If it hasn’t been made evident by now, we love people here at AAT! We love hearing about their stories and passions for our community, but we also love hearing about what our fellow locals do and why they do it! For example, we have some wonderful neighbors who own/manager some fantastic local businesses and serve our town tremendously by doing so! This fact is why AAT has partnered up with our good friends at B3 Glass, to bring you all “Small Business Fridays!” Each week, we’ll feature a different, local small business and talk with its owner and hear about their journey, their business in general, as well as their heart for their customers and our city!
This week, we’re joined by Michael Royer of Ruby Mountains Heli Experience and Ruby 360 Lodge, two businesses ran by Michael, his family, and their fantastic staff.
From mid-January through the first of April, Ruby Mountains Heli Experience provides its guests with a pure mountain adventure in the incredible snow and terrain of the remote Ruby Mountains, as it’s the US’ oldest, family-owned business of its kind. It’s helicopters and skiing; you know it’s going to be an extreme ride!
Adventurers of the heli-skiing are also able to enjoy the beauty and commodities of Ruby Lodge 360, a high-end facility located only ten minutes from Lamoille. Now, you may assume, because it’s associated with heli-skiing, that the only people who can afford to take advantage of a venue like Ruby Lodge 360 are jet setters who walk around wearing fur coats and Rolex watches; however, Michael and his family have set up their business so that almost anybody in the community can enjoy it. During the Summer season, the lodge is open and ready to be booked for conferences, weddings, parties, a base for hunters, hosting businessmen and women during conventions and expos, nightly lodging and more, at rates comparable to some of the other excellent venues in our area! Furthermore, the Royer’s have two yurts (Google it; they’re cool) available to rent out. They have one which sits next to a continually flowing stream and one located up in the mountains at ten thousand feet! Long story short, Michael and Team Ruby offers some incredible things right in our back yard!
Michael, thank you for joining us this week! I (Anthony Crosby) wanted to take the time to set up what you’re looking to offer people because not only is it all very thrilling and majestic, it all came to fruition because of your families’ story! Could you please explain to the AAT readers what I mean by that?
“My father, Joe, is from Marin County California (north of San Francisco). He was a bit of a rebel child, so as soon as he turned eighteen, he was gone! However, one thing he always did with his family was a lot of skiing; it was in his blood from a very young age. He eventually got a job in Alta, Utah as a fry cook at a grill. During that time, he was right next door to Snowbird Ski Resort, which is regarded as one of the top resorts in North America. With his skiing background, he was able to get hired there as a ski patroller. After the ski season, he would drive back to California on Interstate 80, which at that time was a little two-lane road. He would pass through our area and saw the Ruby Mountains with their beautiful snow-covered tops. There was nobody around, so he knew there had to be some good skiing in the area. He figured he could make something out here! Everybody said he was crazy; you can’t make a ski resort in the middle of the desert! However, he had a vision that nobody else did.”
“The Summer of 1976 he spent the time hiking around by foot, checking out the terrain and seeing if he could make something work. There was very little established out here at that time. The following Winter, 1977, was the first year of Ruby; they started the season in March and had thirteen people come out the first year. The following year, they had a few more people and then a few more people the next year; they made it work!”
“In the early eighties, my mom, Francy, came out here with a couple of her friends for a little ski trip, and Joe was her guide. So, that’s how my parents met. I was born a few years later and was raised here in Elko. I was super lucky to grow up involved with the business. I finished high school in Spring Creek before going to Utah State; the deal with my parents was I needed to leave town and get a degree, and then I could come back to Elko and the family business if I wanted. I always knew this was home.”
“In the beginning days, all the guests stayed in Elko, and we had a small, ranch house facility in Lamoille that people would be shuttled to and from. My parents had a dream of building their own ski lodge; they bought our current property in the early nineties, but after I finished school, we went all in on putting a lodge up here. We started construction in June of 2016, and we were in, officially, in January of 2017 for our fortieth anniversary! I loved being able to see my parents get what they’ve been working their entire lives to accomplish.”
Michael, what do you love most about being involved with your family’s businesses, basically all your life?
“I love all the different types of people I get to meet in this business. We’ll have the guy who saves his entire life for this “bucket list” trip; he’ll come once, and he may never come again, but he was able to check it off his list! We’ll also host people who go heli-skiing all over the world, and this is just another one of their stops. It’s cool to talk with people and hear all their different stories. We get to hear all these stories because we’re a family operation. We’re not run by some corporation that’s not here. We’re here every day; we see the same snow and ski the same trails our guests do.”
What are some of the challenges associated with operating a skiing experience and event lodge?
“A lot of people will associate helicopter skiing with having a lot of money. This is a huge assumption made about not only our guests but about us and reserving Ruby 360 lodge, as well. Again, our family and staff are working hard, ourselves, every single day. The quality we offer at Ruby 360 lodge is a very high end, but it’s all at prices comparable to other event venues.”
As I mentioned at the start of the feature, the Royer’s have a great staff, so I also wanted to give one of them a chance to chime in with Michael about their businesses. Therefore, here’s what their reservations coordinator & dispatcher, Emily Kutosky, had to say.
“For me, as a newcomer, what I noticed, being unique to us, is how much we have to consider the weather. I’m in awe of how the Royer’s handle the guest who come out here for a helicopter skiing experience. If there’s a blizzard, they won’t take the helicopter out, but they’re the only operation in the lower forty-eight states that offers CAT skiing as a backup to the helicopters. A lot of other places will either cancel or have their guests sit in the lodge and just wait it out. This place is such a gem; I hope the rest of the Elko/Spring Creek community can come to feel the same way!”
Thanks for sharing from your perspective, Emily! Finally, Michael, could you please close our time together by sharing a bit about your heart for your families’ business as it moves forward and the gorgeous Ruby Mountains you all get to work and play in every day?
“I love it here! The Rubies are unique. If you put this mountain range anywhere else in the Western United States, it would be packed. That’s one big draw for our Winter guests; it’s convenient to get up here, and it’s also remote enough to where you can enjoy the space without being on top of a bunch of people and traffic.”
“This lodge and business were a dream and vision that my parents had, and I have been fortunate enough to be a part of that dream. I want the people in the area to know that we created this for the community and its people. We built this incredible venue, and we have it here for whatever you want to use it for! We just want people up here!”
You can stay caught up on everything going on around here at AAT by checking out our “Stay Connected” page! Make sure you never miss a feature!
See you around, Elko!