Stratton Spotlight: Meredith McCandless-Seymour
Stratton Mountain’s Lift Operations Manager enjoys both the perks and challenges of her job.
STORY BY CHRIS MAYS
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY MEREDITH MCCANDLESS-SEYMOR
Meredith McCandless-Seymour, lift operations manager at Stratton Mountain Resort, ensures chairlifts are running smoothly and lift tickets are being scanned and everything in-between. For about a decade before coming to Vermont, she worked as an audio recording engineer. Her boyfriend’s job brought the couple to the Green Mountain State after he secured a full-time position with a professional audio gear broker in Townshend. They had been looking to get out of New York City, McCandless-Seymour says, as budgets for recording music were getting “smaller and smaller,” and crowdfunding was becoming more necessary for coming up with the money for artists to produce albums.
“I was really looking to move on and do something different,” she says.
If she wasn’t going to move forward with a full-time job in music, she decided, she would seek her second-best option: working on a mountain. Passionate about snowboarding, she wanted to pursue a career in the ski industry. While visiting Vermont for a weekend after her boyfriend got the local job, they went for a drive from Wilmington and went past Stratton Mountain Resort. She had heard of the mountain, but never went riding there. Once she got home, she says, she looked up available jobs at Stratton online and applied “right then and there.”
Her mother is originally from Utah, so she would primarily take her ski vacations all over the Salt Lake City area. Brighton is a favorite. Having grown up in Maryland, McCandless-Seymour mostly went to mountains in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. She had even worked one season as an instructor at Mountain Creek Resort in New Jersey.
This year marks her eighth season at Stratton Mountain Resort. She began as a ticket scanner supervisor in November 2014 and recounts that period as the coldest winter of her life.
“That whole month of February, it was like record-breaking, below-zero temps,” she says. “It was so crazy. We also saw a good amount of snow, which made it even better. I was like, if I can make it through that entire month without freezing my butt off, I think I’m good.”
McCandless-Seymour looks back at that first season with a real fondness, calling it “awesome.” Her early experience at Stratton highlighted its uniquely strong sense of community. She remembers people holding doors and saying “thank you,” gestures that she describes as unheard of in the city.
“That drew me in and appealed to me,” she says.
As the mountain was closing down in the spring of her first season at Stratton, and the crew got smaller and smaller (as it does as the skiing and riding winds down), McCandless-Seymour started getting trained on lifts. She was hired to stay on to help with summer operations. She says the work piqued her interest and challenged her enough to make her think that it might be a better fit than ticket scanning. Now, she oversees both.
McCandless-Seymour says she loves calling Stratton Mountain her office every day.
“I’ve always been a fan of being outside,” she says, using a lot of her spare time to ride on her boat and partake in other water sports. “I’m constantly looking at the weather. Every day is different. It keeps you on your toes. And just when you think you have your head wrapped around something, you get a curveball. Whether it’s a weather issue or a staffing issue or an operational issue, there’s never a dull moment.”
Constant movement is another big benefit of the job cited by McCandless-Seymour. She says she’s always on her feet, and gets to snowboard and snowmobile all the time.
“First tracks on snowboard is amazing,” she says. “But on a snowmobile, it’s
equally as awesome. So there’s a lot about this job and role that is very rewarding in and of itself.”
Quite often, McCandless-Seymour gets to see the sun set and rise. She says it depends on the time of year.
A challenge of the job involves learning all about the mechanical elements of the different lifts. She acknowledges that she still has a lot to learn in this area, but sees that as one of the factors in keeping her engaged and challenged in the role. She says each lift has many quirks and its own vibe.
Her job also has her helping in different spots during lunch breaks, holding meetings, conducting interviews, answering emails, and putting together schedules. No day is exactly the same.
Initially McCandless-Seymour found it difficult adapting to the lack of diversity in the area, but she points out that Stratton gets the opportunity to hire a lot of employees from around the world. She’s had the opportunity to travel to a few different countries to recruit staff for lift operations, and she sees the international workforce as the future of the ski industry, especially in a rural area such as Southern Vermont.
Between lift operations and ticket scanners, her team consists of about 92 to 100 employees. She finds staff building strong relationships despite high turnover that’s natural in the industry. She says the supervising team is close knit and notes all employees are looking for ski buddies.
This season, McCandless-Seymour looks forward to focusing more energy on the day-to-day stuff at the resort rather than COVID-19 regulations and protocols. She says she’s always looking for ways to make operations more efficient and effective.
Also, McCandless-Seymour, like the rest of us, hopes to see more of the fluffy white stuff coming down this season.
“We’re due for a really good snowstorm,” she says.
Let it snow!
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