Anyone who has enjoyed a concert, ski race, or another special event at Vermont’s Jay Peak resort in recent years can thank NVU graduate Luke Sussdorff ’12 for planning it.
Luke, the resort’s special events manager, coordinates a range of activities, such as the popular Jeezum Crow and Bean & Brew festivals, a weekly trivia night, snowboard and ski competitions, several music series, and more.
As a student in the mountain recreation management program, (now the outdoor education, leadership, and tourism — or OELT — program) at NVU’s Lyndon campus, Luke gained so much real-world experience at New England resorts that his internship at Jay Peak led to a full-time job there.
NVU Set Him Up to Stand Out in His Career
During his internship his senior year, Luke worked in many departments at Jay: front desk, customer service, water park, food and beverage, parking and security. “You talk about a well-rounded experience, that’s exactly what I got through my internship,” Luke said. “That’s ultimately how I landed the job I’m currently in.”
Luke built valuable skills in other hands-on opportunities as a student as well, including lift maintenance and grooming at Stowe Mountain and in hospitality and customer service roles at Bretton Woods and Burke Mountain resorts.
“Those experiences prepared me well and set the stage to walk into a full-time job with confidence that I had received a well-balanced education for the work that would be expected of me,” Luke said.
Creating Memorable Events for Jay Peak Guests
After graduating, Luke started at Jay as the snow reporter, creating weather and ski forecasts for guests. In his first year as events manager, he helped develop the music festival Jeezum Crow which, with Jay’s Bean & Brew Festival, was named a top 10 summer event by the Vermont Chamber of Commerce.
“Having recognition from the state of Vermont for top 10 events is huge, a nice pat on the back for a job well done,” he said.
Jay Peak’s monthly music series is one of Luke’s projects, too. “I’m proud of our music series,” he said. “We’ve been able to grow from a 500-person ballroom to a 3,000-person outdoor amphitheater we use in the summer.”
Luke has brought big acts to the resort, including Widespread Panic, Umphrey’s McGee, Gov’t Mule, Bruce Hornsby, and others. “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to work with nationally known artists and not only book the bands but organize all the details related to every concert.”
OELT Students Benefit From a Comprehensive Education
Drawn to a career in the ski industry, Luke, a longtime snowboarder, transferred to NVU from another college. “The biggie for me was NVU’s overall ski resort management program. It’s so detailed regarding all the different offerings students are exposed to,” he says, from lift maintenance and mechanics and snowmaking to marketing and general resort operations. “It was really a well-rounded education.”
The practical skills Luke built while at NVU help him excel at Jay Peak.
“My time at NVU confirmed that it’s possible to develop a successful career in the ski resort industry and do what you love every day. Working for Jay Peak has been a fantastic experience. It wouldn’t be possible if it wasn’t for me making the move to NVU and getting that experience,” he says. “If you love the outdoors and want a career in outdoor recreation or the ski industry, NVU is definitely the place to go.”
Small Classes, Friendly Campus Lead to Close Student-Faculty Ties
In addition to the many opportunities for outdoor recreation on and off campus, Luke valued NVU’s community of students, faculty, and staff. “A small school where everybody knows one another was the perfect atmosphere for me,” he says. “I prefer an intimate campus community and intimate classrooms.”
The ability for students to develop close relationships with faculty led to Luke’s friendship with OELT professor Sean Doll, who oversaw Luke’s internship at Jay Peak. Now Luke manages the resort’s internship program with NVU-Lyndon.
“I love what I do,” Luke says. “Creating and developing positive experiences for folks — someone coming to a concert for the first time or someone competing at one of our on-mountain events — gives me a lot of joy and validation for what I do.”
Photo credit: Kathryn Sussdorff