Most skiers and snowboarders at some point or another have had to rent equipment, either at a store or at a resort, neither of which are particularly accommodating.
Gear is heavy and awkward which means lugging it around from an in-town rental shop, especially for a family with children, is inconvenient. Slope-side rentals don’t tend to be much better as they are typically riddled with long lines which take up valuable ski time.
Bryn Carey, a New Hampshire native raised in a ski family, realized the void in the market for a convenient rental experience and was inspired to found Ski Butlers in 2004. Over the past fourteen years, Ski Butlers has expanded to 37 resorts in the United States, and 10 in Europe, and has used their social platform to take a stand fighting climate change to protect our winters, the industry in which Ski Butlers thrives.
We were elated to have the opportunity to interview Mike Cremeno, Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Our discussion provided an inside look on what’s happening with the world’s fastest growing ski rental delivery company, and how anyone with passion can follow their dreams, found a company, and make a difference in their community.
Ski Butlers Humble Beginnings in Ski Rental Delivery
When Bryn Carey, CEO, founded Ski Butler in 2004, fresh out of college, all he had was a single car garage and ambition. Since then, Carey has grown his company to 47 locations with 300 employees, and it wouldn’t have been possible without his upper management team, which includes today’s interviewee, Mike Cremeno.
Like Bryn, Mike also attended the University of New Hampshire, and while he was also an integral part of the school’s Alpine Ski Team, he and Bryn did not meet until they both by happenstance wound up living in Park City.
Mike started as a rental technician, but his skills, passion, and background quickly propelled him into a more advanced role with the company. After a year of delivering and two years of management, his economics background and passion for the business proved invaluable, and he was promoted to the Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Customer Service is Key: Raising the Bar in the Ski Rental Industry
After fourteen years in business, one thing Ski Butlers has learned is that the customer experience is of utmost importance. “Ski Butlers provides customers with more freedom on vacation, not having to be tied to brick and mortar’s hour of operation and strict policies,” Mike explains.
Ski Butlers is going the extra mile, driven by their why: helping people pursue their passions in the mountains. If a customer has an issue with equipment, comfort, or just wants to try different gear, Ski Butlers will send a team to meet the customer slope-side, or at their accommodations.
While the company prides itself on resolving issues, they try their hardest to prevent problems in the first place. Each time a customer rents, a Ski Butlers team arrives at the guests’ accommodations with boots in various sizes, ensuring comfort and convenience, setting up equipment efficiently, without requiring the customer to leave their cozy living room.
Their drive to make the rental experience as hassle free as possible is a plea to convince vacationers to forego the beach for the mountains: “the ski industry has been pretty flat the past five to ten years with skier visits, so anything we can do to enhance the customer experience is going to help drive those skiers numbers and offer better experiences so people are more likely to choose a ski vacation.”
The company’s focus on the consumer experience shines in their reviews. A quick search for Ski Butler reviews turns up 5-star rating after 5-star rating. With so many happy customers and a brilliantly convenient concept, it is no surprise that the company is growing like wildfire.
Growth and Development: Location, Location, Location
By number of resorts, Ski Butlers boasts the title of the world’s largest ski shop. Ski Butlers service is available at almost every resort in the Western United States, and rather than continuing growth solely in the US by sweeping East, the team has a different plan.
“Growing up in the East, most people have their own equipment that they toss in the car and drive to the mountain.” Mike explains that while the company hopes to move East eventually, their focus right now is on the rental-heavy market in Europe. “Europe has about 4 times the skier visits as North America, and about 70% of Europe rents.”
Since September 2017, the company has already secured 10 locations in Europe which are thriving. Rather than infiltrate Europe with a huge American company, they wanted to establish their brand as an international company, servicing multiple markets, a powerful strategy in our opinion.
Social Activism: Curbing Climate Change and Going Renewable
Ski Butlers depends on snow for success, which is why the company has taken such a fierce stance in fighting climate change. A few years back, the team decided that it was their responsibility to use their social platform to inspire change in the communities they service.
Ski Butlers joined the Climate Reality Project’s I AM PRO SNOW program by committing to going 100% renewable by 2020. “Ski Butlers home office and Park City office are 100% off the grid. We have electric vans and solar panels on the roof, and that’s our goal with all of our markets,” explains Mike. “We are a company that relies on snow. If we don’t own this, and show the world that we believe in it and are doing everything that we can internally and in our communities, then we’re not doing our job.”
Additionally, Ski Butlers teamed up with Protect Our Winters, an organization of athlete activists (like Jeremy Jones, and Jamie Anderson) who educate and inspire the ski community to protect the sanctity of snow. In support of POW, Ski Butlers allows customers to round up their change or donate a fixed amount, and Ski Butlers matches the customer contribution annually.
Dreamers and Doers: Helping People Pursue Their Passions
Ski Butlers was founded on a passion for helping people, and it comes as no surprise that the company treasures their employees. “A company is only as good as their people. As leadership, if you can facilitate a great culture, you really can take the goals as big and far as you want.”
Mike also stresses that the company’s “why” applies to their employees too. Happy employees are the beating heart of the operation, and so Ski Butlers allows for as much flexibility as possible with location transfer programs, great schedules, and promoting from within.
Mike’s best advice to aspiring entrepreneurs and ski bums alike is “the biggest risk in life is not taking any. Follow what your gut is telling you with what is going to make you happy. There is no reason you can’t create an awesome life for yourself. Pursue your passion, and find a way to make a living out of it.”