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New Stevens Pass GM discusses 'challenging' winter, efforts to move forward

Ellen Galbraith was brought in to revamp the ski resort after a rocky 2021-2022 season, then instantly had to deal with the Bolt Creek Fire and other impacts.

SKYKOMISH, Wash — Stevens Pass Ski Resort is preparing for the winter season. But it has been a long road to get here for reasons both in and out of the resort’s control.

The 2021-2022 winter season left pass holders upset with mismanagement after paying full price for a short season. A petition was created asking for accountability, and an interim general manager was brought in.

This year, Vail Resorts hired Ellen Galbraith as the ski resort’s new vice president and general manager. Galbraith, a University of Washington graduate, said her focus is on moving forward.

“Last winter was challenging, and the last couple years with COVID, the labor market and everything like that,” said Galbraith. "I think my perspective this year is, one, we have to rebuild trust with our staff, and two, we have to rebuild trust with our guests.”

In early October, Galbraith posted a message on the Steven Pass Facebook page reflecting on her first summer season at the resort.

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It's not just the recent ski season they’re having to move past. Factors out of the resort’s control are also causing added layers of stress. Galbraith said it has been a rollercoaster since she started in June.

“[In] July, we got our bike part open,” said Galbraith. “[In] August, we had a great month with the bike park. Then [in] September, smoke from a fire to our east one day, and the next day the Bolt Creek fire was started.”

Not only were some staff in the Bolt Creek Fire evacuation zone, but everyone felt the hazardous air quality impacts from the wildfire smoke. The bike park had to shut down after the fire started because of the air quality.

Now that rain has returned and the air has cleared, the resort is facing yet another obstacle: the risk of debris flows along Highway 2.

Galbraith said there are alternate routes to get to Stevens Pass if a debris flow shuts down the highway. Plans are also being created if the highway does close, but Galbraith hopes it doesn't come to that.

For now, she’s focused on staying positive.

“There are things we can control, and there are things we can’t control,” Galbraith said. “Our job is to do the best we can to be ready for everything that’s within our capabilities and feeling good about this winter. Feeling good for the team and feeling good for the guests that are passionate about this place for all the reasons you can see here and feel here. We’re excited.”

Galbraith’s goal is to get the resort open as soon as possible. The current targeted opening date is Dec. 2, 2022.   

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