Three C’s Award Recipient Michael O’Neill Embraces the Role of Ski Big Bear Ambassador

For 3 C’s Award recipient Michael O’Neill, skiing has always been a family affair. He and his wife, Anne, started skiing with their four children 18 years ago at Ski Big Bear at Masthope Mountain, Pennsylvania. This love of skiing turned into a love of teaching, not only for O’Neill, but also for his children. His daughter, Erin, was the first in the family to become a ski instructor, earning her Alpine Level I certification and Children’s Specialist 1 certificate.

“Erin started instructing at our home mountain when she was 15,” said O’Neill. “It started as a winter job in between high school sports activities. She did very well and enjoyed the local skiing community and working with the children she taught.”

Now an instructor at Stowe Mountain, Vermont, Erin was joined a few years later by her younger brother Patrick as an instructor at Ski Big Bear. It was around this time that their dad realized that he should follow their lead, especially after Chris Ramirez, Ski Big Bear’s snowsports director at the time, asked if he’d be interested in joining his kids as an instructor.

Next up was Erin and Patrick’s younger brothers, Sean and Ryan. Like their older siblings, they skied every weekend and after school when Ski Big Bear was open, which led them to becoming instructors as well. Michael was able to work with Sean and Ryan for a few years before they left for college, and he still works with Anne, who is the HR specialist and bookkeeper at Ski Big Bear. Even though their children had moved on from Ski Big Bear, the O’Neill’s family had grown exponentially over the years.

“I stayed on after my kids left because I made lifelong friends with some of my colleagues, and I enjoy working with the clientele,” Michael noted, adding that because Ski Big Bear is a learning mountain, “there are a lot of young families, and it’s wonderful to pass along my love of skiing to them.”

From Ski Instructor to Mountain Ambassador

That love of skiing grew into a love for his home mountain. After a couple seasons as an instructor, O’Neill’s supervisor, Jim Mowatt, who is now the rental shop manager at Ski Big Bear, recognized his passion for Ski Big Bear and promoted him to assistant snowsports school director. His daily tasks can include anything from cleaning off snow and putting up fences to helping out in the rental shop, developing training manuals, and orienting new staff. Today, he is one of the resort’s top ambassadors, which is exemplified by his work with guests.

“If we see guests wandering around, we’re going to help them and ask, ‘Hey, are you OK?’,” O’Neill said of the responsibility that comes with being a mountain ambassador. “If someone falls down, we’re there to pick them up. It’s making sure that guests are having a good time, their equipment works right, and their helmets are on correctly.”


O’Neill excels in this role because he prides himself on being a good listener. “Kids come in after a tough lesson and sometimes they’re emotional,” he said. So I try to “get a clear understanding of what the problem is and then we resolve it. This is active listening, making sure that you’re really hearing what someone is saying, because a lot of people emotionally talk.”

In addition to being an active listener, O’Neill enjoys making his students feel welcomed and engaged. “First off, you’re asking questions: ‘Where are you from? What’s your favorite subject in school?,’” he said. “It’s trying to get to know them, but also making sure they feel safe and that they’re having an enjoyable time.”

As for teaching, O’Neill is passionate about leading group lessons, which, at Ski Big Bear, are only for first-time skiers. “Groups are more challenging than private lessons because we have all different ages and abilities in a group lesson,” he said. “I enjoy the challenge of introducing students to the sport and look forward to encouraging them to continue their learning experience and become lifelong skiers.”

Going forward, O’Neill hopes to earn his Alpine Level II and perhaps his Level III certification; though he’s a realist. “I’ve had both my hips replaced recently, and I have a full-time role [as a ruminant business development manager in the agricultural business].” Regardless of what the future holds, one thing’s for certain: There’s nothing he loves more than spending time with his snowsports loving family and his extended family at Ski Big Bear.


The 3 C’s Award recognizes members who demonstrated positive leadership within their snowsport school or region through consistent collaboration, communication, and cooperation with peers and guests – they serve as role models for others. Read more about National Academy Awards & Recognition Night, held last month in Big Sky, Montana.