Ellen Galbraith

Ellen Galbraith

UW grad with resort experience picked to manage Stevens Pass

Ellen Galbraith will start the job in June, with help from the ski area’s interim manager Tom Fortune.

STEVENS PASS — After a rocky winter season, Stevens Pass ski resort is getting a new general manager.

Former ski racer Ellen Galbraith, who has Washington roots and years of experience leading operations at other resorts, will begin working as the ski area’s general manager and vice president in June, Stevens Pass leadership announced in a blog post Tuesday.

Galbraith will take the reins from Tom Fortune, who stepped in as interim general manager in January amid a tumultuous start to the 2021-22 ski season on the mountain near Skykomish.

Fortune, a part of the leadership team at Heavenly ski resort at Lake Tahoe, was tapped by parent company Vail Resorts to address a litany of problems at Stevens Pass, including long lift lines, understaffing and terrain restrictions that kept half of the mountain from reopening early in the season.

The last day of the ski season at Stevens Pass was May 1.

Galbraith, a University of Washington alum, began working for Vail Resorts in 2003 as part of the race crew at Beaver Creek resort in Colorado, according to the blog post. She rose in the ranks to become director of mountain operations, then took another position in operations leadership at Northstar resort in California in 2019. Two seasons later, she became chief of staff to James O’Donnell, the president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division.

“Ellen has always felt the pull to come back to the PNW,” Fortune wrote in the blog post. “This was reinforced when she came out to help the team earlier in the season — she did this because she wanted to, not because she had to. It was during this time that she really understood the magic of this mountain. Her passion, experience, team-first approach, and commitment to preserving the heartbeat of what makes Stevens Pass special should also inspire confidence from all of you.”

Fortune will help with the leadership transition and continue to provide guidance in an advisory role as he returns to his post of leading operations at Heavenly resort. He will also take on new responsibilities as the chief operating officer of Vail Resorts’ Tahoe Region, the company said on Tuesday.

“While we’ve made many strides forward, we also recognize there is work still to be done,” Fortune said in the blog post. “We are excited about the future, and your ongoing feedback is part of how we continue on this path of improvement.”

Concerns over understaffing at Stevens Pass erupted last holiday season, spurring hundreds of consumer complaints to the Washington State Attorney General’s Office and an online petition demanding season pass refunds. Vail Resorts, which has also faced complaints about dysfunction at many of the other ski resorts it owns across North America, has not agreed to refund customers with its popular Epic Pass. However, the company has offered a deal to some Stevens Pass skiers if they decide to renew their season pass by May 30.

“I am thrilled to be stepping into this role at Stevens Pass, and to be part of this truly incredible community as I work to carry forward the momentum that Tom has created in his time here,” Galbraith said in a written statement. “My family’s roots are here in Washington, and it is meaningful to be returning once again.”

Rachel Riley: 425-339-3465; rriley@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @rachel_m_riley.

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