Industry insiders: Vails loss is Intrawests gain
January 9, 2008
Whistler-Blackcomb, British Columbia Blue Mountain, Ontario Mountain Creek, New Jersey Mammoth, California Stratton, Vermont Steamboat Winter Park Copper MountainVAIL Ski industry insiders say Vail Resorts lost one of the good ones when Bill Jensen agreed to go to work for Intrawest. Vails loss is definitely Intrawests gain, Avon-based ski executive Jerry Jones said. Jones added that Jensen is going to Intrawest at a good time for that company. The 2010 Winter Olympics will be in Vancouver, which means the skiing events will be at Intrawests Whistler and Blackcomb resorts. And, Jones, said, his impression of Intrawest is that the company has needed a firm hand at its helm since it was acquired in 2006 by Fortress Investment Group, a private equity company. I know at Winter Park, everythings kind of on hold these days, said Jones, who is also part of a development group that recently opened a golf resort in Grand County. Jensen, Jones said, will be the leader Intrawest needs now. Hes an extremely good executive, said George Gillett, president of Booth Creek Ski Holdings and a former owner of Vail Associates (now Vail Resorts). Hes had a major positive impact on Vail and the ski industry. That impact, Gillett said, runs the gamut from his knowledge of market research to the various systems a company needs to a keen eye for the right kind of real estate development. Then theres Jensens focus on customers. Bill has a real appreciation of customers and how the customer experience is paramount, National Ski Areas Association President Michael Barry said. Bill believes every decision you make has to be made from a customer standpoint. Telluride Ski & Golf Company Chief Executive Officer Dave Riley said Jensens time at Vail allowed him to have a big influence on the rest of the industry. Hes always had a real sensitivity to the demographics of the market, Riley said. There were a lot of things he had a hand in influencing the industry. Bill started in grooming, Riley added. He really raised the bar with regard to slope preparation. Riley said many of Jensens safety initiatives at Vail were emulated by other resorts, too. A lot of ski areas are benefiting from initiatives he started at Vail, Riley said. In addition to his work at Vail, Jensen has been heavily involved in industry groups including the National Ski Areas Association and Colorado Ski Country USA. Im used to having Bill involved in those groups, and I hope he stays involved, Riley said. He was always looking to improve Vail, and he was always involved and effective in the industry. Riley, who has known Jensen for years, said Jensen is well-known as a strategic thinker, and his move to Intrawest with just one full ski season before the Vancouver Olympics might reflect some strategic thinking on the part of his new company. Im sure that was part of (Intrawests) plan from the start, Riley said. Rob Perlman, director of Colorado Ski Country USA, said, like Riley, hes going to miss Jensens involvement in the state group. Hell do a fantastic job with Intrawest, and its a positive thing for Bill, but Im sad to see him go, Perlman said.