From football coach to ski host
December 27, 2011
Bob Burns started teaching physical education for Park City High School in 1978. He also coached the Park City High School football team for 30 years through 1992. During his first years in the district, the high school had 175 students and Burns held class at the Park City Library.
Small enrollment numbers allowed the school to take several field trips to Deer Valley Resort when it opened in 1991, for school-wide recreation days. Burns said the tradition ended, though, when students started getting time off for Presidents weekend.
Since retiring from the education system in 2008, Burns has found other ways to teach by working as a Ski Host at Deer Valley Resort. In an interview with The Park Record, Burns described his role as similar to being a concierge.
"As a ski concierge, we’re a good connection between the guest, ski school, ski patrol, ski rentals and food." Burns said. "We always mention those people on the tours and direct people to the maps."
To become a Ski Host, Burns completed three days of training and learned the location and names of more than 100 runs on the mountain, he said, adding that 95 out of 100 runs on the mountain are named after Park City mines, many of which stretch for miles deep below the resort.
There are about 39 hosts this year. Some veteran skiers have been working as hosts for more than 20 years, Burns said, adding when he first started the veterans helped him learn the lay of the land.
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The ski host staff is made up of an eclectic group of employees including a former rocket scientist, professional baseball players and a Summit County Judge, he says with a laugh.
"The talent pool is incredibly deep," he said. "I’m lucky that they hired me here. I thought the high school job was the best, but I was wrong."
A Ski Host is required to be good skier with a positive attitude and a team player that’s willing to do anything for a guest, Burns said. They are trained to adjust tours based on the guest’s interest and ability level.
A fellow Host, Donna Allen, says Burns uses coaching techniques when giving tours and helping guests.
"He’s a great mentor and he applies coaching skills to day-to-day things," Allen said. "When he says something, I listen and he’s usually right."
The hosts have daily meetings that cover expectations and weather conditions for the day along with assignments, including either tour and map duty, or sometimes just map duty.
"Each host spends time by the maps and it’s a great opportunity to tell people where to go on the mountain," he said. "During the tours you get to tell the guest about the history of the place and Deer Valley. Each part is unique and enjoyable in different ways."
Ski Hosts are trained to take up to 18 guests on intermediate or expert tours. Expert tours can last two and a half hours.
"The great thing about knowing the mountain is adjusting the tours based on weather conditions," Burns said. "It’s critical that the guest is skiing speed and terrain that they are comfortable with."
One thing that makes Deer Valley unique from other resorts is that there are no volunteers. Burns said this raises the expectations for employees. He said skiing privileges increase the longer a person works as an employee.
"Deer Valley is an incredible, professional, well-run resort," he said. "Our motto is making sure the guest has the most enjoyable experience possible and everything stems from that."