Big Sky Resort
Growing Up Together
Longtime collaboration with Cerium Networks helps Big Sky Resort maintain smooth and steady operations.
Big Sky Resort, in Big Sky, Montana, includes skiing, golfing, zipline, shooting sports, and real estate. It is often a base camp to Yellowstone vacationers, and is touted as the “Biggest Skiing in America,” with a 4,350 vertical drop, and skiing over 5,800 acres. The resort has been a part of the Boyne Resorts family since 1976, and it includes a premier meeting facility that has hosted international trade conferences, President Obama, and his family.
- Cerium Networks has been a trusted technology partner to Big Sky since before Cerium’s inception.
- Big Sky operates an Avaya PBX with about 2000 total stations that function over approximately nine square miles of Big Sky Resort, as well as through multiple remote outposts.
- In 2011, Cerium implemented a new Cisco Wireless solution which entailed a complete removal and replacement of their existing wireless network. The new Cisco system upgraded the existing wired network and provided 125 access points, covering the Mountain Village area, which includes the core hotels.
- Meraki wireless solution, with eight access points for a standalone, managed wireless network for one of their employee housing facilities.
With the initial implementation of a Lucent solution in 1994, which integrated with the property management system and call center, “We’ve provided numerous, seamless upgrades to our solutions at Big Sky, to accommodate their growth,” says Jim. These upgrades have been driven by capacity requirements that span the successful growth of the Resort including some of these key developments:
- In 2000, Big Sky constructed the Summit hotel
- In 2005, Big Sky acquired nearby White Water Inn, which is approximately 12 miles away
- In 2007, Big Sky constructed the Village Center facility
- In 2013, Big Sky acquired neighboring Moonlight Basin Resort. This acquisition added more than 1000 acres of ski-area to the resort, as well as multiple buildings.
Relationships that Endure
Cerium Networks is a trusted technology partner to Big Sky through a relationship that began before our inception. In 1994, both founding partners of Cerium, Jim Wilson and Cerium President Roger Junkermier, brought Big Sky their original telephony solution: a Lucent system. Through our consultative approach, the communications platform has evolved into Avaya, and the company delivering the solution has become Cerium, but the people have remain unchanged, in a trusted partnership.
Dan Hoadley, IT Director for Big Sky Resort, speaks of Jim Wilson, the Cerium account executive for Big Sky, “Jim’s technical skill transcends his sales experience.”
The telephony system is more than just a phone system. “It’s a real workhorse; it just sits there and works,” says Hoadley. Today, what is now an Avaya PBX has about 2,000 total stations and functions over approximately nine square miles of Big Sky Resort, as well as through multiple remote outposts, such as the White Water Inn.
When a Guest Presses “0”
During peak season, there can be as many as 300 guests checking in or out. Without the phone system integration with property management, through Avaya’s hospitality module, the coordination between housekeeping and the front desk would not be feasible. The room management system has a dial-controlled room status — a code which indicates if a room is ready or being cleaned. There is also the local reservations call center, Big Sky Central Reservations. This Avaya call center is considered the life and blood of Big Sky, and is used for auto-attendant and call queueing. Having an Avaya PBX allows the Resort to flex up and down to adjust to high and low call volume times. They can add remote call center agents, and other staff members to help take calls. The call center is designed to handle the many complexities surrounding “when a guest presses 0.”
Another line of business for Big Sky Resort is called Base Camp. This includes their zipline, skeet shooting, mountain biking, etc. Base Camp has a separate call center managed by the same Avaya CM, which at times can have a heavy call volume. Since the zipline tours have set times, the arrival of a tour group can be a time of chaos. This is a time when the call queueing functionality of the Avaya system allows staff members to adjust to welcoming guests and managing calls.
Evolving To Meet Customer Needs
Over the years, Cerium has ventured into new technologies to answer the needs of customers like Big Sky Resort. This has led the way to our growth and our ongoing technology partnerships with our customers. “The people that formed Cerium and that we deal with today are all high-quality people. A lot of vendors don’t have that. [Cerium staff] are smart and qualified people that I can tap into on short notice. This is invaluable to me. Quick help when you need it,” says Dan.
An example of our natural evolution into new technologies is our wireless network implementation at Big Sky. In 2011, Dan was tasked with addressing the numerous guest complaints surrounding their Wi-Fi system. Cerium recommended a Cisco Wireless solution. This was a major project for Big Sky, as it entailed a complete removal and replacement of their existing wireless network. The new Cisco system upgraded the existing wired network, and provided 125 access points, covering the Mountain Village area, including the core hotels. The solution was primarily intended for guest services and meeting facilities, but also securely extends the corporate wireless network. The Cisco system has the capability to add a dedicated, private network for conferences and includes multiple access points on the mountain. The Wi-Fi extends over the majority of the chairlifts for scanning lift tickets.
The new system was designed to accommodate the 20– 30 percent increase in usage during peak parts of the year. In the winter of 2015–2016, Dan stated they saw 1,800 concurrent connections on the system at Big Sky, almost double what he’d seen in previous years. The system works without complaints from Big Sky customers. The system has had an increase in bandwidth from the 50mb circuit originally implemented to a 200mb circuit today.
Big Sky also needed a standalone, managed wireless network for one of their employee housing facilities. Cerium implemented a Meraki wireless solution with eight access points to meet this need. Dan notes that this is a demanding environment in terms of usage, with employees using a lot of streaming requiring high bandwidth.
Cerium is a trusted technology advisor and partner to many customers in the Northwest. We are also much more than a telephony company. We have a robust Data Practice with deep expertise in the networks that support both our telephony solutions and the communications needs of our customers. We have a highly skilled network security team, offer managed services, and a high-level Contact Center Practice. Cerium utilizes some of the most highly qualified and experienced engineers in the industry, and our account executives have expertise extending far beyond typical sales staff from competing partners. What sets us apart is our consultative approach and our commitment to customer satisfaction.
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