What it takes to run a ski resort

Posted By: The Ski Channel on December 28, 2009 1:25 pm

SEVEN SPRINGS, Pa. – Before skiers and boarders can glide down Seven Springs’ slopes like Tyrol, Wagner and Giant Steps, Director of Ski Operations Dick Barron ensures that every Seven Springs visitor has the ultimate experience.


This season marks 40 years that Dick Barron has been at Seven Springs, often working seven days a week from the beginning of the winter season in November to the very end of the season in March.  His days at Seven Springs began as a teenager working during weekends. At the age of 21, after returning from military service, he decided to take some time off to ski. Dick’s time off didn’t last very long as he was soon recruited for Seven Springs’ ski patrol and he’s been a part of the staff ever since.


At about 4 a.m. or 3:30 a.m. on weekends, Dick arrives at the resort to begin his 12-hour or longer day. “My days go very fast because there’s always so much variety to my work. No day is the same,” he says. Coordinating the day-to-day operations of all Seven Springs’ skiing departments from the ski patrol to the ski school, the morning begins with a call to the mountain crew to check for problems from the night before.


After any problems have been resolved, Dick jumps on his snowmobile and dashes up and down the mountain to check each and every slope and trail, determining which areas should be opened to the public or closed. He will then discuss snowmaking options with the snowmaking crew to make more areas skiable, if possible, while providing a safe environment for skiers and snowboarders.


Between 5 and 6 a.m., Dick meets with the Seven Springs Safety Rangers set-up crew to instruct them where to place signage and barriers telling skiers which slopes are open and which are closed. Dick then calls the lift operators to let them know which lifts to open and meets with the Ski Patrol to discuss the day’s conditions and special events. Safety is Dick’s biggest concern: “The most important thing about safe skiing is using common sense and obeying signs on the slopes,” he says.


When you call Seven Springs for the snow report, the voice you hear on the phone is Dick’s. He documents and records a message each morning. He also sends reports to other publications and each department at the resort, as well as consulting with on the coming forecast and reporting our snowfall to local meteorologists and news stations.


His experience with weather forecasting makes him a priceless resource for the resort, as he works closely with the mountain crew to determine whether or not to turn on the snow guns. Dick watches the weather closely to check for the precise air temperature, humidity and water temperature in the resort’s snowmaking ponds.


Each day Dick works with the same 30 people to coordinate the resort’s skiing operations. He talks about the snowmaking, lift and grooming crew as the most dedicated employees, who are always willing to give a little extra and, as Dick says, “try their darndest” to provide the best product to Seven Springs customers.


But the job isn’t all work and no play. Between 9 and 10 a.m., Dick skis each slope and trail to check the conditions. While he’s on the slopes, he plays the role of a secret shopper, chatting with fellow skiers and snowboarders to find out what they think of their Seven Springs experience. But it’s not always as anonymous as he’d like— often times people recognize his voice from the daily snow report.


A fully-certified ski patroller and qualified ski instructor, Dick also works with the Snowsports School to make sure they have the tools needed. “We want to make sure that beginners will have the best experience here,” he reports. In addition to his day-to-day responsibilities, Dick advises on issues such as where the best places are for new slopes and how to make the beginners’ area more effective. Every week, representatives of each department meet to discuss problems, needs and coming events where certain departments will need additional support.


After meeting with night crew, including the terrain park and halfpipe team, Dick heads home between 4 and 5 p.m., taking a two-way radio to keep in touch with the crew until he goes to bed. He doesn’t mind the long days, in fact he says, “It’s not work, it’s something I enjoy and Seven Springs is one of the nicest resorts to work for.”


About Seven Springs Mountain Resort

Seven Springs Mountain Resort, located in Seven Springs, Pa., is the perfect place for family vacations that create lifelong memories. Each year the family-friendly resort hosts more than one million overnight and day guests who enjoy a vacation that includes the finest skiing, snowboarding and golf that Pennsylvania has to offer, the exhilaration of sporting clays, the ultimate in relaxation at the luxurious Trillium Spa, a variety of dining options that range from intercontinental cuisine at Helen’s Restaurant to the variety of delicious buffets offered at the Slopeside Dining Room to the quick fix options like pizza and sandwiches to satisfy any craving.


Seven Springs Mountain Resort can accommodate more than 5,000 overnight guests in its recently renovated 418-room, 10-story high-rise hotel, nearly 1,200 condominiums and townhomes, eight cabins and 15 chalets.


With more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space available, Seven Springs also hosts more than 1,000 meetings, conferences and banquet groups per year.


Located within 200 miles of the major metropolitan areas of Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Cleveland and Washington D.C., Seven Springs is easily accessible from either exit 91 or 110 of the Pennsylvania Turnpike.