Name: Seth Noonkester

Age: 24

Title: General manager

Company: Titcomb Mountain


About: Owned and operated by the Farmington Ski Club, Titcomb Mountain is one of the oldest club-run ski mountains in the country, and one of the few left in operation.

What’s your biggest challenge right now?

Battling the weather. It’s been pretty crazy.

We didn’t get snow until the first or second week of December, which I don’t think kicked people into gear thinking about skiing and interest in the mountain. It wasn’t until the first natural snow, and I was posting Facebook live videos, that kicked some people into gear. You don’t really see people coming in until you start making snow or there’s natural snowfall.

Here we are in Christmas break — and I think most mountains would agree that Christmas break and February break are most profitable — and we have crazy low temperatures and high winds, which are making for unfavorable ski conditions.

What’s the best advice anyone has given you?

To keep moving forward, with everything being so dependent on weather and it being extremely variable.

I remember a documentary I watched in school about local mountains. It was called “1000 Feet & Below.” There was a manager from Mt. Abram who said in this industry, you have to accept you are going to dump $100,000 into snow-making and the next day watch it get poured on and washed away. And you will just have to eat it, and start over and do the exact same thing. That really stuck to me. I don’t think many companies or industries need to take on a challenge like that. How can you prepare for that? Whatever happens, you just keep moving.

How do you foster creativity in your staff?

Everyone who purchases a season pass is asked to contribute volunteer time. Other than me, the mechanical operations manager and the commissary manager, everything done here is volunteer.

I think what’s huge — from the little bit I have been able to do — is to recognize when volunteers and employees do a good job and taking that extra minute not to think it just to myself but having them know I saw they did it and bringing it to their attention that it was noticed and to keep doing a great job.

Volunteering used to be second-nature, but now everyone is so busy. It’s somewhat my job to make sure they are being recognized for their partial ownership of the mountain. Having them realize their projects and claiming their ownership is huge.

What’s your biggest fear?

From my standpoint, it’s one of your major pieces of equipment failing and being unable to operate any longer. It would be very confusing to me.

We are always up to date (on maintenance). There are state requirements, and we have a strict regimen and routine of maintenance.

How do you handle competition from large ski resorts?

We’re the feeder program for those mountains. We have a variety of learn-to-ski programs and trails for different abilities. The elevation is 750 feet and we have 18 alpine trails and 20 Nordic trails.

People will start with these little mountains and as their ability and experience grows and increases, (they) will move up to bigger mountains.

(Ski resorts) have a following and their marketing is extremely well thought out and it creates a huge following.

Our motto is “The Friendliest Mountain Around.” All of our staff knows that. People outside the Farmington community come here and realize that. Once they come here three times, they are going to be a friend and the person at the register will say hello. It’s hard to find that at the big mountains.

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