Fortune Friday

Posted March 18, 2022


Hopefully by now, you’ve heard the good news that we’re extending our season by an extra week, with a new closing date of Sunday, April 24! The Heavenly team is super pumped to have extra time with all of you, and we really hope you’re able to enjoy your final turns of the season during some beautiful bluebird days with plenty of sunshine and great spring skiing and riding. For that extra week, we plan to run the lifts on the California side, plus Dipper Express. The last day for the Gondola remain April 17, as planned. The last day for Boulder is April 3, and the last day for Stagecoach is April 10. It’s also really awesome that Kirkwood is staying open until May 1, so if you still want to get some great spring skiing in after we close for the season, head on over there!


I also want to say a few words about the announcement by Vail Resorts earlier this week of the incremental annual $175 million investment in our employees and their experience with us. I am so proud of these giant initiatives that not only raise our minimum hourly wage, but also includes increased HR support, a commitment to accelerate progress on affordable housing, updated perks and benefits, and an expanded focus on career development. Ultimately, all of this is central to ensuring we deliver on our mission of providing an Experience of a Lifetime to both our employees and our guests.


Last, but most certainly not least, I’m excited to introduce you to Ricky Newberry, Senior Director of Mountain Operations at Heavenly. He is my right-hand, and has an extraordinary ability to lead his team flawlessly – and with great empathy and efficiency – and he keeps this mountain moving and grooving so that you can enjoy every turn. I’m super grateful to Ricky for everything he does, and to his team who are true superstars. Get to know Ricky in his spotlight below, and if you see him on mountain, make sure to say hi! 



Ricky's Family

Q: Hi Ricky! Can you tell us a little bit about your role at Heavenly?

A: Hey now!  Sure, my title is Senior Director of Mountain Operations and I interpret that as an opportunity to work with all the employees and guests at Heavenly. Our Mountain Operations team here at Heavenly is high-performing and very talented —we’re focused on getting the mountain ready to run (in all seasons), and we’re on deck daily from opening bell until closing bell, working as a team in an alpine environment.  Blair, Bryan, Eric, Marc, Kevin, Lee, Pat, Stephen and their teams in Mountain Ops, Grooming, Snow Making, Terrain Parks, Summer Trails, Fleet & Vehicle Maintenance, Lift Maintenance, Patrol, Lift Operations, and Epic Discovery are the best of the best.  Truly, it’s the teams within Mountain Ops that complement and connect the operation as a whole, making all the magic happen!  


Q: What are some of the responsibilities you have that might surprise people? 

A: Good question!  I ultimately feel responsible for everyone’s experience on the mountain, whether you’re a tenured employee or a first-time guest. Maybe that is not a surprise for people who know me, but taking this kind of ownership keeps me grounded – and humbled – by all the surprises and challenges we experience and navigate through in this dynamic alpine environment.


Q: What inspired your career path – how did you ultimately land in mountain operations? 

A: Skiing! I love skiing and do my best to remember that every day.  I grew up in a skiing family in Michigan – we traveled out west for ski trips when I was a kid and I was (and still am!) obsessed with how ski resorts operate.  After graduating college, my wife Maggie got a job teaching elementary school at Kirkwood where I was on ski patrol for a season...that one season has turned into many. Over the years, I’ve developed a deep love for South Lake Tahoe, especially getting to do what I’m passionate about, constantly learning new things by being in the mountains and doing my best to share that with those around me.


Q: What do you love most about your job? And about Heavenly?

A: There are so many, it’s difficult to pick just one. I love skiing, the community, the mountains, the teamwork, snow, skiing, our avalanche dogs, the sunrises, the sunsets, skiing, snow...the list goes on, and repeats! The bottom line is that I love is a big mountain with so many hidden gems, nooks, and crannies.  It’s really special to share so many special moments with a team and community that is just as passionate about snow sports, and this beautiful place, as I am.


Q: What unique or special skills are needed to do your job? 

A: A keen sense of curiosity.  I’ve had some very specialized roles, like avalanche dog handling and ski patrolling, where I’ve been a subject matter expert.  Now, my role is to ask questions, and support a team through empathy and thoughtful leadership to ensure collaboration as we work together to run our Mountain Operations as efficiently, safely and smoothly as possible.  Serving others, tail-guiding and team-building are really my focus for continuous improvement and solution-based problem solving.


Q: What advice would you give someone who wants to go into Mountain Operations?

A: Do it!  We are always looking for good people who want to work on the mountain to join us.  We have so many great experiences and opportunities to share, and what we do is quite diverse, so you can wear many hats and find what inspires you, regardless of if it's seasonal or year-round. We have so many growth opportunities – I'd encourage you to check out our open roles on our jobs site, and you should ask any of our team members if you see them about their experience...they’d be glad to tell you more, and hopefully inspire you to officially join our team.


Q: Can you share a little bit about why lifts/the Gondola go on wind hold fairly often?

A: Our upper mountain is very exposed and takes the brunt of weather systems moving across the Carson range of the Sierra Nevada range. Often, it may not be very windy at the base of the mountain, but it’s blowing hard at the top – having awareness of this variability is important. We often observe wind speeds at the top of Sky in excess of 100 mph during these classic Sierra storms. These storms present a number of challenges, but the direction of the wind actually makes a significant difference for our lift operations. For example, based on its location, the Sky chair is impacted by southwest winds, but is protected with a strong eastern wind; and I know many of you are wondering about the’s exposed in all directions, especially due to the lay/contour of the land, which quite literally funnels wind across the lift line at upper elevations. The length and vertical rise of the Gondola, combined with closed carriers (lots of surface area for wind to push against), can make it complex and challenging when strong winds come through. So...all of this is to say, we are cautious about wind and will only keep the lifts and Gondola moving so long as it's safe. We have lots of technology that helps us understand wind speed and directionality, and there are automatic alarms that sound when the need to stop a lift or the Gondola is necessary. Just remember, all of this is for your safety, and to ensure you have a really great day on the hill. Of course, we ALWAYS appreciate your patience when a lift goes on wind hold!  


Q: What’s one thing you wish guests knew before coming to Heavenly?

A: Check out the latest conditions and operational must-know, real-time info on Twitter at @HVconditions -- it’s a great resource to stay connected with the Mountain Ops team and understand what your day may look like. Finally, for the human (and avalanche dog) interactions please know our Patrol stations have an open-door policy, so feel free to pop in to say hi (and/or thank you) to the team, ask about what’s open/closed (and why), or to give our avy dogs some love.


Q: What or who inspires you most?

A: Tom Fortune is a pretty big inspiration and mentor to me.  He’s the reason I’m here.  We’ve developed a good friendship and a strong working relationship over the last seven years that’s spanned two resorts and a variety of roles.  He’s authentic, kind, and super positive, which are important values to me.


Importantly, my family truly inspires me.  We’ve all been through a lot the last couple years, especially with the pandemic and the Caldor and Tamarack wildfires, and their mindset has been forward, onward, and overall positive...always present in the moment. My wife is really active in the community, and as a teacher, she’s passionate about helping kids be good humans. I also have two daughters who both love skiing and soccer, and two Golden Retrievers who teach all of us how to live our best lives every day. Unsurprisingly, we’re an outdoors family and besides an obvious love of skiing, we also enjoy backpacking, biking, playing/watching futbol, and hosting themed dinners.  We do our best to work hard/play hard and support one another.  My family has been extremely supportive and understanding of my career, as I’ve chased my passion of living and working in the mountains, which comes with some big days and long hours.