A Helping Hand for Hospitality

We are technology professionals. Our knowledge and skill-sets spread all over aspects of business and personal life. But what do we do? We configure things. Push buttons. Stare at screens until our eyes hurt. But at the end of the day, our core function in business is not rebooting frozen workstations or telling people how to do things they can find online. We provide solutions. And if a company is utilizing us properly and fully, these can be solutions to “problems” the company doesn’t even know it has.

The hospitality industry needs to get people through doors and gates. It needs to take money, keep customers safe, give basic information, and probably provide some set of products and services. These are things that almost all businesses do. You know where I’m going with this; hospitality is, by its very nature, more than that. Hotel staff can and want to give people smiles as they’re going through the door. Ski area safety personnel don’t just want skiers to be safe, they want them to feel safe. The job is getting done right when the customer feels that information is readily available without being invasive or obnoxious. Our business is beyond products and services. It’s experience!

Now, I could go into an essay of elaborate parables and metaphors that map the hospitality business to what we do in our services to the folks with whom we work. And then most of you would roll your eyes at how much of a stretch it all was until you just stopped reading. But in all seriousness, I think we can at least take some cues from the business model that provides us jobs.

As IT personnel, we need to get people through doors and gateways. We need to keep their data safe, guide them to Google, and empower them to take money. Our list of necessary services to the company we work for is longer than what is provided by that same company. Just sayin’.

Technology professionals, when doing the job right, want to do more! We want VPs and execs to feel like their company is safe (in part by educating them on what dangers there are). We want to increase productivity, efficiency, and bottom-line through quality solutions, not just what one can get from common or popular platforms. An IT department is the best it can be when staff are well informed, easily finding the documentation and training they need. And last but not least, I know I’m not the only one who wants to help my colleagues make the journey through the seasons enjoyable. Who doesn’t want less stress?!

This is why we invented the Mountain Technology Symposium. We are a community of professionals that truly want to be a part of creating an experience full of smiles. So as winter operations come to a close, and you watch all your company’s teams do their best to keep up momentum through to the end, ask yourself this: will in-person collaboration do anything but help us grow?

Unless you are that one person that doesn’t have any use of a helping hand from an industry colleague, please join us at the Mountain Technology Symposium, October 2nd through 4th, 2019 in Jay Peak, Vermont! Register here!

Keep an eye out for the May newsletter. I’ll be featuring either a sponsor or a committee member or both, and their contributions to the symposium and the industry.

Data and Adventure!

What do you get when you gather minds from all over the world to discuss what can be done with technology to grow the ski and hospitality industries? Collaboration? Solutions? Fun? The attendees at the 2018 Mountain Technology Symposium in Sun Valley, ID might give you a dozen different answers. And then they would debate the correct answer for hours until everyone still disagreed—because they are IT.

After the success of the inaugural event in Telluride, CO, the symposium committee of seven decided that continuation of the event was justified. For three too-short days during the weekend of Oct 13, 2018, IT experts from 4 countries, 22 ski resorts, all from 23 states and provinces, met in a beautiful Idaho area called Sun Valley. Our goal was to drive technology for resorts and hospitality facilities at a rate no one can do alone. The achievement of such a goal is difficult to quantify or grade, but when collaboration and communication between colleagues has increased, and new topic ideas explode onto an agenda for the next symposium, general success is clear.

The brain child for the first symposium in Telluride was Benjamin Whiting, IS Director. Chris Jaquet, Software Specialist for the same resort, took on planning, coordination, and a list of other cornerstone responsibilities too long to list in a magazine article. Between these two professionals and the rest of the symposium committee, they hit it out of the park. Compliments from attendees hardly stopped. Sponsors and presenters alike were more than satisfied with the turnout.

As one would expect, year one of the event was not flawless. Not all presenters were precisely aware of the desired presentation focus. There were some great speakers, and several sessions were both insightful and useful, but not everyone delivered problem, concept, and solution. Beyond that, from a higher level, the whole event was not exactly what it could have been for maximum benefit. In short, the hosts just didn’t yet know precisely what that was—what this seminar could be.

Due to dozens of discussion, loads of feedback, and one survey, these shortcomings were fixed for year two. Presenters not only discussed solutions, but also thought provoking concepts. Even the speakers that were praised in 2017 brought further improvements and fresh ideas to their sequel speeches. The community effort shaped year two into something that gave that community a greater awakening to the benefit a resort-focused technology conference than many imagined was possible.

The keynote by Sun Valley’s CEO, Tim Silva, was focused on the state of the industry and some fundamental challenges at its core. Let’s face it. Someone has to keep the professional goals of the technically minded aimed at the right target or they’d end up building brilliant machines that do amazingly expensive things that, well, might not perfectly serve the customer or the bottom line. Ultimately Mr. Silva expressed his appreciation for the event and how valuable he felt it was.

The symposium was not just about work, though. After a person has visited several mountain ranges around the continent, it’s difficult to rank them. Suffice to say, the views at Sun Valley are as uniquely beautiful as the rest. And as a business, the resort provides an impressive variety of activities and hospitality accommodations, including an ice rink, a shooting range, bowling, and a wide range of fine dining options.

No matter how much both Sun Valley and Telluride were adored, variety is at the root of inspiration. Year three of the Mountain Technology Symposium will take place at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont. 2019’s location has all the needed facilities and conveniences, as well as a full stack of bonus optional activities. The proximity to hundreds of hotel rooms, a reasonable drive to the Burlington airport, multiple linked conference rooms in walking distance from lodging should provide exemplary accommodations. To top off the experience, plenty of dining options, an 18 hole golf course, self-belay climbing for any skill level, and the Clips & Reels movie theater, the Pump House Water Park for all ages and categories of humans! It’s a good thing ski resort staff know how to balance work and fun.

After observing and experiencing the freshman and sophomore years of the Mountain Technology Symposium, including front row seats as a committee member myself, I’m not sure the junior year will be perfect. But I’m predicting it will be close. Don’t miss out! Keep an eye on mountainsymposium.com for updates on details. See you in October!