With a tumultuous season at Stevens Pass Ski Area in the rearview mirror, Vail Resorts announced Tuesday morning that University of Washington alumna and former Western Washington ski coach Ellen Galbraith will take over as vice president and general manager.
Galbraith, 41, is currently chief of staff for Vail’s mountain division president, and previously worked two years as senior director of mountain operations at Lake Tahoe ski area Northstar, another Vail property. Before that, she spent 16 years in Beaver Creek, Colorado, where she climbed the ranks from race crew and snowcat operator to racing manager and, eventually, director of mountain operations.
And before all that, Galbraith graduated from the University of Washington in 2003. During her college years, she coached ski racing for Team Alpental-Snoqualmie.
The hire ends the interim tenure of Tom Fortune, who temporarily relocated midseason from Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe, California, to right the ship at Stevens Pass.
“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 statement. “My family’s roots are here in Washington, and it is meaningful to be returning once again.”
Vail Resorts declined to make Galbraith available for an interview.
At the start of the 2021-22 ski season, Stevens Pass was plagued with staff shortages and closed chairlifts that angered customers and made Stevens Pass a poster child of operational snafus at Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail Resorts, which owns Stevens Pass and 40 other ski resorts across four countries. Under Fortune’s guidance and with his emphasis on restoring mountain culture, Stevens Pass began to open terrain and resemble its former self by midseason, closing May 1 with its traditional end-of-season Springfest — although complaints lingered about a premature seasonal closure of the mountain’s backside and negligent treatment of the Nordic center.
Galbraith was among the Vail employees who traveled to Stevens Pass in January to assist Fortune in reopening the majority of Stevens Pass’ terrain. She dealt with behind-the-scenes, important minutiae like improving the design of lift mazes, which funnel skiers through lift lines and onto chairlifts.
“As a former ski racer, her heart has always been in the mountains, and it has translated into a career in the industry,” Vail Western Region senior vice president and chief operating officer Doug Pierini said of Galbraith in a statement. “Her nearly 20 years of experience in mountain operations, combined with a strong connection to the Pacific Northwest region and its unique mountains, will make her an incredible leader for this special resort.”
Fortune will remain in an advisory role with Stevens Pass.