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Episode 164: How to Adapt to Changing Customer Preferences, With Dana Bullen

The PR Maven Podcast

Release Date: 03/12/2024

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From running the rental shop at Sugarloaf to becoming president of Sunday River, Dana Bullen joins Nancy to talk about his career in the ski business. While it may have been all about the snow when he started his career, Dana describes how people also take their experience into consideration, from the food to guest services. It all comes back to the snow at the end of the day, so Dana describes the importance of snowmaking and how Sunday River shares the snow conditions with its audience. 

00:00 Introduction to the PR Maven Podcast 

01:40 Introducing Guest: Dana Bullen 

05:06 How Dana knew he wanted to be the president of a ski resort 

07:20 Building the Sunday River brand  

10:27 Adapting to Changing Marketing Techniques 

14:48 Dana’s Personal Brand 

19:35 The importance of snowmaking at Sunday River 

24:02 How Sunday River promotes snowmaking 

26:39 Training team members to achieve a common vision 

32:01 Helpful Resources 

 

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About Dana 

With more than 30 years of ski industry and management experience, Dana Bullen began serving in his current role as resort president of Sunday River in September 2004. He worked his way up the ski-business ladder shortly after earning a bachelor’s degree in history from the University of Maine Farmington in 1988, holding various positions at Sugarloaf as well. In 2017, he was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame. A native of Farmington, Maine, Dana enjoys skiing, fishing, hunting and the Maine outdoors. 

 

Bonus Q&A  

1. Dana, the pandemic and climate change are both impacting your business. How is Sunday River responding to the challenges and opportunities presented by these external factors? 

The ski business like any outdoor-based industry adapts to outside influences constantly. The Sunday River team is made up of seasoned veterans who embrace the need to constantly improve to meet the needs of our guests. The great news is that we still get to live and play in the outdoors.  

  

2. Sunday River continues to expand and evolve, which is so impressive! How do you manage your team so they are all focused on the same goals? 

Sunday River has a team of 1,000 leaders. The best example of this was their reaction to the devastating storm in December 2023. We had washed out roads, culverts, bridges, buildings and ski-related infrastructure. Within 24 hours all roads were passable and within 00 hours (about 4 days) we were open for skiing again. This did not happen with one person leading or even 50 people leading. It happened because all 1000 folks were moving in the same direction, working independently in their respective areas of expertise but also mindful of the collective good of the team. We had a team member who was stranded in the hotel, cut off from the resort, with a washed-out bridge that first night of the storm. They need their medicine. Without encouragement or direction, two team members (one who was a raft guide) took it upon themselves to go get the medicine and raft it across. That is the best example I can share of folks leading on their own. We are blessed with so many of these folks. 

  

3. What is the most impactful thing that Sunday River has done to grow its customer base and continue to grow the business? 

While we continue to improve our snowmaking and create the most modern lift system in the East, the IGLU we built this year was unique and took on a life of its own.