Snowshoe ready for new season, new programs, renewed community spirit
Snowshoe Mountain Resort is scheduled to open next month and the staff there is preparing for the new ski season with new programs for pricing and hiring and a renewed commitment to the Pocahontas County community. Snowshoe President and Chief Operations Officer Frank DeBerry talked about resort improvements made this year at a recent Chamber of Commerce meeting held at the resort.
DeBerry said Snowshoe understands the importance of a strong working relationship with area businesses and stressed that Snowshoe is not set on profiting at the community's expense. DeBerry said he is confident Snowshoe will grow into one of the region's top resorts with help from local businesses and residents.
"One of the biggest draws to Snowshoe is the environment in which it sits. It's the restaurants and the retail opportunities, it's the other lodging outside our lodging. It's all those things that add to the overall experience of coming out to Snowshoe," DeBerry said. "We need you to be thriving, we need you to be there."
DeBerry addressed Snowshoe's plans to grow with the surrounding community, and also past rifts.
"I've seen and heard the horror stories of the relationship between Snowshoe and the county 20 years past. Something I truly hope is that the whole county and that the homeowner community do start to see us in the light of wanting to be partners. Snowshoe can't survive without being part of a strong, vibrant community."
DeBerry discussed Snowshoe's open-door policy in hopes of fostering a better bond with residents and local businesses.
"We want to work together. There are some things that the community needs of Snowshoe, if we can offer those up, you gotta tell me what they are and we'll see what we can do. If there are things that are out there that seem wrong about what Snowshoe is doing, bring it to us, let's talk them over," DeBerry offered.
The COO talked about recent employee initiatives and Snowshoe's commitment to its work force.
"We really want to continue to work on our reputation as being the best place to work in West Virginia. From an employee standpoint, we hadn't been able to offer a seasonal wage adjustment to our employees in the last three years, we were able to do that this year," he said.
Snowshoe also plans to arrange for transportation to and from the bottom of the mountain to help curb fuel costs for Snowshoe workers. Another new program is aimed at providing healthy lifestyle choices for employees.
"We're focusing on developing and enhancing health and wellness opportunities for employees.
We've had our first health fair, we have a wellness team looking at how can we offer work-out facility options," he said.
This year Snowshoe decided not to participate in the federal H2B Program, designed to provide short-term employment for foreign workers. The decision opens up more employment opportunities for area residents. "There is an available workforce here," said DeBerry.
Snowshoe also hopes to build a more year-round experience with more summer activities including downhill mountain biking trails, dining and nightlife.
"We are looking at making a significant investment in the things you can do and reasons to come in the summer. Downhill mountain biking has the potential to be as big as downhill skiing. The cost of entry to the sport is about the same as skiing. The skill levels needed are about the same as skiing. Our downhill program grew from 5,000 to 7,500 this past year. Intro and family lessons are where the growth was, it didn't go to hardcore downhillers," said DeBerry.
DeBerry also talked about recent changes in Snowshoe's pricing structure.
"What we've done with our pricing now - the longer you stay, the greater the discount. You stay on weekdays, there's even deeper discounts," he said. "We will be known as one of the top five mountain destinations in the east. That is something hands-down I know we can achieve."
Bill Jordan, President of the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce, extended an invitation to business owners for membership and then talked about the reinstitution of their member business directory.
Chamber of Commerce VISTA volunteer Emily Lassiter talked about a mentorship program in development that will partner high school students with local businesses. The program is designed to help them explore career paths before they get out of high school according to Lassiter.