Employee Spotlight: Erik Shellman
Anyone wondering how much outdoor activity Breck employees actually get in their free time need only take a glance at Erik Shellman’s photos.
Since moving to Colorado last year after 20 years at Vail Resorts’ Northstar, the Lift Maintenance Director has furiously been committing to memory his new – and expanding – territory at Breck and also the surrounding terrain … its highest points his priority.
“I like to get a lot of hiking in,” he says. “I’ve been trying to bang off some of these fourteeners. This winter I’m hoping to get a [backcountry] ski setup so I can hike up and make turns on the way down … they’ll be even more satisfying that way.”
Shellman’s receptiveness to a good challenge is also evidenced by his participation in two Tough Mudder events – those competitions involving pain-staking obstacle courses replete with sprinting, climbing, plummeting, getting very muddy and sometimes bloody. He did this summer’s Tough Mudder at Beaver Creek and a previous competition in Northstar. He has also volunteered in local trail building projects – giving back to the outdoors that he so cherishes, and on a relaxing off day, gets out on Lake Dillon for a little standup paddleboarding. In the winter, of course, his days off are spent skiing and snowmobiling.
As lift maintenance director, Shellman doesn’t get as much outdoor time as he did when he was maintenance manager, but the responsibilities of planning and running his department pose a welcomed new challenge, especially with two new lifts being installed to serve the vast new terrain on Peak 6.
“Peak 6 has been my primary focus over the last few months,” he says. “It’s a huge, huge project. I enjoy trying to plan the future and plan out the next few weeks, staying ahead of everything. With Peak 6 I’ve been able to spend a lot of time out on the hill and there’s definitely a sense of pride being out there getting stuff done. We’re really lucky in that we’ve got a very experienced crew here.”
Shellman is no novice either. In the course of his career, he has overseen the construction of five new lifts.
“The glamour side of the job is building new lifts,” he says. “You’re working with a lot of force –a new haul rope, changing new chairs, a bull wheel barring. There’s a ton of planning and math. Those are a lot of fun and interesting, especially because the technology continues to grow and improve. I’ve always been interested in mechanical things. I like the physics of it, all the big force. It’s what I came to know very well and why I kept moving up.”
Of course, in addition to the monumental task of building brand new chairlifts and ensuring they function smoothly, seeing thousands of enthusiastic skiers and snowboarders as they’re swiftly transported to the best times of their lives is a highlight of Shellman’s job.
“Watching the customers line up, everyone with a smile on a powder day waiting for the new lift to open or just head up the mountain … it’s a great feeling,” he says.
Shellman considers his crowning achievement to date simply running a tight ship – an extremely smooth-running lift maintenance program, even through weather obstacles (although most of us don’t consider big snowstorms an obstacle).
“The best part of it is knowing that you’re part of a massive plan,” he says. “I really like working through the challenges. Some people complain about snow and weather, I consider it all a challenge and look forward to it. It’s a matter of planning and being prepared for those eventualities. Also, a job that takes you from 10,000 and 13,000 feet on any given day … I like it.”
– Shauna Farnell