Career of new Keystone Resort head, Geoff Buchheister, coming full circle
August 7, 2017
As Keystone Resort's next vice president, lifelong skier Geoff Buchheister is excited to return to his native Colorado this September and continue his career in the industry.
The 42-year-old University of Colorado-Boulder graduate is a second-generation ski executive after following in the footsteps of his father, who worked in the role at Winter Park Resort. Buchheister didn't necessarily chase the career because of dear old dad, though, and said it probably had more to do with a wish to offer a similar upbringing as his own to his future children.
"Growing up in Winter Park was amazing, especially if you were a kid that enjoyed skiing the way I did," explained the former three-time college All-America ski racer. "I think that a big part of my desire to work in the industry was that I wanted to provide a similar experience and opportunity for my family — to grow up in the mountains and to find a connection with nature and ultimately a sport like skiing or snowboarding."
Buchheister was working as Park City Resort's director of finance and resort services when Broomfield, Colorado-based Vail Resorts, Inc., acquired the ski property in September 2014. Following 15 years at the popular Utah ski area, new ownership promoted him to vice president of the company's Midwestern properties in Michigan, Minnesota and eventually Wisconsin.
He credits his time in that position with helping him get grounded in operations and learning the business from different angles following a focus on financial aspects dating to first joining Park City in February 2000. One of his proudest achievements included leading $13 million in capital updates at Wilmot Mountain after Vail's purchase of the Wisconsin resort in January 2016.
"That essentially transformed the ski area there with improvements to buildings, new lifts, massive snowmaking upgrades and new terrain parks," Buchheister said of the property 65 miles north of Chicago. "But more than anything, my years working for our Midwest ski areas helped me learn that the passion for skiing and snowboarding is alive out there. I'm hoping to see a lot of those folks out at Keystone this winter."
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During his competitive skiing days — his wife Tina was also an All-America collegiate racer — Buchheister used to spend the early season training at Keystone's North Peak, so he knows the mountain fairly well. The steep backside terrain is an aspect he said he always enjoyed about the resort, and even if there will always be a special place in his heart for Park City, he's looking forward to finding new favorite spots at Keystone soon, and reconnecting with the Summit County ski area.
Even with some of its more difficult features, Keystone's marketing push will remain families and their children.
"We are going to continue to provide an 'Experience of a Lifetime' to our guests in all aspects of resort operations, with a focus on being the number one resort destination for families," said Buchheister. "Having grown up in a skiing family myself and knowing the impact it has had on me, I look forward to being able to provide that for our guests at Keystone."
Specifically, he highlighted new and expanded events as part of the resort's Kidtopia programs, which offer free activities like the annual snow fort, snow tubing and family adventure tours throughout the season. The debut of the six-seat, high-speed Montezuma Express Lift and expansion of LaBonte's Smokehouse BBQ restaurant to 190 seats indoors are other additions he believes will improve the overall skier experience beginning in winter 2017-18.
Vail Resorts is confident it has the right man for the job to replace outgoing vice president and COO Mike Goar, who departed in June for the chief position at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe.
"Geoff has demonstrated a passion for our business as well as the capacity to manage its complexity and intensity," Chris Jarnot, Vail Resorts' mountain division executive vice president, said in a statement. "His drive and focus on the guest experience and the ability to connect with colleagues, resort guests and communities have established him as a successful leader for our company and within the industry."
Buchheister is presently in the process of transitioning from his prior Midwestern role working out of Utah, but eagerly awaits getting back to his Colorado roots starting this fall, and — with he and Tina's two young children in tow — hitting the snow running.
"I'm thrilled to be returning to Colorado, and my family and I are looking forward to joining the community and enjoying all that Keystone and the Colorado High Country has to offer," he said. "We have an exciting winter season ahead at Keystone, and I am looking forward to being a part of it."
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