In all the great hotels that Mark Bell has played a role, he’s seen one common thread.
“In the places that I’ve worked that have been successful, they all have a similar culture,” says the new manager of the Sunshine Mountain Lodge, which sits high in the heart of Banff National Park. “They’ve all been service oriented.”
Treating guests as though they are special might seem obvious, but not every hotel follows the practice. That’s why Bell trains staff on how to do the little things that make the difference between a mediocre stay and a memorable one.
“It’s that commitment to service that made Mark the perfect choice for Sunshine,” says John Scurfield, Senior Vice-President of Sales, Marketing and Resort Operations.
Hotel employees don’t think of providing service as “going into servitude,” says Bell. Instead, they want to provide the highest level of service, treating hotel guests as they would want to be treated themselves: “It’s like this magic potion that takes over.”
And the guests who stay at Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort’s unique on-mountain hotel rightly expect premium treatment.
“You’re dealing with people who’ve been around the world,” he says. “They expect quality.”
Bell, 53, joined Sunshine Village Ski & Snowboard Resort in September. Job 1 is to make sure the unique on-mountain facility is ship-shape for its scheduled mid-November opening and to hire and train the seasonal staff who will deliver on the service promise.
With the spectacular West Wing still new in the 84-room facility, the only major physical change to the hotel this year is reconstruction of the popular outdoor hot tub. Come November, guests will be able to once again enjoy a unique winter vacation high in the Canadian Rockies. And what an experience it is.
Bell has many years of experience in the Banff area and around the world. The son of a military careerist, as a youth he travelled across Canada. He spent some of his high school years in Calgary where he developed his love for mountain skiing. His first hotel posting was in the 1980s with the famous Empress Hotel in Victoria – now part of the Fairmont chain that includes the Banff Springs.
He moved on to manage a property in Perth, Australia, and about two years later returned to the Banff area to be part of the team that opened the Rimrock in 1993 – a move that helped shape his views on service: “We were four-diamond within the first two years,” he notes.
Other career highlights have taken him to Ontario, Fernie and the Westin properties in Vancouver, Halifax and Edmonton.
Banff has remained in his heart, though, and so his move to the Sunshine Mountain Lodge feels like a homecoming. And what a home.
“You’ve got this little luxury boutique hotel sitting up in one of the most spectacular places on Earth,” says Bell.