The Blue Collar, Lift Mechanic, Drought

The Blue Collar, Lift Mechanic, Drought

Drought for all technically and skilled labor

Last month’s Steep Newsletter had a post on Steep’s thoughts on addressing the current lift mechanic situation in the ski industry. This post shares some deeper thinking, not Steep’s, on why the drought of skilled tradespeople exists.

All ski areas, big and small, have an ongoing need to maintain and improve their physical infrastructure. This need requires skilled carpenters, welders, mechanics, electricians, wastewater technicians, and general laborers. These positions at ski areas are hard to fill when openings occur, and with the aging of the current workforce, gaps are happening faster than in the past. Is this a unique situation for just ski areas? No. it is a national problem across most industries.

The Blue-Collar Drought article from the HR Daily Newsletter and Dana Willkie explains why this drought exists. There are several parts to the explanation;

  • A blue-collar work can come with a stigma
  • Skills Training Declines in the U.S.
  • A number of people are likely making the wrong choice of attending a traditional four-year school versus a trade school program
  •  “If you pay people enough, they will do these jobs,” he says. “But wages remain flat. In addition to the pay, schedules have become more challenging for employees, with more required overtime, and job security has largely evaporated.” 

While these explanations address the national scene, the explanations have merit in the ski area industry. Last month, Steep’s Newsletter post tried to identify and suggest solutions for the pay and skill training issues shared in this article. Steep would claim that there is more to do within the industry. In a past post, Steep shared the training opportunities for ski lift mechanics. Steep would argue that a lot more can be done in developing and training the young people coming out of high school. Imagine states like California, Utah, Colorado, and Vermont, all ski states, running an apprentice program through their community college system. These should be fully supported by each state’s ski association and the ski areas within the states and maybe states bordering these states.

 Yes, it is out of the box, but the answers will come from some out-of-the-box thinking to provide the ski area industry with the skills it needs now and in the future. A community college program could happen quite quickly. There are programs run by private entities, Colorado Mountain College, Selkirk College, and Gogebic Community College, that have the platforms for online teaching coupled with work experience and in-classroom instruction. The wheel has been invented.

 Who will lead the charge?

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.).


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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.

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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. 

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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.

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  • 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.