MEET TEAM TARGHEE: MARK NEFF
We could start by asking what makes Grand Targhee Special? We could mention the abundance of snowfall, the Wydaho Nachos, or the throwback feel. We could deep dive into all the groups of people that call the Ghee home from our long-time locals to the young shredders. While there are many things that make up the fabric of Grand Targhee it is our employees that truly make this place special. Our employees are the people that have chosen to make Grand Targhee their home away from home. They certainly spend more time up here than anyone and I’ll guarantee several of them get more days on the slopes than nearly everybody. Ultimately, they are the ones that cultivate that Targhee vibe, so we wanted to start introducing you to the people who plow the parking lots, keep the lifts running, pour your coffee, and so much more.
First up let us introduce our Director of Mountain Operations Mark Neff. Since May of 2019, he has overseen lift maintenance, lift operations, grooming, vehicle maintenance, cat skiing, the terrain park, and mountain patrol. Mark has been working in the ski industry for decades, and when asked what got him started the answer is simple.
“Ski Bum. I moved out west to be a ski bum. No desire ever to be in management or anything like that. I just showed up and worked every day and progressively got more responsibility. I showed up in Park West in Utah, went to the Mountain Manager and said I want a job. He said, ‘Well what are your skills?’ I said, ‘I got a strong back’. He said, ‘Be here at 8 tomorrow.’ That’s how I started in the ski industry.”
Since then, Mark has certainly added to the resume. While he has never been a lifty, he has done a little bit of everything at ski areas across the west. From ski school and grooming to snowmaking and guiding, he has seen it all.
“I worked for the ski resort that summer, and then the following summer they were doing a lift expansion and I jumped on with them as a subcontractor for lift installation. Then I built ski lifts for 15 years in the summers and worked at ski resorts in the winter for the most part.”
It is that passion for ski lifts that has kept him going and kept coming back to the industry. Even early retirement and a stint spent surfing waves in Mexico couldn’t keep him away from the mountains. Having previously spent time in the area as a lift mechanic at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort the allure of the Tetons was always there.
“It’s hard to leave. We always had our finger on the pulse and when it happened, I was elated to come back here!”
Long before becoming an employee Mark was familiar with the area and what the Targhee vibe was all about. The first date that he took his wife Amanda on was to the Targhee Bluegrass Festival. If that does not sound like a Targhee material, I don’t know what does.
The Teton region, the small-town feel, and the powder skiing were all draws to return to the area, but it was also the opportunity to be involved in the growth of the resort that appealed to our current head of Mountain Ops.
“We have to go somewhere; we have to grow a little bit, so everyone has a good experience.”
The goal is ultimately to maintain the guest experience with sustainable growth. Each project will help nurture growth in a way that will be sustainable to the mountain and guest experience without adding an overwhelming number of new visitors. That growth is starting to happen with projects like the maintenance facility, employee housing, and an expanded parking lot. While all those endeavors are wonderful when your job title includes the word mountain and you have a passion for chairlifts, getting to build a new one is certainly the cherry on top.
The new Peaked lift is set to open for the start of the 2022/23 winter season and will give the public access to new lift-served terrain. Currently the area is home to our cat ski operation, but don’t let that fool you. There is much more in store for future skiers and riders than just pretty views and mellow pow.
“I think it is the steepest sustained pitches that Targhee is going to have. People who have never been over there are going to be shocked.”
In addition to the new terrain that will be open, Mark is excited for all the changes and challenges that come with expanding the on-mountain experience. How will the new terrain impact the way Targhee is skied? How do we patrol new areas and protect our guests? Where will the new powder stashes be, and will Blackfoot reemerge as the sneaky powder haven of old?
People like Mark see the writing on the wall. They know that Teton Valley will continue to grow and that Grand Targhee will have to keep pace with that growth as time goes on. Yes, growth evolution is scary but it’s essential to see the big picture and how Targhee can be part of it.
“I think Grand Targhee is in a perfect position to grow and bring something to the industry that is getting lost in the shuffle of the corporate ski industry. It’s small, it’s quaint, and it doesn’t have to be upscale to appease everybody. Here at Targhee, our value is still in overdelivering.”
It’s hard to say exactly what the future will look like. We are living through unprecedented times that impact every aspect of life including, our bubble here in the Tetons. Yet regardless of what that future holds if we have people like Mark, we can all relax a little knowing that Grand Targhee is in good hands. I’ve tried to summarize what the Ghee means to Mark but I think he nailed with just a few simple words of his own.
“It holds something in our hearts. It isn’t just a job, there’s way more to it than just a job.“