Georgia Anderson: Two Deer Valley Careers for this “Super 33”

dv-ga

In this day and age, any tenure that spans a third of a century is remarkable enough. However, when it also entails two vastly different careers, the feat becomes truly exceptional. Georgia Anderson began her employment with Deer Valley Resort in Human Resources before becoming the director of that department. About 15 years later, she re-invented herself by becoming the director of merchandising and logo licensing! This speaks volumes about the unlimited commitment and energy Deer Valley employees are capable of and how their unwavering leadership can inspire the next generation of employees.

JF: What prepared you for your current career with Deer Valley Resort?

Georgia Anderson: I grew up in Salt Lake City and moved to Park City in 1980; I was working for a small company in town. When I heard that a new ski resort was in the planning process, I immediately applied for a position. I interviewed with Deer Valley and obtained a position as an accounting clerk. The day before I was supposed to start, the director of human resources called me and said, “The person we hired to be my assistant is not coming and we’d love to have you take the job; what do you want to do?” I thought about it and said “Sure, I’ll be in human resources, why not?” As I came on board, things began to grow very fast. After a few months I was made a supervisor and a couple of years later, I became the director of human resources.

JF: So more than looking for a specific job, your desire was to be part of a new, innovative company?

Georgia Anderson: Yes and that’s where it gets interesting because sometimes I wonder what would have happened to me if I had not made that choice at the very beginning. I feel so fortunate to have been here during those earlier years, when everything was being planned, the policies were developed and the vision was being formed on how we would become like the Stanford Court Hotel in San Francisco. I even remember personally visiting and experiencing that wonderful hotel and being part of this revolutionary change in the ski industry. At that time, the resort wasn’t open yet and the Snow Park Lodge was still under construction.

JF: Where was your office located?

Georgia Anderson: Our first office was where Starbucks is today on Park Avenue. We were there until the resort opened on December 26, 1981, when our first winter season began and we moved to the new Snow Park Lodge.

JF: Now, you need to explain how you found yourself as director of human resources one day and director of merchandising the next?

Georgia Anderson: I wasn’t looking for a change, but at that time, the retail shop and logo licensing was handled by an outside company. The resort owner really wanted to bring that function inhouse and have someone in charge who understood the brand, had passion for that project and could take the lead. Our attorney for the resort knew that, and since we were working closely on human resources issues, she also knew me well. So one day, out of the blue, she called me and said, “Georgia, you have a degree in fashion-merchandising and I think you should consider becoming the new director of merchandising!”

DV-frame

JF: How did you respond?

Georgia Anderson: I first said, ”What are you talking about?” I was afraid to make a change but after thinking it over I decided that I could to do this. I loved the challenge, yet it was a huge shift for me, from dealing with thousands of employees to moving into merchandise and product development.

JF: When was that?

Georgia Anderson: It’s been about 16 years.

JF: How did you actually get this program started at Deer Valley Resort?

Georgia Anderson: We brought it inhouse and we established two Signatures stores; one here in Snow Park and the other at Silver Lake, then we moved the Snow Park location upstairs and added our Main Street store later on.

JF: Are you just in charge of the Signatures stores?

Georgia Anderson: No, I also oversee NextGen DV, the children outerwear store that we’ve been operating for three years. Also we have Shades of Deer Valley, our sunglasses and goggles specialty shop at Snow Park that we’ve been operating for seven years, and finally, also at Snow Park, there’s Deer Valley Etc., the espresso bar where we offer a lot of fun kitchen and gift items as well as a large selection of logo mugs.

JF: How many employees work in these stores?

Georgia Anderson: There are about 65 employees, mostly part-time, but they are an amazing group of individuals!

JF: What about online sales?

Georgia Anderson: We’ve been selling online for about 10 years and this business has grown steadily over time. Today we’re looking forward to making a change with our eCommerce cart that should boost our volume further. Our most popular online purchases are Deer Valley Gift Cards and the Turkey Chili mix.

dv-tchili

JF: Were you also involved with the 2002 Store during the winter games?

Georgia Anderson: Absolutely! As we moved towards the 2002 Winter Olympics, just before the turn of the century, we added our 2002 Store, which was located in the Snow Park Lodge where SharpShooter Imaging is today. We operated that store throughout the 2001 – 2002 winter season. We were able to offer some incredible items, including our own Deer Valley Olympic pins, which was both a wonderful and fun merchandising opportunity!

JF: Besides the pins, what did you sell?

Georgia Anderson: We offered merchandise that had both Olympic and Deer Valley logos since we were an official venue and were in the midst of so many Olympic competitions.

JF: While we are on the subject of the Deer Valley logo, how did it get started and how was the brand created?

Georgia Anderson: My understanding is that the “Deer Valley” name itself was Polly Stern’s idea. Polly was the wife of Edgar Stern, founder of Deer Valley. I believe that the ad agency at the time created the logo and that Polly was also closely involved with its development and design. It has evolved ever so slightly over the years, but the deer head inside the aspen leaf has always remained. We are very fortunate to work with a brand and a logo that are so powerful and carry such widespread recognition.

DV-polly

JF: How are new items sourced and developed for your Signatures stores?

Georgia Anderson: Sometimes people approach me with design ideas; of course, we attend many trade shows, we also have some long standing vendors that may come up with new variations on their designs, but the most fun for us is when we’re creating something totally new, like Christmas ornaments. For instance, we took inspiration from our mascots, like “Bucky the Deer,” and last year we developed a 3-D ornament featuring Bucky on skis. Step-by-step, we’ve seen this project evolve from a rough concept into a completely finished product and the whole process has been extremely gratifying!

dvbucky

JF: Someone mentioned the Avalanche Dog merchandise to me; what is that?

Georgia Anderson: I’m glad you asked! About a year and a half ago, our Ski Patrol avalanche dog handlers approached me and said they are always asked by guests about the availability of merchandise featuring their rescue dogs. So this is how we developed the Avalanche Rescue Dog collection, with its distinctive dog and deer logo! When you purchase these articles, the proceeds go the Avalanche Rescue Dog program; this is a great way to sponsor the dogs and provide a great gift idea for guests who want to reward the person watching after their dog while they’re visiting Deer Valley!

DV-avidog

JF: What are your best selling items?

Georgia Anderson: As I explained, we have many different stores, but the number-one selling item in all of them is the Turkey Chili mix! Another popular item is our little replica trail signs that we can even customize. We also sell lots of t-shirts, ball caps and coffee mugs.

dv-trailsigns

JF: All are wonderful Deer Valley memories that people can use or see year-round!

Georgia Anderson: Exactly!

JF: What is your driving philosophy in picking a new product?

Georgia Anderson: First and foremost, it needs to reflect what Deer Valley Resort stands for in terms of quality and design. It can be playful though and doesn’t have to be serious all the time. We call this process passing the “Polly Test.” By this, we mean that when we’re considering new merchandise, we always ask, “Would Polly Stern approve of it?” Today, when we decide on a new product, there are things we feel good about and things that might concern us. If an item elicits too many questions or raises too many doubts, we simply won’t select it.

JF: How do you arrive at your price points?

Georgia Anderson: We cover all price points. Our products always represent an excellent value; for instance, anyone can come into our stores and find a good quality t-shirt that’s not overpriced.

JF: Can you give us a few examples, ranging from the most expensive down to the most affordable item?

Georgia Anderson: Sure, we have a 14-carat gold necklace with diamonds on it, made locally, priced at over $1,600 and a sticker that only costs a couple of dollars. We also offer a full range of polo shirts priced from $39 to $99!

dv-avmug

JF: What have been the most important lessons you’ve learned over these 33 years with Deer Valley Resort?

Georgia Anderson: I think attention to detail is paramount. The little things take a lot of time, but they add up to a whole lot and can make a tremendous difference. Even though it takes so much energy to attend to the most minute detail, we take the time to always do it and we constantly take pride in doing things right!

JF: Now, if you keep that focus on details into consideration and take a sweeping view over your entire tenure with the company, what is your own personal definition of the “Deer Valley Difference?”

Georgia Anderson: It is the combined dedication and commitment from everyone to keep passionate about doing things right and keeping going back to our roots. We are not standing still though, as we always strive to improve our products and services. This approach is ingrained into our culture and we embrace change while preserving the personal touch.

Deer Valley Resort Announces 2014 Summer Concert Schedule

248 Deer Valleys Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater

Dierks Bentley, Ben Folds, Vince Gill and more to bring music to the mountains in Park City, Utah. From classical to country and a little rock and roll, Deer Valley Resort has announced the lineup of celebrated singers, songwriters and musicians who will entertain guests on the resort’s mountainside this summer. The 2014 summer concert series, performed at the resort’s renowned Snow Park Outdoor Amphitheater, includes the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s Deer Valley® Music Festival, the Park City Institute’s St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Outdoor Concert Series and the Grand Valley Bank Community Concert Series presented by Mountain Town Music.

For its eleventh year at Deer Valley Resort, the Utah Symphony | Utah Opera’s Deer Valley® Music Festival kicks off its series with a Fourth of July celebration featuring The Texas Tenors: Let Freedom Sing! and follows it up the next night with Kenny Rogers joining the Utah Symphony for a heartwarming special performance. Additional featured guests include Mary Chapin Carpenter, The Ben Folds Orchestra Experience, Super Diamond: The Neil Diamond Tribute Band, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and more. Running from July 4 to August 9, the 2014 season also includes the 1812 Overture!, the Music of U2, the Music of John Williams (famed for movie soundtracks including “Indiana Jones”, “E.T. The Extraterrestrial” and the “Star Wars” trilogy) and Disney in Concert which will feature a medley from the blockbuster movie “Frozen”. Show times and ticket information are available at deervalleymusicfestival.org.

The St. Regis Big Stars, Bright Nights Outdoor Concert Series, presented by the Park City Institute, is also in its eleventh season sharing summer concerts on Deer Valley’s outdoor stage. The 2014 concert series features ten powerhouse concerts: The Bacon Brothers (June 28); Martina McBride (July 3); Punch Brothers (July 6); Dierks Bentley (July 24); Kix Brooks (July 31); Muscle Shoals Live with Lisa Fischer (Aug. 3); Five for Fighting (Aug. 16); Trampled by Turtles (Aug. 19); Nashville Café (August 23); and Vince Gill with the Time Jumpers (Aug. 30). For show times and ticket information, please visit bigstarsbrightnightsconcerts.org.

The Grand Valley Bank Community Concert Series, presented by Mountain Town Music, a weekly staple of Park City’s social scene, is a free event, highlighting local musical acts every Wednesday night. June 18 to August 27, from 6 to 8 p.m. This year’s musical showcase includes Afro Omega, Bonanza Town, Matt Wink, Junior and Transportation and more. Additional information is available at mountaintownmusic.org.

Deer Valley Resort Lodging and Reservations is offering a Summer Concert Package that provides a 20 percent savings on deluxe accommodations and tickets to select concerts. And to complement any evening concert, Deer Valley also features Gourmet Picnic Baskets or Bags filled with delicious epicurean items from Deer Valley’s kitchens, with options for children, single bags as well as gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan meals. Orders must be placed and purchased by 5 p.m. the day prior to the event; cancellations will not be accepted after that point.

The shows, performed rain or shine, are family-friendly and guests are welcome to bring picnics, blankets and chairs; dogs are not permitted. For more information on Deer Valley’s summer concert series, concert packages and Gourmet Picnic Baskets and Bags, please visit deervalley.com.

2014 Ski Season Review

The season is officially over. Each year seems to go by faster and faster and this year was no different. Maybe it’s my age or just trying to manage family, work, ski races, sports and the boys’ schoolwork, but it’s safe to say there is not much down time. However, I was able to check off two bucket list items this season. First, I was able to go heli-skiing this January with some close friends. It was a lot of fun and lived up to my expectations.

Heli

Unfortunately, I was not skiing closing weekend at Deer Valley Resort because I was happily checking off another bucket list item of mine. I was in Augusta, Georgia, at the Masters Tournament. No, not the skiing masters. You wouldn’t believe how many people thought “skiing” until I clarified that it was in Augusta, Georgia. I remember watching the Masters with my mom on television. She never picked up a club but loved the game. I started golfing a few years ago and have been hooked ever since. My golf game is nowhere near my skiing ability though. If you’re a golfer this is a bucket list item for sure. My mom loved Fred Couples. I knew she was with me last weekend as I stood inches from him teeing off and putting. This was a gift to her. Thank you to the Sports Alliance for this great raffle package that I won. My golf season will start this Friday at the Park City Mountain Resort golf event as a guest and supportive friend to our great neighbors.

Thinking back on a wonderful ski season, the Deer Valley Celebrity Skifest comes to mind. This year the boys won. I like to think they requested the faster course again but my age maybe catching up to me. I had some great powder days with guests at Deer Valley Resort this season. This was my 18th season at the Resort and it still makes me proud to say I work at Deer Valley. Every morning I get to work with amazing mountain hosts, lift attendants, ski patrol and ski instructors, all of whom have a smile and warm hello for guests. You definitely get the feeling we are all on the slopes looking out for each other!

Next ski season can’t come soon enough. Thanks again to everyone who played a part in making this season such a great success. I’m excited for spring and summer and the adventures that come with warmer weather. Golf, concerts at Deer Valley, paddle boarding and mountain biking should make for a great summer in Park City.

See you on the trails!

John Guay, one of Deer Valley Resort’s “Super 33!”

John Guay 2

Director of Skier Service, John Guay oversees the entire Deer Valley Ski School, the resort ski rental operations, children’s center and lift ticket sales. So, if you are a skier and are about to enjoy Deer Valley Resort, you will appreciate the many services that John has developed and polished over a period of 33 years!

JF: What did you do before joining Deer Valley Resort?

John Guay: I was in snow ski school supervisor at nearby Park West, today known as Canyons. I began there on the first of January 1975. At that time, the ski school director was short staffed and asked me if I wanted to teach skiing.

JF: Did you take the job?

John Guay: Yes, I gave it a try and that’s how I got involved. I begin by teaching groups of kids coming from Salt Lake City, I joined PSIA (Professional Ski Instructors of America), went through my certification process and ended up as a supervisor there.

JF: How was business during these early years?

John Guay: Quite different from today. The teaching quality had room for improvement. I remember teaching up to 25 kids in one class! We also had some peculiar habits; the lodge and the slopes at the resort were taken over by the staff to the point that, some days, there wasn’t much space left for the guests. We were all thinking about skiing and obviously didn’t focus much on ski guests.

JF: How did you make the transition from Park West to Deer Valley?

John Guay: As a ski school supervisor, I enjoyed working with instructors and loved my position. Yet, at the same time, this small resort had a lot of financial challenges. This is about the time when we began to hear about Deer Valley Resort coming to the area and bringing a new dimension in professionalism and service.

JF: What did you decide to do?

John Guay: I figured that if I wanted to stay in the ski industry and start a stable career, I needed to take the jump. I applied for a position with Deer Valley to find out what this new resort was all about.

JF: Did you see Deer Valley as a diamond in the rough?

John Guay: I think so; part of it was the consistency of work and the chance of being associated with a professional company. In addition, we also experienced some tough drought years in the late seventies and snowmaking was barely beginning. A little resort like Park West had very limited snowmaking infrastructure and the rumor about Deer Valley was all about modern chairlifts, snowmaking and grooming, so these possibilities alone had a huge appeal on me.

JF: Can you share with us how your first interview with Deer Valley went?

John Guay: Sure; I applied for a supervisor position. We met at Silver Lake in the spring of 1981. There was no lodge yet, so we met in a small cabin, I believe it was a real estate sales office for the Silver Lake Village. We met Stein Eriksen and some other people. We all went on the mountain where a great number of trails had already been cut. It was immediately apparent to me that all the runs had been laid out really well, you didn’t traverse much as all the trails were cut into the fall line. This was really impressive. It was also at the end of a great snow year and skiing that day was fabulous; I remember following Stein on a brand new mountain where nobody had been before!

JF: What happened after that first visit?

John Guay: I started in November of 1981. It took a while until we knew who was going to be head of the ski school. Sal Raio, a coach of the PSIA demonstration team, got the director position. When I met Sal, he offered me a job of supervisor. There would be two of us overseeing a staff of 24 instructors. He gave me the initial task of creating a weekly schedule that I had to prepare in one month. The group of instructors Sal had put together was hugely experienced and this created a tremendous challenge for me to earn the trust of such an impressive team.

JF: In this early years, was the concept of superior guest service already part of the Deer Valley’s culture?

John Guay: Yes. It started with that initial interview with Stein the spring before I was hired. Already, the idea that the mountain was for the guests stood as a central principle. Later that first season, Edgar Stern, Deer Valley Resort’s founder, explained a number of concepts during our early training sessions. It started with the anticipation that guests have before they even get to a resort, then their experience when they reach the place, the importance of a friendly and professional staff to greet them, the pristine beauty of manicured slopes up above, and so on.

JF: So, from the get go, Edgar Stern’s vision was already guest-centered.

John Guay: Absolutely! Edgar Stern always stressed that the guests expect people that are friendly, attentive, always ready to help and answer questions. A ski vacation is a major endeavor and when guests reach their destination, they’re pretty much frazzled and need to be well cared for.

JF: I can appreciate the importance of feeling welcomed.

John Guay: But that wasn’t all; there was also the importance of well groomed runs, which was kind of a revolutionary idea back in 1981; then of course, came the the cuisine, having nice restaurants could make a tremendous difference, because back in these days, food quality at ski resorts was poor. Finally there were ancillary concerns like attention to details, like having coffee always at the right temperature, picking up papers around the resort and the like.

JF: How did the staff buy into that culture?

John Guay: Well, it took some time. At first, there was some fall-out, it wasn’t without some challenges. Communicating that vision was tough, but for those of us who stayed with it, the effort was well worth it. And this probably explains why over the years, we’ve reached a tremendous employee retention rate.

JF: Did these high expectations influence hiring?

John Guay: As I got involved with the hiring process, we followed a very strict approach. You had to have an in-person interview. We certainly looked at job-specific skills, in terms of teaching experience. Obviously, we knew that we could teach people how to ski better or how to become better teachers if they lacked a bit in these areas, but we realized that we couldn’t change a person. In other words, a person’s demeanor, personality and attitude had to offer the right fit for what we were trying to achieve.

Then there was also the family experience weighting heavily into Sal’s vision; we wanted people that were family friendly. At that point though, the industry’s approach, as far as instructing was concerned, was to get a foot in the door, get some teaching experience, starting with beginners and children, and then move on to experts and adults. But the reality is that most adults and experts don’t need ski lessons nearly as much as children and first-time skiers, so we needed instructors that were good at the whole package and were willing to teach kids and could be really good with them.

JF: Are you saying that you were looking for staff members that had empathy and could put themselves inside the ski boots of these new skiers?

John Guay: That’s exactly right; it’s easy for people who are just good skiers to lose track of that concept. We needed people that enjoyed working with first time skiers, that were patient, that didn’t move too fast, and that had great communication skills.

JF: How does Deer Valley Resort stands in terms of teaching culture?

John Guay: From the get go, we’ve always embraced the PSIA humanistic teaching philosophy by creating unique lesson plans tailored to the needs of our students.

In the late ’90s though, we began to compare our most successful instructors with the PSIA methodology. We found out that our best instructors didn’t operate in a linear fashion, but instead followed some basic themes in working with their students. We came away with a three-part teaching model. The first element was the relationship. Then came the activities and finally the supporting information that could take the form of visual aids or verbal comments.

JF: You weren’t just focused on skiing technique?

John Guay: That is correct; the mechanical aspects of skiing were only part of the process as we were pushing even more towards the development stages of our learners and we made certain that our staff embraced that approach and could influence generations of skiers season after season. Kids that once started with us are now bringing their own children.

JF: Does this mean that entire generations of skiers have become loyal customers?

John Guay: Yes, we’ve created a continued, natural cycle. While our clientele may sometime question the value of the money spent in ski school, we do strive to exceed their expectations. We know that if we do a great job taking care of our skiers, they’ll want to return and get more of that special time Deer Valley is able to supply. So part of our teaching philosophy is to learn how to turn a pair of skis and the other part is to create a fun and comfortable environment to the point where guests truly enjoy themselves, want to come back and and bring their own children into the process.

JF: Would you say that Deer Valley leads the way in terms of ski instruction?

John Guay: Deer Valley occupies a very unique position because of its unique ski-in, ski-out properties, its overall design and lay out as a resort, as well as the popularity of its programs and the volume of its activities. We, in fact, have a very hard time to meet the demand we’ve created. We recruit on a year-round basis, we hire and train people all the time and have become the largest ski school in the region. Surprisingly, this high volume of activity has enhanced the quality of our staff; they are not just instructors, they double as concierges and will do whatever it takes to satisfy our guests.

JF: Has this success had a synergistic effect on the entire resort?

John Guay: I think so; our training programs are designed to break down the individual “silos” that unavoidably prop up between divisions. We spare no effort to present a common face for Deer Valley and if a guest bumps into anyone working at the resort, whether it’s a lift operator, a customer service person or a food service employee, each one is trained to address that guest’s question or need and do whatever it takes to find the right answer or solution.

JF: Now, when you look into the future, how do you create new services?

John Guay: Over the years, we’ve never ceased to come up with innovative ideas. We tried moguls, telemark and parallel workshops, women specific programs and so on. Some programs have showed some staying power like our women programs or the Mahre Camps. More recently, we introduced Steeps and Stashes, a program that capitalizes on Deer Valley’s unique variety of terrain. We’re definitely looking at adding new products, yet a the same time, we don’t want to detract from our high-demand areas which always have been the lower ability zones and the new families with children.

JF: So after 33 years of exciting and nonstop developments, what in you views constitutes that Deer Valley Difference?

John Guay: First and foremost it is the quality of the guest experience. Hiring the right people and communicating that vision to all the staff, no matter what position they’re in is a crucial component in reaching that goal. We’re all here for that guest. The real vision is that when we are working, the mountain is there for our guests. When we are not working, we can be just like a guest and can go out and enjoy that same experience. But before anything, we want to take care of the guests that are here so they enjoy their experience!