In Profile: Eric Meertens, New Mount Washington Operations Manager
Taking care of operations at Mount Washington Alpine Resort has just become a three-person job.
Mike Klein has been promoted to Director of Operations and two more positions have been created: Maintenance Manager and Operations Manager. And to staff the positions, the Resort looked to the old and the new: Lift Operations Manager George Trousdell was promoted to Maintenance Manager, and Erik Meertens was lured from Sun Peaks Resort to take on the new Operations Manager position.
"I break things and George fixes them," Meertens explains. "Wait - that should be 'my guys break things'..." Trousdell has worked at Mount Washington since 1981; he started out as a lift operator, worked his way into lift maintenance and spent 15 years a lift maintenance supervisor. In his new job Trousdell looks after lift and vehicle maintenance, electrical and building maintenance and utilities.
Trousdell says one of the challenges of his new job will be making sure all the equipment at Mount Washington is up and running all the time, and running safely - as well as ensuring the people working on the equipment are competent and doing a good job. Another challenge is planning for expansion; taking a larger role in bringing new equipment to the Resort or expanding the Resort's fleet of vehicles, Cats and groomers.
Trousdell was the go-to guy for the new Boomerang chairlift this summer, as C-TEC brought in its own crew to install the lift. That's part of his new job, he explained, is to deal directly with manufacturers and suppliers. Challenges aside, Trousdell said he still finds his job enjoyable after all these years. "Working on the mountain as long as I have, it's so enjoyable and it's a great work environment. I meet new people every year."
He also gets to ski, snowboard and go snowmobiling in the winter, and mountain biking in the summer. He can often be seen on his off-days at Mount Washington, partaking in the Resort's recreational activities. "With the change in seasons it's like having two jobs," Meertens says.
Meertens may be new to Mount Washington's payroll, but his is a familiar face to many who work at the Island Resort. "I've known most of the guys in the operations department at Mount Washington for years, through industry trade shows and conferences," he said. "I also have a best friend that was in my wedding, who now works under me." He moved here in the summer after Klein offered him the job.
Meertens learned to ski at Mount Washington many years ago, before leaving the Island. "I told my Mom I was taking a year off to ski at Lake Louise. I ended up staying 10 years." He started as a lift operator in 1984 and climbed through the ranks. "I've done a lot of the jobs that I now manage," he said.
Meertens spent nine years at Sun Peaks Resort near Kamloops, which has more terrain and more skier visits than Mount Washington (although Mount Washington has a larger population base from which to draw customers, if both the Comox Valley and Campbell River are taken into account). He brings some unique experience to Mount Washington.
For instance, the first goal Klein set for Meertens when the new employee arrived was to create a fire protection plan for Mount Washington. "I'm fairly well-versed in that after spending the summer I did two years ago in Kamloops," Meertens said. The wildfires that hit the Okanagan came within three kilometres of Sun Peaks: the Resort had to be evacuated once, and employees had their homes evacuated more than that, he said. "One bad wind blowing the wrong way... "I was thrown into the fire, so to speak. It brought to light what dangerous things are out there. It was a pretty scary summer."
In addition to the fire protection plan, Meertens has had 23 employees go through a S100 Wildfire Training Course which entitles them to legally respond to a wildfire; he has also bolstered the Resort's firefighting equipment. Meertens has also instituted some new recycling processes in the maintenance shop to complement what the Resort has already been doing.
Meertens plans to spend his first year at Mount Washington watching how things work, before considering making changes. One goal he has, though, is to ensure his staff gets the extra training they need to do their jobs effectively, he said.
EDITORS NOTE: The fire protection plan above is strictly regarding
forest fire, or wildfire. This is NOT a residential or structural fire