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The Fractional Risk Manager

A new approach to ski resort risk management
Man trekking across mountain

Ski resorts are known for their breathtaking landscapes, adrenaline-pumping slopes and the thrill of gliding down powdered mountains. However, behind the scenes, ensuring the safety of thousands of skiers and snowboarders is no easy feat. With the rise in popularity of winter sports, ski resorts face an increasing need to manage risk effectively.

An innovative solution gaining traction in other industries is fractional management. Traditionally, it is the general manager who is responsible for all aspects of risk management, including ensuring that inherently risky outdoor recreational activities run in a reasonably safe manner. The general manager might be in charge of several things, including training ski patrols and lift evacuation, training other departments to identify risk, engineering out or mitigating the risk of activities such as mountain biking, high rope courses and zip lines, in addition to skiing and educating for risks that can’t be removed for these types of activities. These responsibilities can take a toll on general managers.

“The truth is in the details — if you aren’t capturing those details, you run the risk of someone else creating them for you.”

Jesse Whitcomb, Whitcomb Resolution

That’s why Whitcomb Resolution, LLC is bringing fractional management to the ski and outdoor recreation industries, focusing on general liability and risk management.

Fractional risk managers are highly skilled and experienced professionals who bring their knowledge to multiple businesses across many industries, working on a contract or part-time basis. Co-founders of Whitcomb Resolution, Jesse and Tiffany Whitcomb, were inspired to bring this concept to the ski industry.

“We recognized the range of benefits for a resort to essentially share the expertise of a risk manager among multiple resorts; this is known as fractional risk management, or FRM. We care about the ski industry and the people who are in it,” said Tiffany.

Jesse acts as the company’s fractional risk manager, bringing over 25 years of experience in the outdoor recreation industry with more than 10 of those years in claims handling, litigation management and loss control in the ski insurance industry.

“I see us as part of the team,” said Jesse. “My role is to work collaboratively with a resort’s management team as an extension of the risk management program already in place. Being able to share the knowledge and skills I’ve picked up working with ski resorts across North America, I see as beneficial to the industry. In short, we bring a confidential wide-lens approach to the resort’s risk management efforts, pre-loss to post-loss.”

Being in the best possible hands when the inevitable occurs

Resorts currently working with Whitcomb Resolution view them as a strategic partner, not only relying on them as a resource, but also recognizing their benefit in alleviating a manager’s workload.

“Having the right people in the right positions is key to any operation’s success,” said Jay Dougherty of Mount Southington, in Connecticut. “As the manager of a small suburban winter sports facility, it’s often hard to effectively fill these roles. Whitcomb Resolution has been the perfect solution to this challenge. Jesse’s knowledge, experience and passion for the winter sports industry give me confidence that when the inevitable occurs, we’re in the best possible hands.

“We care about our clients and can pivot quickly to help them as new issues arise.”

Tiffany Whitcomb, Whitcomb Resolution

“We always tell our clients, ‘No one knows your resort like you do,’” said Tiffany. “Our goal is to work collaboratively with a resort’s management team. We take an initial confidential ‘snapshot’ of the resort’s operations and identify what the resort wants to work on. We aren’t there to tell resorts how to run their business, but we can provide considerations and encourage discussion on potential solutions consistent with generally accepted industry practices.”

Whitcomb Resolution offers a variety of plans to cater to a resort’s specific needs. Services include confidential on-site operation reviews, policies and procedures, confidential and thorough assessment of potential liability exposure, advice on how to meet industry practices and on-site incident investigation training. Some clients may want help in one particular area while others want them to have a hand with all things risk-related.

“Let’s say there’s an issue with a trail and some issues with incidents happening in a certain location – I may have seen a particular problem before and seen how one resort has fixed it. I can take that idea back to a client and they can use it or transform it to make it their own, to remove or mitigate that risk or warn or educate people,” said Jesse.

Jesse and Tiffany Whitcomb, founders of
Whitcomb Resolution
Jesse and Tiffany Whitcomb, founders of Whitcomb Resolution

“At the end of the day, we care about our clients and can pivot quickly to help them as new issues arise,” said Tiffany.

One of the main focus points Whitcomb Resolution has seen among its clients is incident investigation training.

“In the outdoor recreation industry, there are inherent risks, and despite all measures taken, incidents are still going to occur. It is imperative to conduct an appropriate and timely investigation,” said Jesse. “The truth is in the details. If you aren’t capturing those details, you run the risk of someone else creating them for you.”

Integrating a fractional risk manager into the team can be nothing short of transformational for resorts and outdoor recreational companies. The potential benefits of taking this new alternative approach are manifold, empowering establishments to take their operational efficiency to new heights.

FRM advantages

Resorts should contemplate three key advantages when considering the addition of a fractional risk manager to their team: knowledge and experience, cost-effective and tailored solutions, and workload relief.

Knowledge and experience

The first vital benefit that fractional risk managers can bring to the ski industry is their wealth of knowledge and experience. These professionals often boast extensive backgrounds in the outdoor recreation industry, accumulated over several decades of practical experience. Their confidential insights and guidance empower resorts to make informed decisions that positively impact their guests and operations.

“By hiring (a fractional risk manager), not only are these resorts hiring a well-versed risk management professional, but they are hiring a strategic partner who can jump in, headfirst with minimal onboarding needed,” said Tiffany.

When in pursuit of an fractional risk manager, the importance of selecting an individual with a background that complements and enriches the team cannot be overstated. The right fractional risk manager possesses a unique blend of expertise and experience, capable of seamlessly integrating into a resort’s team and elevating its overall capabilities.

Cost-effective and tailored solutions

Many ski resorts face budgetary constraints that prevent them from hiring full-time risk management personnel. FRM offers a cost-effective solution that aligns with a resort’s specific needs and requirements. fractional risk managers possess the ability to adapt and understand the distinct requirements of each resort, enabling them to offer tailor-made services that address the specific challenges resorts face. This personalized approach ensures that every resort receives customized risk management solutions, finely tuned to enhance and elevate their overall risk management operations. By engaging with experienced professionals on an as-needed basis, resorts can enjoy a comprehensive suite of risk management services without compromising their financial stability.

Workload relief

Running a ski resort entails a diverse range of responsibilities and tasks, with risk management being a critical aspect. Fractional risk mangers may alleviate the workload burden on existing staff and management by assuming responsibility for certain risk management functions as identified by any resort. Shifting risk-related tasks to FRM companies such as Whitcomb Resolution allows resorts to lighten the load so employees and management can focus elsewhere.

With fractional risk managers on board, resorts can confidently navigate the slopes, delivering exceptional service while mitigating potential risks.

Solving staffing issues while adding expertise

Amidst the ever-changing landscape after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses across the United States are grappling with staffing issues that have reverberated through numerous industries. Adapting to these challenges demands creative solutions to cater to the ever-evolving needs of guests.

As the ski and outdoor recreation industry continues to evolve, it becomes increasingly clear that embracing FRM is not just a pragmatic choice, but a strategic investment that reaps benefits for both ski resorts and their valued guests.