Risk and Safety Manager, Snowshoe Mountain Resort, W.Va.
Education: West Virginia University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration
First job in industry: Ski Patroller, Student Patroller to be exact
Six-word bio: “Work hard, but play harder.”
“Preston has 10 years of service at Snowshoe, continuing his family’s long history in the industry. In his role, he stresses the importance of experiencing activities and events, interacting with guests and employees, and creating an open flow of information with resort employees. Accomplishments include improving the resort’s legal process, developing a resort-wide employee safety program, and creating a mountain safety program that exemplifies the importance of safety education. His objective is to utilize new technologies and efficient practices in supporting general risk and safety management techniques. He is also active in the community as an EMT and firefighter. He served as a representative in the Local Emergency Planning Commission and has been a member of a committee established to improve healthcare and wellness in the local community.”
—Dave Dekema, Director of Sales & Marketing
How did you get into this role/industry?
I was a student patroller at age 16 and a patroller two years later, but knew I wanted to be a risk and safety manager. I landed this role while working as the ski patroller supervisor after college.
What about risk and safety management appeals to you?
My favorite aspect is working with every business unit on the mountain and learning different aspects of the industry. No two days are the same, and the field, being relatively new, continues to evolve.
What do you love about working at a resort?
People, mountains, and adventure. The people who work here are some of the most generous and wholehearted I have ever met. And there are few jobs where you can leave your office and go hiking, skiing or hit the bike park and call it working.
What drives you in your career?
It is a great feeling knowing that you can make a difference at the mountain on which you grew up, and that impacts my coworkers, friends, family, the community and the industry.
How does being involved in the community impact what you do in your job?
While serving on the county emergency planning commission, I was part of a team that developed the county’s emergency action procedures. My goal has been for the resort and county to share information and resources during times of emergency, and my relationship with the local director of emergency management and other commissioners has made a big difference.
Can you explain how you have used new technology to improve efficiency?
I developed an online training database to help bring seasonal employees up to speed quickly. It contains training modules in PowerPoint or video and is distributed and tracked using an Internet-based educational program. Also, a weekly safety topic and other important safety messages are communicated through a daily newsletter that is distributed from an intranet web portal.
How can you contribute to the future of the industry?
I’d like to help modernize certain aspects of the industry. The Responsibility Code uses complex, lengthy words that don’t appeal to Millennials and needs updating. The industry needs to take the freestyle terrain approach, developing new safety programs that utilize short, simple phrases and pictograms. Additionally, the sport’s top athletes need to be a focal point in industry growth and safety efforts. The NFL’s concussion program is an example of how we could use athletes like Shaun White and Lindsey Vonn to promote safety and growth of the sport. I would also like to see the industry foster growth in a way that reasonably mitigates risk. Our guests will continue to push the envelope, and we must create a series of checks and balances that reduces the risks and creates a reasonably safe environment.
If you could share one thing about the new generation of resort visitors with the older generation of ski industry employees, what would that be?
The new generation is visiting for the whole mountain experience, not just skiing and riding. And they are especially likely to return year after year to an annual event or activity at which they had a great experience. They are also accustomed to busy daily schedules, so offering multiple activities will lead to a positive experience.