Copper Mountain landed two awards and Arapahoe Basin received one out of six total during Colorado Ski Country USA's recent awards ceremony.
It's a way for the trade association to acknowledge outstanding industry professionals, athletes, instructors, patrollers and industry legends. It's the third time the awards ceremony has been held after the organization's annual meeting. Judges pick from supervisor and manager nominations, considering candidates on their professionalism, dedication, contribution, leadership and attitude.
Two years ago, Arapahoe Basin's ski patrol director Tony Cammarata won in the Instructor of the Year category, and now, one of his snow safety team members has also received the honor.
Ryan Evanczyk began as a volunteer ski patroller more than a decade ago at the small ski area and was hired on full-time within four years. He's since built his skill set, continuously progressing the snow safety department at Arapahoe Basin as well as becoming a member of Colorado's Rapid Avalanche Deployment Team.
"It was a huge honor. I knew I was nominated because Tony had told me ... but also knowing there's 23 other resorts as part of the Colorado Ski Country consortium. I would have never guessed," he said. He tends to work under the radar and doesn't expect to be recognized, but said it feels good to receive the award and "let people know we do more than just take people's tickets."
When Leif Borgeson, former snow safety director, died two seasons ago, it took a toll on the Arapahoe Basin family and beyond - but it hit Evanczyk hard, Cammarata said.
"(Borgeson) was one of his greatest mentors in snow safety," he said. "(Evanczyk) was one of the guys who stepped up to make sure our snow safety program wasn't going to fall down. He saw it as his personal duty."
Across Summit County, Copper Mountain took away two awards, with Michael Ostrout winning Snowmaker of the Year and Doug Sakata recognized as Instructor of the Year.
"It's been a long snowmaking career and career in the industry," Ostrout said. "I am so proud and honored to have the award. ... It's a pretty good pinnacle of my career."
To be recognized in front of Colorado industry professionals, often considered premiere in the field, was a treat, the nine-year industry veteran added. It was a good feeling to have complete strangers pat him on the back, shake his hand, and tell him they know his name and are proud of him.
"He's a fantastic asset to the snowmaking team and the company," said Mike Looney, manager of slope maintenance and snowmaking. "He's very positive and passionate about what he does. He really loves being a main player in a pretty important department. He's basically driving early-season conditions for us."
Sakata has taught alpine skiing, telemark skiing and snowboarding for 25 years, not missing a season since he arrived at Copper in 1989 after stints in Beaver Creek and New Zealand. It's the first time the Copper Mountain Ski and Ride School has received such an award in awhile, said Kim Casey, manager of the Kids' Ski and Ride School Program.
Sakata started in kids' and group lessons, but for the past decade, has been booked almost entirely on requests. He strives to create repeat business, he said, and it shows. Ninety to 95 percent of his business is request business, and some of his clients have been returning to him for 23 years. He's also involved in the new hire training programs.
"(The award) was actually kept as a surprise to me until I actually got down there, so it left me even more speechless," he said. "It was a pretty cool honor. The biggest thing for me is I understand where Colorado sits as far as the industry goes, and I feel we are really the leaders of the ski industry ... we have an amazing talent pool of instructors in Colorado, a lot of whom I know. So to get that honor is truly amazing."
Sakata seeks progress in himself and encourages it in others.
"People usually start this sport thinking they know their limits," he said. "I just like to blow that out of the water."