A day in the life of a Mountain Ambassador
If you’ve been up to visit one of Vail Resort’s amazing ski hills you are sure to have come across a Guest Services Volunteer, or “Mountain Ambassador,” at least once or twice. These selfless volunteers are on the front lines of providing customer service, whether from greeting you with a granola bar on your way to the lift or giving some helpful directions to get across the mountain.
I was lucky enough to sit down with Mark Downing, a Mountain Ambassador for the past two seasons at Breckenridge, and get a feel for what it’s like to work on the mountain.
9 to 5, or should I say 8 to 4
Each morning begins with an 8 a.m. morning meeting to divide the day’s tasks across the volunteers. While there are more than 150 volunteers who will work sometime over the season, typically only 15 to 25 Mountain Ambassadors are on the slopes each day, but they keep busy. Donning their bright red Helly Hansen uniforms the volunteers give guided tours throughout the resort, greet and welcome people to the chairlifts, and answer questions and give directions at maps on Peaks 7, 8, and 9. In addition to working for the guests, Mountain Ambassadors provide assistance to ski and safety patrols and act as another set of eyes on the mountain, all the way til close. Mark boils it all down to one thing “Our real objective is that every guest gets the most out of their day’s experience .”
Living the Dream
For Mark Downing this role is a dream come true as a Colorado native. Breckenridge has been his home mountain for 50 years; that’s right, his first season on skis was Breckenridge’s opening year and the resort has been a magical place for him ever since. “Each time I drive into town I get a chill, seeing all the runs on the Ten Mile Range and knowing that’s where I get to spend my day, interacting with folks who share my enthusiasm for skiing and riding, what could be better?”
With that in mind, it’s easy to see what Mark’s favorite task as a Mountain Ambassador is: giving tours. “Frankly it’s underutilized, some days only 2 or 3 people come along and then they get a private tour of Peak’s 7, 8, and 9.” It’s the perfect way to start your day if it’s your first time visiting Breckenridge.
CY: Any advice for a skier’s first time at Breckenridge?
MD: Don’t hesitate to chat with us. Let me know what you’re looking for and I’ll tell you where the good stuff is. It’s our job to know the mountain, and as a result we do know of some good hidden gems tucked away up there.
CY: Where is your favorite place on the mountain?
MD: The patio area of the Peak 9 Restaurant, certainly one of my 5 favorite places on Earth.
CY: What’s your favorite run at Breckenridge?
MD: Take your pick; Peak 7’s Lincoln Meadows, Wirepatch and Angel’s Rest groomers are hard to beat, but on a powder day the steep runs on Peak 10 are incredible.
CY: Best question you’ve been asked?
MD: Where’s the T-Bar? because since the addition of the T-bar at the base of Peak 8 it has become a little confusing to answer.
So next time you visit any Vail Resort, make sure to keep an eye out for the men and women in the bright red because they are there to make your day the best it can be, so you might as well take them up on the offer.
— Chris Yonuhewski