Losing my Marbles; bound for Newfoundland & Labrador

Ah Newfoundland…

Rocky, barren, largely infertile, wind-swept, rarely warm, and home to the East’s best skiing and snowboarding. Wait what? There’s a ski resort in Newfoundland? Boy if I had a nickle for every time I’ve heard that one…

If you’re from the island, or Labrador, you’re likely aware of Marble Mountain Resort. If you’re a “come from away”, chances are you’ve never heard of it, unless your a super avid skier or snowboarder of course. Standing at 1791 feet, adjacent to the city of Corner Brook, it’s comparable in height to most ski resorts in Quebec or those of most of the New England states. While not necessarily as well developed, not as large acreage wise, and certainly not as accessible (hello, it’s an island), Marble holds it’s own, in terms of the skiing experience. It’s steep, rocky slopes, facing the majestic Humber River, are pounded with snow all winter, making it a fantastic destination for the purist skier; the one who actually comes for the skiing. You’d likely be pleasantly surprised at the back-country touring opportunities, within an hour of the resort, as well.

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Bumps for days, on the Musgrave

I arrived on the island of Newfoundland in late July of 2013. Newfoundland wasn’t new to me; I had been there several times before, as a product rep, and enjoyed the hospitality of the locals in addition to a “shed beer” or two. With a bit of a friend network already built up, and a romance blossoming prior to even making the move, Newfoundland didn’t really represent a big step out of my comfort zone. An hour flight away from Halifax, followed by a three hour drive, and I could be home. Not exactly a world away.

My move would have occurred the year prior, had I played my cards right. Then again, “everything happens for a reason” right? In the late fall of 2012, the General Manager at Marble reached out to let me know that the newly created role of Sales & Accommodation Manager, was available. While this wasn’t necessarily an invitation to apply, and more of a “hey, pass this along your network”, I said to myself “what the heck” and put in a half-assed application.

Aside from what I had learned in my first year, business communications course, I didn’t know the first thing about applying for a job. While jobs hadn’t necessarily been handed to me, it was usually a case of knowing the right person or already being passionate about the activity (in the case of working in my local ski shop or the golf course, in my youth). Applying for a “management” role was something new and, besides, I was looking at property at the base of my home mountain, Poley, and thinking of spending the next number of years as a product rep, based out of Sussex.

Needless to say, I didn’t get that job, in the fall of 2012. While there’s no doubt that I could have “competed” for the role with a bit more spirit, I can see why I was passed over. I had no practical experience managing people, let alone accommodations; both keys to being successful, at Marble. But being passed over lit a fire in my belly that would be re-ignited more quickly than I thought. “Through the grapevine” I had heard that the role may re-open again, in the spring of 2013. With that knowledge, I readied myself for a fight; a fight that I wasn’t prepared to lose. The full court press was on.

Like a true road warrior, I took part in my initial interview, by phone, in Vancouver of all places. On the west coast, at a sales meeting for a collection of the brands I represented, I was well prepared and felt confident that I would be destined for a follow up interview; for which I had big plans. When the email came through for my second interview, I took to Aeroplan to search for flights to “The Rock”. Being a CFA (come from away), I knew that I would be at a disadvantage, not being able to make a more personal connection during the interview process. I wanted Marble to know that I was willing to go the extra mile; something I like to think that I always lived up to, while being there.

Weeks later, after a few notes back and forth regarding the offer, I had signed a deal that would mean my home would be somewhere other than New Brunswick, for the first time in my life. Ironically enough I had ended up buying my first home, just months earlier. I literally bought it, lived in it for 7 months, and uprooted myself; not exactly the most brilliant plan, but I was doing it anyway. Even today, across the continent in Alberta, I still have that first home, that I enjoyed so briefly.

My learning curve at Marble was steep, made ever more challenging by that aforementioned romance, which quickly floundered. As most would attest, I can be a pretty stubborn fellow. Being part of a team, in which you needed the buy-in of those around you to get things done, was a bit different for me. I was an ox, one who needed little direction, and who was accustomed to “making shit happen”, with little to no approval necessary. Managing personalities, and a 31 unit condominium complex, were both new to me but I soon found my way. With some great coaching and a great team, I was heading in the right direction.

That first year, at Marble, was about as epic as they come snowfall wise. With substantially higher than average snowfall, and solid revenue numbers to back things up, the first winter was largely a success. While loneliness reigned supreme, as I was far too immersed in my work to branch out and make an abundance of friends, I was beginning to feel that I was on the right path. Life lessons, such as not living where you work (I was on-duty manager for the Marble Villa, that first winter) you get more bees with honey, and that a balance soon needed to be found to avoid burn out, were beginning to become entrenched within me.

That first year, while challenging, would pale in comparison to the season that would follow. Lightning would soon strike, with devastating consequences, and Marble as we knew it, would be forever transformed.