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October 15, 2010
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2010 Best Of contest winner: Northstar-at-Tahoe – Best Employer

TRUCKEE, Calif. — An echo can be heard in the Northstar Village. “It's just not the same job every day,” said one Northstar employee, when asked why she works there. Then another. And another. And another. Which is why, they echoed, they believe Northstar-at-Tahoe is the best employer in the region.Our readers agreed, and selected the resort as this year's Best Employer in the 2010 Best Of Truckee and North Tahoe contest. To show why, we interviewed a few different employees and asked them about their experience.Below is what some Northstar employees have to say:

Paula Rachuy started at Northstar in 1978 selling lift tickets for $13 a piece. Thirty-two years later, she looks back on those days and acknowledges, while a lot of things have changed, some have not.“After tickets, I moved full-time into purchasing, and had to drive an old Chevy Blazer to pick up the mail twice a day,” Rachuy said. “We have the same P.O. Box still, and we still have to drive into Truckee to get our mail.”Rachuy remembers the changes, too. She remembered when Minor's Camp was a double-wide trailer and when the idea of a base village was just an idea in a meeting. “I haven't done the same job year-after-year,” Rachuy said. “I've also made beds, worked lifts, you name it. You just pitch in where you have to. You do what needs to be done, and there's always something to learn.”灰

Rich Durazo started at Northstar in 1973, the second year the resort operated, but still says the job is exciting. From building lifts from scratch to this summer's project, replacing the main cable on the Comstock lift, to building a wooden swing for the Village, Durazo doesn't have to explain much more.“It's not the same day-after-day,” Durazo said. “And we don't want it to be, either.”And that ethic comes from the top-down, he added. “When you have a CEO and a COO who show real concern about how you feel about the operations, it's a big shot in the arm,” Durazo said.

Rosa Rodriguez started at Northstar in 2009, and is one of the main reasons so many skiers and snowboarders enjoy their winter days on the hill. While Rodriguez tried skiing herself once — “I hit a tree and it hurt really bad,” she said — she prefers driving the bus, instead. “In the morning, the skiers are happy and jovial,” she described. “And when they come down and get on the bus, it becomes their little nap time.”Rodriguez, who also works at the Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe and won their award for best employee of the first quarter, provides commentary of the day as she transports her guests around the resort. She said she enjoys meeting all the guests every day, but when it comes down to it, its the camaraderie of other employees that keeps her motivated.“We all look out for each other,” she said. “And that's what really counts.”

Erik Shellman works alongside Durazo, and helps the lift maintenance department stand out. While their work stands for itself, it's the little extras — like showing up to an employee party in afros — that allows his crew to be the talk of the Village.“We have folks in our crew who came from lumber industry, airline industry, you name it,” said Shellman, who stared with Northstar in 1992. “They're an incredibly diverse group of people, who love to have fun.”Shellman highlighted after-hour barbecues, and activities like going to Aces games in Reno, that help create the right dynamic for the team. It's serious, he says, but only when it has to be.Other than that, it's just fun working at a ski resort.“If you've lived here long enough, you know we haven't had the same year twice,” Shellman said. “Something changes every year, and we figure it out. It really is a great company to work for.”

Ryan Bongiovanni returned to Northstar after fighting in Afghanistan. While he served, the resort helped him stay in touch with his family, and even provided a season pass for his wife to enjoy.“I know the law says the resort has to do a lot of things while I'm over there,” Bongiovanni said. “But it's pretty clear they went above and beyond.”Bongiovanni, like so many others at Northstar, has a diverse job ranging from managing the roller skating rink to valet parking to ensuring the Village stays clean and presentable. He graduated from Sierra Nevada College in Incline Village with a ski area management degree, and hopes to stay in the industry as long as possible.“The industry is so diverse,” he said. “You never know what you'll be doing next.”

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Oct 15, 2010 12:33PM Published Oct 15, 2010 12:25PM Copyright 2010 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.