Alan Henceroth's career in the ski industry started with a simple premise: He loved the sport and wanted a way to blur the lines between work and play.
Henceworth started as a bus boy 30 years ago in the cafe at Keystone Resort, "purely for the skiing," and stayed for the next five years. In 1988, he moved to Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, where he was employed as the ski patrol director.
Henceroth never would have guessed he'd still be at A-Basin 25 years later, working as the COO and general manager.
"I didn't have a grand design to work in the ski business, but I fell into exactly what I wanted to do," he said.
In his 25th season at A-Basin, Henceroth, 52, sits comfortably in his office, leaning back in his computer chair with one knee perched against his desk as he talks.
In front of him is a window revealing a scene of glistening snow and pine trees, accompanied by the melodic carvings of skiers and snowboarders as they make their tracks down the mountain. A large map of A-Basin and pictures of Henceroth's family adorn the walls.
It's a comfortable setting, but Henceroth says he avoids spending most of his time in the office. After a quarter century at A-Basin, he'd still rather be outside.
"I'm really on the move all the time. I really like the chance to get out and about," he said.
No two days are exactly the same for a man in Henceroth's position. He makes sure the ski area opens on time and runs smoothly throughout the day. A lot of his time is spent interacting with workers and guests on the mountain.
"Alan's greatest trait is his sense of humor," said Tim Finnigan, the director of mountain operations at A-Basin. "He can talk to the first-year lift operator as well as a 40-year local with a very open and caring attitude."
Finnigan is another longtime employee at the ski area. He was on the ski patrol when Henceroth came in as the director.
"We've made a lot of turns together," Finnigan said.
They still like to sneak out onto the mountain when they can.
"While we're out there we don't just go skiing, we talk about projects that have come up and grooming and snowmaking and the day-to-day stuff. Alan still likes to be involved in it," Finnegan said.
Interacting with the guests and employees at A-Basin is one of the ski manager's favorite parts about his job.
"We've got a really special group of people working here, and I've built some extraordinary relationships with some of the people I've worked with over the years," Henceroth said.
He also tries to keep guests at A-Basin happy.
"They have as intense of feelings about the place as I do. I appreciate them coming here and I think they appreciate the work we do to give them some skiing and snowboarding," the general manager said.
Both Henceroth and Finnigan say they've stayed employed at A-Basin because they appreciate the unique setting at the mountain. At 960 acres, the ski area is big enough to offer a diverse ski and snowboarding experience. But it's not so big that you get lost in the crowd, they said.
One of Henceroth's challenges is to keep improving the ski area while preserving the things that make it unique.
In the past 10 years, he's been involved in several major projects at A-Basin, including the addition of snow-making capabilities, the construction of the rental shop building and the Black Mountain Lodge, a mid-mountain restaurant, located adjacent to the top of Black Mountain Express lift. Henceroth also played a big part in the Montezuma Bowl expansion, which increased the ski area's terrain by 80 percent during the 2007-08 season.
"All of our guests and our employees have really high expectations. We want to keep the vibe of the place the same, but we want to steadily work on it," Henceroth said. "Trying to get buy in and create a place that everybody likes is a challenging task. It takes a fine touch sometimes to do things that everybody likes."
Finnigan applauded the A-Basin COO for his ability to follow through with his plans.
"Alan is very motivated and clear thinking. When he has a vision for something he pushes forward with his vision to become a reality," he said.
But when Henceroth sees something isn't working, he's not afraid to back off if the situation calls for it, Finnigan added.
Henceroth is modest about his long-term success at A-Basin.
"I've been lucky to be around at the right place at the right time, when some good changes were happening and opportunity was created," he said.
And he doesn't plan on working anywhere else anytime soon.
"It's been a good place for me and I hope to be here quite a while longer," he said.