Casey Swiss loves the Greatest Snow on Earth—so much that he’s planned his career around it. The Michigan native chased pow for multiple winters as a ski instructor, but he didn’t stop there. Swiss leveraged his degree from the Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (PRT) to work for some of Utah’s best-known hospitality names. Now he’s a guest services manager on the slopes of Deer Valley Resort, and a good day starts with a few runs before heading into the office. We caught up with Swiss on a day off to find out the secrets behind a career in hospitality management.
How did you end up choosing the U and the College of Health?
“I’m originally from Detroit but moved around a bunch as a child. My family moved back and forth from Detroit and Germany three different times with the automotive industry. We were fortunate to travel a bit growing up, visiting lots of mountain towns or cities near mountains, and that was one of the things that got me pointed in the direction of hospitality management. That was also what drew me to the U to begin with, since I’m a big skier. Utah was an out of state experience, so it was more of a risk to take, but I wanted to see what Salt Lake and Park City had to offer.
The U has been an incredible catalyst in pursuing a career in mountain/ski service and hospitality. I originally enrolled at the business school in 2015 but redirected to hospitality management. The presence of a company like Marriott in Salt Lake City made that program seem like one of the better avenues to get involved with. By 2018 I’d worked my way through the curriculum and Eric Gardner and Preston Tanner were awesome in tailoring it to what I needed. Preston helped set up an internship for me with Marriott Vacation Club—in the call center of all places—and that turned into a full-time job.”
Tell me about your experience in the College of Health: why did you choose the COH, what were your educational goals, and what did you think you’d do with your degree at the time?
“It’s kind of crazy how it turned out. When I switched from business to PRT I asked my parents if this was the right decision, and I said that maybe it will lead to a career at a ski-in/ski-out Marriott. That’s exactly how it ended up going. There were so many PRT courses that showed me what a career in resort management looked like and how to succeed. It set up the opportunity to have a career path that’s meaningful, but it’s also given me a fulfilling life that includes skiing and travel.”
Tell me about what you do for work now. What are your longterm career goals?
“I’m a Guest Services Manager at Black Diamond Lodge, which is 27 higher end ski-in/ski-out condos managed by Deer Valley. Among other things, I oversee the front office, concierge and ski valet. In a property like this, your clientele has high expectations, so I’m on call 24 hours a day. When things are going well, I have time to go skiing in the morning, but when things are a little more hectic, you just have to get hands on and do whatever it takes for however long it takes.
I love the opportunity to connect with guests and create memorable experiences. I remember when we lived in Germany, my dad took my sister and I on a train for the weekend ski trip. We were staying at an all-inclusive hotel on the slopes—it sounded easy and convenient, but the logistics turned out to be really complicated since we’d never skied before. Now that I’m a professional I see families like that, and I want to help make things as seamless as possible. At the end of the day, they come back and tell you how awesome it was, and that makes some of those long days worth it.
At some point I would like to be general manager of a property in a ski town. Longer term, it would be very exciting to be in a corporate role where I can influence how a company or group of hotels provides service to its guests or training to its associates.”
Any favorite professor from your time in the College?
“I thought all my professors were incredibly insightful. Michael Kane taught a Business of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Class and he was a great storyteller. He ran an operation at Zion Ponderosa Ranch Resort, and he’d also have industry professionals come into class and present. That combination of coursework, his experience and insight, and the glimpse into the professional world made the class phenomenal.”
Any advice you’d give to current students in your program?
“I think the most valuable thing you can have going into the hospitality industry is exposure. My thing was ski instructing, which I did every winter in Park City for a few years before enrolling at the U. I was able to look under the umbrella of Vail Resorts and see how everything is interconnected. Now that I know Vail so well, it helps me make better recommendations to my guests. If you can get involved in the field early, it’s invaluable.”
What does more health, less medicine mean to you?
“When I think of health, I think of wellbeing. That’s not just being okay and meeting a status quo, that’s having the capability to be your best self. Life’s too short to not have your passions involved, and you have to make time for the things and people who are important to you. Avoid burnout wherever you can and make sure your priorities are in check.”