A quarter-century at the Basin: General manager Jim Gentling and snowcat connoisseur Dick Dreyer celebrate a long run
ARAPAHOE BASIN – Twenty-five years is a long time to do anything, but it’s much easier if it’s a job at Arapahoe Basin. That is according to the ski area’s general manager, Jim Gentling, and one of the most experienced snow groomers around, Dick Dreyer.
“Some days it feels like 25 years – some days it feels like more,” Gentling said Wednesday pontificating on the
“Looking back, it doesn’t seem like 25 years and I don’t know why,” Dreyer said, gearing up to take A-Basin employees in cat rides for the seasonal employee party. “It’s just a good place to work.”
Gentling began his career at the Basin with what most powderhounds would call the dream of a lifetime. He was a Keystone ski patroller for two years before his boss sent him to Arapahoe Basin in the spring of 1978 as Keystone was finalizing the purchase of the Basin. His job? To ski the mountain every day until it closed to learn the terrain and meet the people. The next year, Gentling took over as ski patrol director.
Gentling said Wednesday he originally thought he’d be patrol director forever. But his boss at Ralston told him, “I’m going to get you,” and encouraged him into management. When that boss, John Reveal, climbed Mount Everest the next year, despite company objections, Reveal didn’t have a job when he returned. Gentling found himself on the way to ski area management.
Over the years, his responsibilities grew, but his heart and fondest memories lie with his time in ski patrol. He remembers hair-raising experiences learning avalanche control. In 1979, while skiing with Warren Miller movie-cameramen, Gentling was swept up in an avalanche in the Second Steep Gully. He survived with eight stitches and a body covered in bruises. He treasures the season eight years ago the ski area stayed open until Aug. 10.
But most of all, Gentling said, he’s proud of the people he’s worked with and the friendships the job has brought him. He still keeps in touch with his first ski patrol buddies from the Basin. And he plans on continuing to work there as long as they’ll let him.
“I thought about retiring to the beach life,” Gentling said. “But I just can’t do it. This is my passion. This is what I love.”
With Dreyer, it was a different sort of path that brought him to Arapahoe Basin. For one thing, he couldn’t even ski when he started.
“I skied a little,” Dreyer said. “I moved to Fort Collins in 1972 and learned a little at Eldora. But that was nothing compared to this.”
A high school buddy told Dreyer he could find work in Summit County. After driving trucks in Alaska for a summer, Dreyer hired on at the Basin in November 1978 and was shown his new friend, a Tucker. The five-speed antique cats had hundreds of moving parts and broke down often.
The first few seasons, Dreyer lost his way on the mountain several times. But co-workers said Dreyer quickly caught on.
Dreyer, too, has many fond memories over his two-and-a-half decades. He saw the same big snow seasons Gentling skied; Dreyer not only skied them, he drove through them at night. Once, the cat he was driving caught fire and, fanned by the wind, quickly burned up. Dreyer escaped, but a fellow cat driver hadn’t seen him and tried to save him by piling snow on the burning cat. Dreyer was part of many cat-driving escapades – drivers in days of yore were known to jump cats off cornices and drive them to parts of the ski area “no cat had ever gone.”
He also shares a good relationship with his brother, Tom, a cat driver at Keystone Resort for the past 26 years.
One of Dreyer’s greatest treasures are the things very few other Summit County residents have seen. As a denizen of the night and an amateur astrophotographer, Dreyer has captured pictures of spectacular cosmic sights throughout the years, including the Northern Lights and several comets.
“Most people are sleeping and miss these things,” Dreyer said. “I probably spent more time taking pictures when I should have been grooming. They always kid me and say, “How do you get any work done?'”
Dreyer said he’ll continue working at Arapahoe Basin, at least until his children finish high school. As for how someone stays in a job that long, Dreyer said it was easy because his employers made it easy. Dreyer works summers as a truck driver for Everist Materials and the seasonality of the jobs complement each other.
“It just works so well,” he said. “Where else can you work and switch jobs every six months and have everybody happy? It’s great.”
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