lencioni’s books to hopefully give you the impetus to strengthen your existing healthy organization, or if you are not so healthy, a guide on how to get there.

Two frameworks exist in an organization, we will call them SMART and HEALTHY
Most leaders focus on the Smart side – it is more comfortable, has metrics, and a leader can get their head around very easily. Don’t misunderstand, you need to be smart, and you probably are.
I believe that most ski areas have the smart part dialed in. It is the healthy part that is missing from many. This is not an indictment against the ski areas as most businesses around the world are not healthy. The interesting fact that I find fascinating is that healthy companies will consistently financially outperform their smarter competitors who are not healthy. This is not touchy-feely stuff but very real. It can be a ski areas most significant competitive advantage, with no out of pocket cost increase. Adding a new lift cost millions, but will it add bottom-line performance? A healthy organization costs nothing out of pocket but will reduce costs and add to your bottom line. Who’s smarter?
The question often comes up; how do you create a healthy company. It is simple. Leadership. You know the cliché; it starts at the top. Preferably the at the top of the company, but if there is an unwillingness there, then the head of a division or department – granted it will be bit harder, but it is possible, and once you’ve done, others will begin to ask you; how and can I do that?
The leadership of the ski area has to be a cohesive team following some simple but hard guidelines.
The team needs to answer six questions and come to agreement what the answers are. The questions are;


   1. What is the ultimate reason you’re in business? (core purpose)
   2. What are the essential characteristics that are inherent in your ski area and that you could never knowingly violate? (core values)
   3. What specifically does your company do, and for whom? (business definition)
   4. How do you go about doing what you do in a way that differentiates you from your competitors and gives you an advantage? (strategy)
   5. What is your biggest priority, and what do you need to accomplish it? ( goals)
   6. Who has to do what to achieve your goals? ( roles and responsibilities)
Agreeing on the six questions is the hardest part for the leadership team. The team needs to dig deep and find the real answers. Once this step is successfully conquered, the building of the team begins. Many of you who have participated in some of my sessions at RMLA or LMS have seen this diagram. For those that haven’t, these are the five functions of a cohesive leadership team.

Trust occurs when team members can be vulnerable with one another and are willing to admit their mistakes, weaknesses, or needs for help. A comfort level among team members is required to build a foundation of trust.

Conflict – Teams that trust one another engage in unfiltered, passionate debate about key issues, eliminating veiled discussions, and back channel comments. In-depth honest discussion leads to better decisions. The fear of conflict is mitigated by trust.

Commitment – Having conflict and good decisions allows a team to make a full commitment to those decisions. There is no ambiguity; everyone has signed on, even if their idea may not have been the choice of the team. There is sense of direction that enables all employees to put forth the commitment.

Accountability –When the team commits to a clear plan of action, there are no barriers for employees to call on their peers on actions and behaviors that may seem counterproductive to the overall good of the team.

Results – Team members will put the team’s goals and objectives ahead of team member’s own needs (ego, career development, recognition, etc.) All team members hold each other accountable to the achievement of the collective goal. When a team has the focus of the need for success, the ski area is prosperous.

So we have answered the six questions and developed a cohesive leadership team, what’s next. There are essentially four disciplines to creating Organizational Health; we have discussed two, creating a cohesive leadership team and creating clarity, answering the six question. The next two are:

Healthy organizations align their employees around organizational clarity by communicating key messages through… The answers to the six question

  • Repetition
  • Simplicity
  • Multiple mediums
  • Cascading message


Organizations sustain their health by ensuring consistency in…
  • Hiring
  • Managing performance
  • Rewards and recognition
  • Employee dismissal
  • Meetings
So now we have the road map to a healthy organization. Plenty of hard work ahead, but the rewards will provide an exceptional return on investment for that hard work. I repeat, it takes just money to buy a new six-pack lift, but having a health organization requires no cash just hard work and will give your ski area a substantial better competitive advantage.
The information presented here is not mine. It comes from the Table Group and its founder Patrick Lencioni. Patrick and his firm have found a simple way to communicate the makings of good to great leadership and the path to a healthy organization. The methods prescribed by Patrick and his team are grounded in common sense having produced worldwide success with Fortune 500 companies and small organizations.

Data and Information

Database of record: Centralized and organized data assists in recognizing and evaluating patterns, resulting in more thoughtful planning and informed predictions.

Rapid, intuitive retrieval of current and historical data (accessible on or offsite) improves decision making at all levels of management.

Simple report generation.

Reduces risk and potential lawsuits.

Supports visualization of current and future mountain infrastructure (e.g. Gazex explosives locations, forest thinning, designing new runs, parking, etc.).


Please click on the images to learn more

Ski Patrol

  • Ease of real-time data entry (no more logbooks or spreadsheets!).
  • Use of common language allows for consistent communication and information sharing.
  • Increases safety by minimizing accidents through pattern analysis of incidents.
  • Accident Investigation and Risk Management.
  • Snow Safety (Ski Patrol) Training.

The web and mobile application suite will provide editing and data collection tools for mapping incidents (wrecks, accidents) of any kind.

Please click on the images to learn more.

Avalanche Module


Ability to document, track and analyze slope conditions with one tool.

Ease of real-time data entry (no more logbooks or spreadsheets!).

 Centralized and organized data assists in recognizing and evaluating patterns, resulting in more thoughtful planning and informed predictions.

Provides detailed current and historical weather patterns for visualizing/predicting.

Saves money through more precise use of explosives. 

Please click on the images to learn more.


The dispatch and risk module leverage Esri’s Survey 123 for ArcGIS, providing an intuitive survey-form, data-driven workflow for point feature collection and reporting. Data collected with SmartMountain Survey apps, which are available for both web browsers and native desktop and mobile apps for standard operating systems, are integrated with one or more SmartMountain modules, providing real-time or disconnected and later synchronized workflows for data collection and integration.

Each ski resort decided what they wish to display on the Dispatch Dashboard including on-hill incidents, walk-in incidents, on-hill refusals,  missing persons, work details for different departments, ski patrol rosters for the day, clearances, and sweeps.

Please click on the images to learn more.


  • Logs for Lift Maintenance, Lift Operations, and Groomer inspections, as well as building inspections.
  • Logs can record data and signatures, can record stops, station assignments.
  • Logs are tracked by calendar.


  • Management review made easy through the use of Excel – reviewing a major grouping of assets or a single component of an asset such as a drive or a gearbox.
  • All information related to a system(asset) is in one place whether it be a lift inspection report, a manual, oil analysis, a service bulletin, or a letter from a vendor.


  • Every user has a unique dashboard.
  • Dashboards can be customized to reflect a user’s specific needs.
  • Quick access to the status of work and cost .


  • The schedule function in MountainOffice provides for detailed instructions by task, recording of data such as the temperature of a gearbox, and service bulletins.
  • All schedules can have a time or counter trigger.