Fortune Friday

Posted April 22, 2022


Hello Everyone, 

I want to start this week’s update with a tribute to long time Heavenly Ski Patrolman and former Ski Patrol Director, Martin Hollay, who passed away this week. Martin’s iconic touch on Heavenly has meant so much to so many people, both past and present. I cherish the deerskin gloves he gave me every time I put them on!  Our Heavenly hearts go out to all of Martin’s family and friends. We are grateful for his incredible impact.  
It’s hard to believe that we have reached the final days of the 2021/22 ski + ride season. We’ve had some wild weather to close us out – surprise snow, and crazy winds that reached over 100+ MPH at various points this week and last. It’s caused some challenges for our team, including the need to close the mountain quite a few days over the past two weeks, but I’m so thankful for how the weather turned around for the closing days so we can finish things strong.  
I also want to acknowledge the frustration these wind closures have had on our guests and staff over the past 12 days. Our plan was to end the season with access to the mountain via the California side. Our snowmaking team padded that side of the mountain with extra snowmaking efforts last fall so we could get through April., but it’s clear that Mother Nature had something else in mind and gave us several weeks of record-breaking warm days. In the end, we lost snow in some critical areas at mid-mountain that simply wouldn't allow us to operate safely. For that reason, we moved mountain access to the Gondola for the remaining two weeks of the season, but couldn’t have predicted the windy days that were waiting for us. Safety always comes first, and the Gondola and upper mountain lifts simply can’t operate in the kind of winds we’ve had. I am proud of this amazing Heavenly team for showing each and every day to open the mountain. Please believe me when I say that no one wants to be open for this final stretch more than we do! We also continue to learn important lessons every season and game plan for how to address wind-related challenges for the next season. The good news here is that the wind forecast for this weekend looks much better. Thank you for your understanding and patience.  
The closing of ski and ride season is also a time to reflect – The past couple seasons have been incredibly challenging and have forced us to operate in new ways, some good, and some not so good!  My sincere gratitude for this incredible team runs so deep – it is because of them that Heavenly continues to be such an incredible place.  
And of course – my gratitude also extends to all of our amazing guests and locals! On behalf of the Heavenly team, thank you for your support and the inspiring passion you bring to our mountain.  I certainly hope you visit us this summer (we’ve got lots of fun things happening as we return to a more “normal” summer activities footprint – more on that in the next Fortune Friday), but if you don’t make it back until next winter, please accept our thanks for making this ski + ride season so great.  
To close out today’s Fortune Friday, I want to introduce you to Brian Bigley, who leads Base Operations at Heavenly (a HUGE job!!). He’s an incredibly valuable member of our team, and he makes so much happen within this very complex operation we have. Learn more about him and his team below!   
See you out there! 

Brian Bigley Fishing

Q: Hi Brian! Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Heavenly? 
A: Why hello there! The Base Ops team provides support to our mountain and our guests via Transportation, Building Maintenance, Mountain Dispatch, Parking, Security, Sign Shop, Base Area Maintenance, and our Employee Center and Uniforms. It is also part of our job to be good neighbors and partners with all of the outstanding local government agencies. Partnering with City Works, Lake Valley Fire, STFD, STPD EDSO, DCSO TDFD and many more. My job is to make sure everyone on our truly inspiring and passionate team has all the support they need to do what they want and need to do!  

Q: What are some of the responsibilities you have that might surprise people?  
A: It always surprises people how much we have to do in the summer. As you can imagine, winter is rough on all our buildings and base areas. It takes the length of the summer to ensure we’ve done the necessary work across the mountain’s base areas to ensure all is ready for the next ski and ride season. Additionally, I help lead Heavenly’s employee-led Street Team and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) groups. These are groups dedicated to making our team members’ time at Heavenly positive, unique, and (importantly) fun. Our Street Team plans and holds super fun events for all resort employees, including team ride nights, trivia events, skate night at the ice rink, and years- of-service recognition. Our DEI group creates a safe space for us to learn about each other, with each other. It offers our team the opportunity to have tough conversations, and think more fully and inclusively about what we can do to ensure that Heavenly is a place that everyone feels welcome, including our employees, guests, and community.  Personally, I find it incredibly rewarding to be part of these groups. 

Q: What inspired your career path? 
A: all started during my first year living in Flagstaff. It snowed three feet in October, so I borrowed my roommate's girlfriend’s snowboard and hiked up part of a run at Arizona Snowbowl. That powder run changed my life. As many know, there is really nothing like riding deep blower pow on a snowboard! One of my friends said his grandfather opened Dodge Ridge on HWY 108, and that I should try to get job there...and ultimately, I got a job as an IT tech and that’s what started it. From there I ended up at Kirkwood, where I spent 16 years before making my way to the Heavenly family.  

Q: What do you love most about your job? And about Heavenly? 
A: I love snow. Yes, I love riding the pow and getting faceshots, but I also love shoveling it, snowblowing it, watching the layers move while removing huge piles of it, how it sounds when it falls and the chaos a storm brings. December 2021 (which brought a crazy amount of snow to Tahoe) was a super fun time for my team in particular. We didn’t sleep much, but we sure had an incredible time playing with all our snow removal toys, trying to tame a bit of the chaos so that employees could make it to work and guests could come chase their thirst for pow. The comradery that grows when passionate snow-loving folks work together during events like we had last December is truly inspiring.  
One of the reasons I took this role at Heavenly was to be a bigger part of the South Lake community my family lives in. Whether its partnering with Barton or the City of South Lake Tahoe to organize mass vaccination events in the California Parking lot, or partnering with the Interagency Fire Management team to host the fire camp at Cal base during the Caldor Fire, these are the things I really like about my job. 

Q: What unique or special skills are needed to do your job?  
A: I agree with what Ricky Newberry said in his recent Q&A, that curiosity is so critical. In my case, it’s true for all the reasons he shared, but I’d add that a major driver for me is curiosity about how to make systems run better. During my time in the ski industry, I have managed Retail, Rentals, Points of Sale, Digital/Websites, Databases, Marketing Campaigns, Employee Housing, Building Maintenance, Facilities, Guest Services, Tickets +’s a long list. Along the way, as I’ve ventured through different stages and opportunities, I’ve been curious about process and systems to organize our teams and create efficiencies, especially in ways of working. Through it all, I’ve found that the most important thing is to surround myself with passionate and driven people who love community and are hopefully smarter than me. 

Q: What are the various roles your team members have? What would surprise guests about what goes on behind the scenes in Base Ops? 
A: Each team member has several roles. Ryan Smith, for instance, is not just our Sr. Manager of Building Maintenance – he is also our captain for the community outreach program for Epic Promise. This means he works to support many amazing non-profit organizations locally with events and grants. He is also a board member with the South Shore Transportation Management Association. Hayli Rutledge is not only our Transportation Supervisor, but she is also a leader for our Tahoe Blue Crew, and is also a member of our Heavenly DEI group I mentioned earlier. She’s additionally involved in the growing local poetry community. Steve Kirkpatrick is our Parking and Transportation Manager, and he and his wife also own two local repurposing shops for kids' clothes and toys, “Tahoe Kids.” Jen Kawaratani is the Mountain Dispatch Supervisor, and also volunteers with our Street Team to organize employee events and employee recognition events. These are just a few examples of my amazing Base Ops team...I’m so proud of the work they do every single day, both on our mountain, and off.  

Q: What’s one thing you wish guests knew before coming to Heavenly? 
A: I wish everyone knew that the Gondola is a part of the ski resort and that @hvconditions on Twitter is the best place to get alerts about parking and mountain updates. Plan on arriving no later than 8:00am on weekends or catch a bus/rideshare for drop-off to avoid parking challenges.  

Q: What or who inspires you most? 
A: My brother and my dad. My brother, Dan Bigley, has a tremendously positive outlook on life. His work ethic is second-to-none and he’s overcome tremendous obstacles that help keep my everyday stress in perspective. My dad is very wise and has an amazing amount of patience, which is something I always worked to have more of.  

Q: What’s your favorite run?  
A: I would have to say if you were to try to find me and my sons on the mountain, you are most likely to find us in Nevada Woods.  We love the aspect and the terrain over there! 

Q: Anything else you want to add?  
A: I want to extend a thank you Tom Fortune for the opportunity to be a part of this fearless team. Importantly, I also want to thank my wife, Emma, and my boys Nash and Hudson, for sharing this awesome adventure with me.