As part of our series on what it takes to ramp up town services for the busy winter season, we talked with Andy Worline (AW), Parks Recreation and Trails Director, Jocelyn Ritti (JR), Recreation Center Manager, Sarah Alderson (SA), Recreation Programs Manager, and Brian Passenti (BP), Aquatics Manager about the ins and outs of the seasonal transition at the Snowmass Village Recreation Center.
Q: With events, kid’s camps, swim lessons, and more your team always experiences a busy summer. Do you get a chance to recharge during the ‘off-season’?
AW: At the Recreation Center we don’t have an off-season. We’re open year-round and transition from one season to another pretty seamlessly. Some just happen to be busier than others.
Q: You have a large facility to manage. How do your fall duties and responsibilities prepare you for busy winters?
JR: When the center is not as busy staff has more time to explore ways to increase our efficiency at the desk. They can get the training they need on programs like RecTrac (a parks and recreation management software) and get used to any software upgrades or changes so we can continually increase our levels of customer service.
SA: We’re also working on a new website so people can find what they need more easily online.
AW: We’re also preparing the Recreation Center and all of our facilities for snow—getting equipment ready or relocating equipment. The facility goes through a deep cleaning, and we, along with our Facilities Maintenance Division, perform any needed maintenance on the buildings we manage.
Q: How do your programs differ in the fall/winter as compared to the summer season?
SA: Currently we’re providing after school programs for kids instead of the day-long summer camps. Our kids programs run year-round, the programming just changes according to school schedules. Weekends remain busy with families visiting to use the Recreation Center and our parks.
JR: Our fitness classes change as well and we’re pleased to see much higher attendance at all of our classes this fall. On October 1st we rolled out our new membership structure. That change combined with the usual increase we see in the fall has led to a 25% increase in class attendance which is very exciting. Right now our ski conditions “pre-season tune up” class is getting started. This is always a very popular one leading up to winter.
AW: As much as you see our programs change, it’s the facility usage trends that change across the board that we see the most from fall to winter. We see evenings get much busier, but there’s a drop in morning and lunch-time activity. In the summer, people like to get outside to recreate after work. Once the cold weather and snow start to hit, people move their workouts inside. The pool is busy consistently through the day in the summer, but in the winter, you see usage spike specifically from 4-6 p.m. (mostly hot tub use after people get off the mountain). Overall, the winter use changes probably impact our front desk staff the most.
Q: Speaking of staff transitions, how does the seasonal change impact who we’re likely to see at the Recreation Center?
SA: Our recreation programs staff (e.g. camp counselors) is mostly seasonal with the exception of one specialist who doubles as front-desk staff. This year, we’ll have an Ice Rink Attendant on staff to manage winter ice rink operations.
JR: Our front desk staff at the Recreation Center stays pretty consistent. We are currently trying to fill a vacancy in the Recreation Assistant position.
BP: Aquatics staff goes from 8 lifeguards to four. The goal is to keep these four armed with as much knowledge as possible to keep things running smoothly.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you and your team face in the winter?
BP: Snow removal around the pool. It’s a challenge to keep the decks safe for people to walk on with bad traction—especially because people don’t wear snow boots to the pool.
JR: The winter peaks at the Recreation Center Andy referred to are also challenging. We’re trying to maintain the same level of service to everyone that we offer all year long, but when everyone comes in at the same time and wants to use the same equipment, it’s something we have to manage.
AW: Then of course there’s everything that goes on in the winter beyond the building like parking on powder days.
Q: What other partners do you rely on the most to overcome these challenges?
AW: We rely on all other town departments in one way or another. The Police Department comes down often in the winter to monitor parking lots and address any issues we may have. Public Works is also instrumental in a lot that we do. Currently, they are involved in ice rink prep and leveling the skating surface, and help maintain our facility.
We’ve worked closely with Community Development recently on the entryway planning project, and some mapping upgrades. The fall is a great time to get these long-term projects done.
Last but not least there’s Transportation. We become a big transit hub in the winter and they do a great job of getting people where they need to go.
Q: Tell us one thing we might not know about the ‘behind the scenes’ operations during the winter time? Do you have any interesting stories?
AW: All of our staff—from the front desk staff to lifeguards—shovel snow from the walkways at the Recreation Center and the pool three times a day or more to keep the sidewalks safe. All staff is our maintenance staff.
SA: On a big snow day it’s always fun to see kids swimming! Kids don’t normally get to swim outdoors in the snow but our pool stays at a consistent temperature. Here swimming in the winter is just as fun- maybe even more fun than it is in the summer.
JR: Right, and the weather doesn’t change our programming. We never cancel anything due to weather in the wintertime (expect for kids programs). We’re open rain, shine, or snow.
AW: To me the most interesting stories are our ‘regulars’ here. For example we have a member who is 93 years old and he comes in each and every day and works out for an hour.
Q: What piece(s) of advice would you give the community to help you and your team to maintain a safe and vibrant facility and high levels of service?
JR: Check us out and take advantage of everything we have to offer. Register for our programs, come use the facility.
AW: Help us keep the facility clean when snow’s on the ground. Don’t’ wear snow boots or ski boots in the gym. Wear proper footwear for your own safety.
BP: And like your mom always told you – walk, don’t run, near the pool.