Across each snowbound mountain destination on the Ikon Pass, there’s always more than meets the eye going on behind the scenes. Mountain wide – from before the sun rises until well after it sets – these activities and actions are rarely seen by guests, yet they are experienced day in, day out, constantly creating an on-mountain experience that is special and unique.
Beyond the snow, it takes motivated, passionate people to move mountains. These are the employees who have demonstrated what it takes to keep things running, stepping up in hard times, and forever showing love for their mountain communities.
Casey H. – Lift Maintenance Manager at Solitude
Casey has been contributing to the Solitude team for 20 years. A native to Sandy, Utah, Casey’s plan was to live the dream for one year as a liftie and then head off to college. However, plans often change. After two years of swinging lifts, Casey was invited to help with lift maintenance during the summer and he soon moved into a full-time position with Solitude.
When asked what he loves most about his job, Casey is quick to reply: “Every day is exciting and you never know what the day is going to bring. I like the fact that the whole mountain works together. If we need help with anything, vehicle maintenance is always there. If Eagle Express chairs are frozen on an icy morning, ski patrol is right there helping push chairs through the terminal. It’s nice to have great leaders above me that trust we know what we’re doing and make sure we have the tools we need to do our job effectively.”
And the job entails a lot of varying responsibilities and tasks. But it’s what makes the job unique, according to Casey, because you never know what you’re in for each day. “You might be sitting on a tower watching a sheave wheel or a tower switch for hours at a time, you could be manning a top lift terminal for a whole day or we could be helping guest services park cars or helping vehicle maintenance respool a cable on a winch cat.” If there is a normal day, Casey usually spends it “riding the lifts, listening and looking for possible problems before they arise. Constantly walking through lift terminals making sure everything is functioning properly, and cleaning the rails the grips roll through.”
A large part of Casey’s job happens when guests aren’t at the resort. “Most people don’t realize how much it takes to get the resort up and running,” he says. “We are at the resort at 6:30am every day and are here sometimes until 10pm. There is a lot of maintenance that happens before opening and after closing. Most people think the lifts just get a switch turned on at the beginning of the season and they just run until the season is over but that’s not true.” One of the most daunting tasks Casey has to perform is to “drive a snowmobile to the top of a lift in the morning with 20″ of fresh snow and whiteout conditions. It can be quite the adrenaline rush,” he says.
But lift action doesn’t only happen in winter. Summer and shoulder seasons present the maintenance crew with new projects and opportunities. Just this past summer, Casey and the rest of the lift maintenance team undertook a multi-week project on the Eagle Express. This chairlift was installed in 1989 and was the first detachable quad chairlift in Utah. The task at hand: Replacing all nine bearings that keep the drive bullwheel of the chairlift turning smoothly.
It took a detailed and methodical process to disassemble the machinery, anchor the weight, and perfectly fit the components, all while maintaining a precise angle on the bullwheel. Most guests have no idea about the machinery and inner workings of chairlifts, let alone what it takes to keep them running. It’s projects like this one that allow the skiers and riders of Solitude to enjoy a ride up Eagle Express to Eagle Ridge, where they can drop into Honeycomb Canyon, Sunshine Bowl, or Challenger.
Another perk of the job is that Casey has a wonderful team by his side. Being around these great people is his favorite part about Solitude. “What I love about my team is that they are hard-working and have great personalities and know how to get stuff done and have a good time while doing it. They make it easy to wake up and want to come to work.”
The daily tasks and seasonal projects keep Casey on his toes, but having a gorgeous backdrop certainly makes each day sweeter.