Breck makes volunteering epic

The Breck Food & Beverage and Grounds Maintenance teams partner to "do good" by recycling and sorting waste on the mountain.
The Breck Food & Beverage and Grounds Maintenance teams partner to “do good” by recycling and sorting waste on the mountain.

Think about the benefits your job offers you – health insurance, a retirement plan, vacation time… but what if you wanted to take a whole work week to volunteer for an organization in your local community? If you worked for Vail Resorts full-time, you would have the opportunity to do so and get paid for it. This is EpicVolunteers, a program that encourages employees to embody the Vail Resorts value of Doing Good by sending them to complete projects for non-profit organizations, both locally and, in some cases, abroad.

Since the EpicVolunteers program began in 2013, over 80 Vail Resorts employees have completed volunteer projects. Breckenridge Ski Resort has had five employees become EpicVolunteers. I caught up with two of them to see what they had to say about their experiences. Here are their stories.

In April 2013, Breckenridge Ski Resort Patroller Susie Nothnagel spent a week volunteering with the Humane Society of Boulder Valley. Susie cleaned the kennels every morning, and she spent lots of time walking and feeding the dogs at the shelter. Susie’s volunteer experience was especially meaningful for her because she and her husband have a dog they rescued from a shelter. And if you’re lucky, you just might get to meet her on the slopes of Breckenridge Ski Resort. That’s because Susie’s dog, Loki, is one of Breckenridge Ski Resort’s certified avalanche dogs. That means that Loki is trained to sniff out victims buried in an avalanche. Susie calls Loki, “the rescue dog that became a rescue dog.”

Michele Street is a Ski Pro based out of Peak 8. She is also a volunteer with the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Center (BOEC). A few years ago, the Vail Resorts Echo logoBOEC asked Michele if she could help with Wounded Warriors Family Ski Week at Breckenridge. Michele spent the mornings assisting the office manager and the afternoons out on the slopes teaching the Wounded Warriors. The following year, Michele worked with Wounded Warriors again, this time as an EpicVolunteer. Volunteering with the BOEC and Wounded Warriors has been special for Michele, not only because she has a son in the Air Force, but also because of how the experience on the slopes changes the perspective of the wounded service members. When they come, she says, they are broken and “think they can never get back together. Once they get out here, they realize they can still do things.”

To Susie, the opportunity to participate in the EpicVolunteers program is just as important as all of the other benefits that come with being a Vail Resorts employee. And Michele believes volunteering is something everyone should do, because “you have to give back to get back, and a lot of times it’s more rewarding to yourself than the people you’re helping.”  For both of these EpicVolunteers, this program was the experience of a lifetime.

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