There are going to be some big changes taking place with Whistler-Blackcomb’s parent company this summer, as the current COO of Vail Resorts Mountain Division moves from Colorado to Vancouver to take over as CEO at Intrawest.
The announcement that Bill Jensen will become CEO of Intrawest was made Tuesday.
Ian Galbraith, director of corporate communications and media relations at Intrawest, says the change will usher in a period of growth for the company.
Jensen will succeed current COO Alex Wasilov. Wasilov, who joined the Intrawest board of directors in 2005, was appointed president and COO in April of 2006. In the fall of 2006 Intrawest was acquired by Fortress Investment Group LLC.
“He was in charge of all the restructuring and kind of building a solid foundation to grow upon. That’s really where his skill set was,” Galbraith said of Wasilov.
“So now that we’ve got the company all organized properly and restructured, we’re really ready for the next era, which is of growth and expansion.”
Galbraith says Jensen will be in charge of all operating divisions of Intrawest, and will be actively looking for ways to expand Intrawest on a global level, through acquisitions like the company’s takeover of Steamboat Resort in Colorado last year, and through “internal organic investments” at their existing resorts, with projects like the Peak to Peak gondola at Whistler-Blackcomb.
“We’re going to invest in our resorts to grow them organically, through building things like village developments, and things like on-mountain hardware, like Peak to Peak, and also through acquisitions and mergers,” Galbraith said.
So what makes Jensen the right man for the job? Simple — he has a strong track record in the mountain resort business, with over 30 years of experience in the industry.
“Fortress really wanted to bring in somebody with a lot of operational experience, which Bill Jensen definitely has from Vail Resorts, and so he is going to be the one to lead our company into the future,” said Galbraith.
Jensen held the position of President of Vail Resorts’ Mountain Division, and was appointed COO of Breckenridge Ski Resort in 1997, and COO of Vail Mountain in 1999.
Before that, he was President of Fibreboard Resort Group in California, and served as VP of Marketing for Sunday River Ski Resort out of New England.
He also currently serves as Chairman of the National Ski Areas Association.
Current President and COO of Whistler-Blackcomb, Dave Brownlie, says he is confident Jensen will be a valuable addition to the team at Intrawest, given his wealth of experience.
“From my perspective, I think it certainly shows a real commitment by Intrawest to the mountain resort operations, by bringing somebody in to lead the company that has that background, so I think that’s very positive.”
But Brownlie isn’t expecting the new appointment to impact day-to-day operations at Whistler-Blackcomb.
“I don’t anticipate dramatic changes because I think the people and the operation that we run here is first-class, but like any operation we can always improve, and hopefully Bill can provide some insight and guidance on some areas that we can improve on.”
Jensen will finish up at Vail at the end of January, and will step into his new role with Intrawest on June 1, which will allow for a month in an overlap transition period between Wasilov and Jensen.
Wasilov will return to his original position on the Intrawest board at the end of June, effectively moving from running day-to-day aspects of the company to helping direct Intrawest’s long-term vision.
“We have made tremendous progress over the last 15 months and we are extremely grateful for the effort and leadership of Alex and his senior management team and welcome Alex back to the board of directors,” Wes Edens, CEO of Fortress, said in a press release.