Professional Profile: Michael Gray
“Every guest through our doors is a VIP.”
– Alyeska Hotel Director of Rooms Michael Gray
By P.M. Fadden
International travel destination and in-state icon, Alyeska Hotel and Resort recently welcomed Michael Gray to its Director of Rooms Division position.
An interactive and personable administrator, Gray is a veteran presence at the Girdwood resort, fulfilling with distinction multiple Alyeska Hotel roles since his 2010 arrival.
“I think we all recognize the special nature of where we live and work,” said Canadian born Gray. “Alaska and Alyeska Resort, specifically, are experiential locations. Moments captured while here last a lifetime. My goal is to uphold and enhance those experiences via professionalism, integrity and respect–among guests as well as co-workers.”
Ontario-born, Gray was an infant when immigrated to the United States by his parents, and he first fell in love with skiing at Roundtop Mountain, Pennsylvania. Later, East Coast collegiate years would pair courses in Civil Environmental Engineering with competitive lacrosse before allure of hospitality study would ultimately lead Gray overseas.
Enrollment with a New Hampshire-based exchange program opened for Gray opportunity to train at leading international hotel management facility, Les Roches Switzerland. The program concluded after a semester but Gray stayed on, finishing his Bachelor’s and graduating with emphasis upon International Hotel Management as well as Finance—while skiing nearly every day.
“Thinking back to early years,” recalled Gray, “I marvel most at a journey taken in 1996, alongside my travel company-founding Grandmother, to Seward, Alaska.”
“That was my first glimpse of not only this state but also of Alyeska,” he said. “I remember looking up at it through a bus window. Now look where we are.”
Beginnings of a career in hospitality management took Gray to Jackson Hole. Administrative shuffleboard would soon see him transitioned to Chicago where work was good but snow and ski-access scarce.
“I started researching places of highest annual snowfalls,” Gray said, “and re-found Alyeska.”
Today, barely one month into his new role as Director of Rooms, Gray evinces both consideration and positivity at the opportunities ahead.
“Alaska is a challenging location to operate hospitality,” Gray said. “Amenities and supplies aren’t just down the street.”
“Fortunately, we have an amazing team put together to operate at the highest possible level. Part of my job is to retain that team, focus that team, and give that team direction.”
At present, Gray’s recent appointment oversees responsibilities encompassing front desk, front drive, fitness center and pool. But, says Gray, continued development of the role will also include housekeeping, an administration overall of approximately 100 employees.
“Every hospitality school graduate dreams of running a hotel,” Gray said. “At a resort as large as Alyeska, there is opportunity to take that dream to the levels we wish to see achieved.”
Alyeska Hotel, according to the Director, underscores the interpretation of guest wants before they become needs, while resort amenities and personnel contribute in making Girdwood’s largest commercial accommodation and ski facility an Alaska institution.
“Our services and team members are absolutely among our strengths,” Gray said. “We play where we work, and everyone is invested personally in what happens at Alyeska and around Girdwood.”
“We are where we are because we love it,” he said. “Girdwood and Alyeska afford life balance. For me, skiing as often as possible equates to healthy lifestyle and represents something important to me.”
“This mountain and skiing is a sort of spirituality, centering; that, plus pursuit of hospitality excellence are what keeps me balanced in this wonderful valley.”
Gray’s appreciation for area recreation and lifestyle magnifies a passion for continual professional improvement. Looking toward the future, the new Director of Rooms emphasizes stability of leadership and on-going team building. Long term, Gray believes, such practices create an even stronger and more wholly capable Alyeska family.
“This is a learning process,” Gray said, “one that means engagement in multiple hotel areas while also understanding my team. It’s a refining process centered upon a mutual, central goal. Every guest through our doors is a VIP,” he said. “To my view, that’s the essence of hospitality at Alyeska.”