For more information about joining the Mt. Bachelor Ambassador program, visit www.mtbachelor.com/info/jobs/

For skier Don Gordon, the best days on Mt. Bachelor are the ones most people consider the worst.

Gusty, foggy and blizzard conditions give the Bend resident a heightened sense of purpose as a member of the Mt. Bachelor Volunteer Ambassador program.

“Where we as ambassadors really shine is during bad weather,” said Gordon, 64.

On stormy days, volunteers station themselves at the top of chairlifts to help any skiers or snowboarders who may seem dazed or disoriented by the poor conditions.

They also make storm loops, or circuits on runs to collect anyone in over his head.

“A smile on your face and a little bit of (encouragement) goes a long way in getting them down the hill and to where they need to go,” Gordon said. “They are always delighted when we are there to help them … into safety.”

The program has two branches: The hospitality ambassadors program tasks volunteers with greeting and asking people to fill out an online survey after their visit. The mountain ambassadors program helps people on the slopes.

“We’re the smiling face on the mountain,” said Rebekah Warbington, Mt. Bachelor’s mountain services manager. She is in charge of the ambassador program. “We’re not the slow-down police. We’re not enforcing stuff like only smoking inside of designated smoking areas. We don’t put ourselves in interactions that might be negative. Jokingly, we call (ourselves) the best ski club in North America — if not the world. That’s the unofficial tagline we use a lot.”

The program, which began in the late 1990s and became fully-volunteer run in 2006, revolves around three ideas: hospitality, information and timely assistance.

Although ambassadors are required to be certified in first aid and CPR, they do not render aid except in life-threatening situations.

The mountain ambassadors number about 85 to 100 members each year, and the retention rate is more than half.

While some members are in their 20s and 30s, most members skew toward retirement age, Warbington said.

For their efforts, ambassadors receive a limited season lift pass, a bus pass, locker access, a uniform and food and beverage discounts.

The common thread among ambassadors is a love of skiing or snowboarding, helping people and a tolerance for eye-popping, neon-colored jackets.

Previous ambassador jackets were “highlighter yellow,” Warbington said, but this season’s coats will be bright green and emblazoned with the international symbol for information — an “i” with a circle around it.

“We look like human lollipops,” Warbington said with a laugh, adding that the highly visible jackets help ambassadors stand out during white-out conditions when visitors might need them most.

One of the longest-serving ambassadors, Gordon is heading into his 11th season.

“(My motives) are pretty easy,” Gordon said. “We’ve got a pretty sweet ski area, and there are a lot of folks who get up there and need a little bit of help. A lot of people may think, ‘Oh, it must be great — you get to ski all the time!’ No, no. It’s not every day that we get to ski all day long.”

Ambassadors must work five days each month for a total of 22 in the season (that includes two days in April).

A shift often begins in the evening when they log onto an online portal where Warbington or her assistant have posted an end-of-day report and detail the following day’s special events, operational issues and weather.

Shifts run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and begin with a briefing in the Todd Lake building.

The 10- to 15-minute roll call is an update of what happened overnight, and ambassadors are given a printout of the day’s grooming report, Warbington said.

Ambassadors arrive already knowing they’ll begin their day with mountain duty or ground duty.

The latter involves steering visitors toward the correct lines at the ticket offices and lifts and working the concierge desk in the West Village Lodge.

Shifts switch between mountain and ground duties after lunch.

Bend resident Dave Quenzer, 75, has volunteered as a mountain ambassador for a decade.

He likes being a smiling information kiosk on skis.

“When we get onto the mountain, we’ve been thoroughly briefed on everything that has been going on there,” Quenzer said. “That’s one of the things that makes it fun for ambassadors. We’re kind of the go-to people on the hill.”

Many ambassadors heard of the program through word-of-mouth.

Gordon, who moved to Bend in 2007, learned about the mountain ambassador program over a beer at a downtown taproom. New in town, he began chatting with a man who volunteered as an ambassador.

Gordon had worked as a teenage junior ski patrol member in his native Maine until he took a full-time job outside the ski industry in his early 20s. The man explained that ambassadors must enjoy talking to people, being comfortable on all groomed runs and knowing the mountain “like the back of your hand,” Gordon said.

By the end of the conversation, his interest in the ambassador program was piqued.

“‘You oughta be one. You’re the right kind of person to join us,’” Gordon recalled the man saying.

Ambassadors help with matters large and small in all conditions. Sometimes the issue is helping someone who has lost a glove or ski — or needs digging out of a snowbank.

The separation between parents and children is common. If ambassadors find someone injured, they identify themselves and then radio ski patrol.

In the meantime, ambassadors secure the area to make sure other mountain users don’t collide with the injured.

“Ambassadors need to be pretty hearty,” and big hearted, Warbington said.

Warbington has encountered a family on the mountain, almost in tears, saying that Mt. Bachelor is too hard and they’re going home.

“I’ll say, ‘I bet you’ve never been here. Follow me. I’ll show you the runs over at Sunrise.’ I’ll run into them later and they say they had so much fun,” Warbington said. “People are so grateful.”

Quenzer has been skiing Mt. Bachelor since 1983. He keeps volunteering as an ambassador because he likes his role.

“We spend time showing people around the mountain that we really like,” Quenzer said. “We make an impact on people. It’s just a lot of rewards — helping people and being thanked at the end of the day.”

Helping people never grows old, even if ambassadors inevitably age.

“Last year, I told my wife I want to (be an ambassador for) at least 10 years,” Quenzer said with a laugh. “After that year was up, I told her I would like to do it five more years and get to age 80. I may change my goal and go until 85, but right now it’s until 80.”

— Reporter: 541-617-7816, pmadsen@bendbulletin.com

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