Legendary skier John Egan, half of the “Egan Bruthas” with brother Dan, who skied in Warren Miller’s films for a decade–experienced a life change this season. Following 19 years of employment at Sugarbush John’s job disappeared from the pressure of the pandemic as so many others have.
Many ski industry legends have lost their employment during this crisis. A personal friend who worked for Blackcomb for 35 years was laid off this November along with 20 other staff. It’s not easy, the news is always devastating and generates plenty deep thought and reflection upon life and one’s self worth.
John recently penned this open letter to the Sugarbush community: .
“Hello. I am writing this note to thank you for everything, and I also feel I owe it to you to hear what’s going on from my end. It’s been hard to be quiet until now. I hope you understand. On September 1, my wife wrote on our chalkboard, “Anything can happen,” because 2020 was just that kind of year.
It’s never been just a job.
Yes, like many people, I lost my job in October and joined the ranks of the unemployed where I find myself sadly in good company. My role at Sugarbush for the past 19 years (as your vp, chief recreation officer) and for 25 years prior (working in many capacities) — this “job” helped pay for many of the day to day things in life. More importantly it has given me the opportunity to give back to the community and to the mountain that has embraced me and grown with me since I arrived in 1976. Like all who have found themselves in this situation, the loss of fair compensation and benefits has made my journey harder, but not insurmountable. I do believe that when a foundation is removed, it can be rebuilt stronger.
When my colleague’s promotion was announced from vice president of mountain operations and recreational services to president and COO, my phone rang off the hook with speculation that one of his first moves would be to eliminate my position. So, when I was asked to meet with him on September 25th, I hoped it was about how I could come off zero hours to help with what this winter might bring. I was, however, not entirely shocked when he announced that “what you did for Sugarbush is no longer needed” and that he eliminated my position. I was terminated with no pay, no benefits, no health insurance, and ultimately, no severance package. I was, he said, “welcome” to submit a proposal of what I could do for Sugarbush next, but with no promise of benefits and certainly nothing to be had at the salary I had been making.
Let me be clear. In that meeting and/or after, there was no offer made to me about my potential next role. When I asked about salary and benefits expectations, I was told “there are no promises.” He did say to me, “people love to ski with you”…which felt to me like a small part of the C-level executive role I had held for 19 years, an integral part of the decision-making process of resort management and customer relations.
Despite my disappointment with the situation, when he asked for my proposal (even though trusted advisors felt it strange that no guidance was offered), I seriously considered it. After over 40 years and 5 owners, I thought the unique value I have added around the Sugarbush brand, culture and leadership was widely understood. Therefore, I deeply considered how best to propose a future role for myself. After days of angst and a quickly looming deadline for my “proposal,” I found that given how he expressed his understanding of my role at Sugarbush over the years, there really wasn’t a path at Sugarbush any longer because, you see, it’s never been just a job. As I told Win Smith, I guess I could make snow. But that is better left in the hands of the experts. My commitment to Sugarbush and love for this “job” has always been much more than about skiing.
While I considered my termination, I rediscovered what I had always known. It’s the people who make Sugarbush great. It’s the families, like mine, that love the mountain, the camaraderie, the timeless stories, the new memories, the lessons learned, the adventure together.
I wish all of you who have lost jobs could feel the humbling power of a petition with nearly 2500 signatures and comments supporting your value at your organization. I hope someone has written a letter advocating for you at some point, let alone the countless ones that people have shared about what this means to them personally and their understanding of the cultural change for this new era. And, if you haven’t been in the paper yet as the topic of an article celebrating your contribution, it’s worth sitting down and thinking about what you hope people will say about you when you’re done.
Thank you. I have been speechless, and those words feel so simple, not big enough, for the gratitude I feel right back at all of you. Know that I am humbled by your support.
All of YOU have created the Sugarbush community. You have given me, this valley, every owner I have worked with since Damon Gadd, a lifetime of memories that continue to be shared over generations. It’s an amazing community that welcomed me with open arms. Together, we put Sugarbush on the world stage; we made a wonderful tripod – the mountain, the community, my small part on the leadership team – we were different. We had something other mountains didn’t – a launching pad for exploring the rest of the world and coming home to something just as great – and endless proof points both on and off the mountain in all four seasons of how we could “be better here.”
I wish Sugarbush only the best to come, mostly because of YOU – this amazing community – and of course the terrain, the mountain itself where I have spent my whole career. I hope to ski it again proudly someday. Until then, Sugarbush community, you’ve got this!… You only get one turn per turn to make that turn, otherwise you lose your turn with that turn. Just make the next turn.
I’ve been asked what’s next for me. I don’t know yet. Because it’s hard to find a home for a job that has never been just a job. But I know I can do hard. And I believe something beautiful will emerge. Feel free to keep in touch at feeltheturn.com and on social media. And hopefully I’ll see you out there this winter somehow, some way.
Stay safe and be well. With peace and love,