Happy Mother’s Day!
In honor of all Brave Ski Moms, I am happy to share a recent interview with Beth Howard, Vice President and General Manager of Northstar California Resort. Beth oversees all operations at Northstar along with oversight of Vail Resorts Mountain Dining Division, including more than 100 restaurants across ten resorts.
I think that makes her Brave.
She’s also married, and together with her husband, she has a son who recently turned 13.
I know that makes her a Brave Mom.
And then of course, she’s a skier who, like all of us, enjoys skiing with her family.
And so we have, Beth Howard, brave ski mom.
Q: You’ve been with Vail Resorts for three decades, starting as an intern and currently serving as a resort General Manager and company Vice President. That’s quite a trajectory! How did this happen?
A: It’s been an incredible journey, for sure.
During my last year of college I applied for an internship at Beaver Creek and I got it.
My first position was working in the central kitchen, chopping vegetables. One week later a supervisory role opened up and I got a job overseeing back of house catering operations. I was in the right place at the right time.
With a degree in food and nutrition in business I’ve always been interested in food and beverage and my career with Vail kept progressing along these lines.
I spent a winter season on a restaurant management exchange at Las Lenas, Argentina. When I came back to Vail, I became a restaurant General Manager on Vail Mountain.
Later I moved to Beaver Creek where I spent 18 years as the Food and Beverage Director, overseeing resort restaurants and private clubs.
From here I moved up to a corporate role as Vice President of Mountain Dining and then two winters ago, I became the General Manager of Northstar. I continue to have oversight of the Mountain Dining Division across the 10 resorts.
Q: To what do you attribute your success?
A: First, my work ethic. I grew up in north central Iowa, working on a family farm. A strong work ethic is part of my DNA.
Next, I have a passion for this industry and the work I do. I’ve always been driven.
Success also comes from being able to work with talented people. I’ve worked with strong leaders and mentors all along the way.
My family is very supportive. Food and beverage, especially, was hands on and incredibly intense. It’s so important to have support on the home front.
Q: What’s the best part of being the General Manager at Northstar?
A: There are so many great parts. I’m living my dream.
I’m so fortunate to be able to work in a beautiful environment with employees who are the best in the business.
It’s exciting to be able to influence a brand from start to finish. As General Manager I look at the mountain with different eyes and I work with a large group of employees to deliver a great product to our guests.
Plus my office is on the mountain. How much fun is that?!
Q: What’s the most challenging part of this job?
A: I would say prioritizing the many aspects of the role and ensuring that I’m focusing on the right things. So many things pull at me that the job changes by the hour. There are so many variables: weather aspects, community partners and stakeholders, the volume of skiers on any given day.
My challenge is to balance all of this (and more) and be a positive and present influence on team.
Q: Central Iowa is not known as a hotbed of skiing. How did you get started on snow?
I started skiing when I was a teenager. My first exposure to skiing was watching Wide World of Sports and I certainly never imagined a career in the ski industry.
Growing up on a farm in Iowa, skiing was what we did to break up the cold, dreary Midwest winter. My two brothers and I would go on excursions to Minnesota, skiing at Buck Hill, Afton Alps and Welch Village.
We’d go with friends and spend the day in freezing cold skiing from first to last chair and having the best time.
I love skiing. It was meant to be.
Q: In addition to being a resort executive, you’re a mom. How do you make time to ski with your son at what is essentially your workplace?
My son just turned 13, so right now I’m learning about being a mom to a teenager.
I know Northstar really well and I have my favorite runs. My son loves skiing and he loves skiing with me because I take him on runs he doesn’t know about.
When I take him down a run he enjoys it’s great to hear him say “Oh moms! That was awesome! Let’s do it again!”
We also use our ski time together to make memories. We enjoy getting away from technology, talking about runs on the chairlifts and making plans.
We don’t always get to spend hours and hours on the mountain together, but we do get runs in and it helps me share the same experience as our guests.
When we go to lunch, my son orders what he wants and while this is part of our family experience, it’s also part of the guest experience.
When I’m on the mountain, I look at everything through work eyes. But when I bring my family along, I get to experience our product through their eyes. It’s a valuable perspective.
Q: Which is more challenging: ski resort general manager or ski mom?
A: I think it depends on the day. They are incredibly challenging and different, yet similar.
I wouldn’t trade the rewards of either for anything. If pressed, I’d say probably being the mom of a teen is the most challenging, but it’s also awesome.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone looking to break into the ski industry and resort management?
A: First, follow your passion. Start with that.
Work hard, do everything you can to be exceptional at whatever job is in front of you.
Do your best. Commit to continuous development.
Get out of your comfort zone and stretch yourself.
Always find a mentor along the way.
Finally, have fun!
The Brave Ski Mom Adds….
Thank you so much Beth for taking the time to chat with me. I think your advice for success in the ski industry applies equally well to success in life.
It’s great advice for moms and their kids, alike.
Happy Mother’s Day!
More Brave Ski Moms:
- Kari Traa: Olympic Medalist, Ski Mom, Ski Fashion Entrepreneur, March 2, 2016.
- For Women Who Ski: An Interview with TheSkiDiva.com’s Wendy Clinch, September 14, 2015.
- Happy Mother’s Day: Shannon Bahrke Talks About Her Ski Mom, May 10, 2012.
- One Proud Mum: An Interview with Kym Kennedy, August 30, 2011.
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