|A conversation with Duncan Howat, Mt. Baker Ski Area general managerBy Pat Grubb
Photos by Grant Gunderson and Patrick GrubbIf you spend any time at all at Mt. Baker, you’ll soon run across Duncan Howat, the ski area’s general manager. You may see him in the lodge, on the slopes conferring with patrollers or checking out the operations on his snowmobile. Born in Seattle and raised on a farm in Yakima, Howat is 68, married to his wife Gail for 37 years and has two daughters, Gwyn and Amy, both of whom also work at the ski area. In early November, we interviewed him at his office in Bellingham.MBE: When did you start skiing?
Duncan Howat: I was 20 or 21 and going to a community college in Yakima. I had always been into waterskiing, but my parents had built a cabin in the mountains. I didn’t think I’d be any good compared to waterskiing, but they bought me a pair of boots and I went out and got a pair of wood skis. I went up to the White Pass ski area one day, put on the skis and went over to the rope tow and made one run straight down the hill. It was one of those things when you get lucky and say to yourself, “‘This is what I want to do.’ Right there. Right then.”MBE: How did you get into the ski business?
DH: While I was in school I got a job at White Pass. When school was out, I worked full-time. I learned a lot about lift maintenance, snowcats, all that.
MBE: When did you go to work for Mt. Baker?
MBE: Who owns the ski area?
MBE: The ski area is different from most others. Can you describe the company’s philosophy?
MBE: What about the Canadian business?
MBE: How’s the ski area fared compared to other resorts in the economic downturn?
MBE: What are you most proud of in terms of the ski area and what you’ve achieved?
MBE: Any chance the ski area could ever expand?
MBE: What sort of things might you be planning for the future?
MBE: Where could new chairs go?
MBE: How many people work at the ski area when you’re fully operational?
MBE: Many ski areas have gotten into mountain biking in a big way in the summer. Any chance of that happening at Baker?
MBE: How does a ski area determine what they’re going to charge for a ticket or a season’s pass?
MBE: What is the split between daily pass and season pass holders on an average day?
MBE: Skiing is inherently a risky sport and going out of bounds makes it more so.
MBE: How do you keep in shape? What do you do in the summer?
MBE: How much skiing do you do these days?
MBE: What happens at the ski area during the summer?
MBE: Global warming – what is the ski area doing to reduce its impact?
MBE: What’s involved in getting ready for the season?
MBE: What’s the best thing about your job?
MBE: What’s the worst thing about your job?
MBE: Is this going to be the best season ever?