Robert Ortlieb

Scanning Manager, Keystone Resort, Colo.

Age: 24
Education: Gogebic Community College (Ski Area Management program)
First job in industry: Ski Instructor, Pine Knob, Mich.

Six-word bio: Three Mountains. Two Hemispheres. One Love.

The Nomination:

“In his five years in the ski industry, the last two at Keystone, Robbie has established himself as a leader. This season, he developed a recycling program for his team, partnering with a third party to recycle granola wrappers. He developed a guest-facing communication strategy, and Keystone guests became active and enthusiastic participants. The program also successfully recycled over 17,000 old lift tickets and passes. Guests comment on the team’s enthusiasm, guest service and friendly nature. His leadership is reflected in the unsolicited feedback we receive from his team, including long-time veterans, who are thrilled with Robbie’s engagement and out-of-the-box thinking. Robbie is never short on ideas, and always quick to help others. He’s proven himself to be a dynamic leader who excels at motivating and inspiring his team. I’m quite sure he has a long and successful career ahead in the industry.”

—James Nussbeck, Ticket Scanning Supervisor

The Interview:

How did you get into this role/industry?
Through the Gogebic Community College Ski Area Management program, I landed an internship at North Star at Tahoe. That led to roles at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mt. Buller Resort in Australia, and now Keystone.

What drives you in your career?
I love taking on new, unknown challenges and proving that I can overcome obstacles.

What is it that you love about working at a resort?
I love that the industry is constantly evolving, but it’s the people that keep me passionate about my job. With creative freedom from my bosses and positive reinforcement from my leadership team, I walk into work excited every morning.

A lot of people would imagine that ticket scanning isn't terribly exciting, so where do you get your enthusiasm for your job?
There was so much room for innovation in the process of managing lift tickets, and new technology is now making its way to our industry, so that’s certainly exciting. No other department plays such an integrated role within the daily operations of the resort.

How have you energized the ticket-scanning department at Keystone?
When I was introduced in my role, I was told my department had a history of high turnover rates, so I emphasized the employees’ happiness, hoping it would create happy guests. We all joined the industry for our love of skiing, and to achieve success you can’t forget to enjoy yourself. That said, success only comes from holding yourself to a higher standard, and I expect the same from my employees. Over the past season, our team had the lowest missed scan rate in years and a record amount of fraudulent passes apprehended—all while receiving the highest guest satisfaction scores in the company.

Tell us about your initiative to recycle old passes and wrappers.
After a team survey it was apparent we, as a group, lacked attention to sustainability. So we implemented a plan to recycle discarded season passes and Nature Valley granola bar wrappers. We then had an opportunity to donate to the charity of our choosing. I was proud to see my employees’ involvement and appreciation for doing more than just scan tickets. They really took ownership of their job.

If you could share one thing about the new generation of resort visitors with the older generation of ski industry employees, what would that be?
The amenities and infrastructure change, but the adventure remains much the same. I manage a department that didn’t exist seven years ago, and you wouldn’t recognize the village from 1995. And some of the technology in today’s equipment is revolutionary. But when you’re on the top of the hill looking down, we all just want to have fun making turns.