CEO finds bliss in G-Zones | AspenTimes.com
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CEO finds bliss in G-Zones

Brent Gardner-Smith

Pat rode the Bowl Thursday.

Pat O’Donnell, the 64-year-old president and chief executive officer of the Aspen Skiing Co., took his inaugural climb up and ride down Highland Bowl yesterday.

“It was my first time,” said O’Donnell, who was seen coming out of the bowl on his snowboard by a reporter. “I’ve got be the oldest guy who has snowboarded G-8.”

And O’Donnell chose a nice day to make his initial plunge down one of the steep runs in the recently opened G-Zones, as there was about six inches of fresh, thick snow in the bowl, mostly clear skies, cold temperatures, calm winds and very few other skiers or riders.

“It was perfect,” said O’Donnell. “The hike up was wonderful – it’s great exercise. And the scenery speaks for itself. The whole experience is absolutely magnificent.”

And O’Donnell also got to see for himself just how tricky the narrow catwalks leading out of Highland Bowl and the Temerity area can be on a snowboard.

Given the very cold temperatures on Thursday, the snow on the catwalk was dry and slow, making it even harder to slide out on a board. O’Donnell got his fair share of helpful pushes along the way from Aspen Highlands Mountain Manager Ron Chauner, who was on skis.

When asked if improving the egress out of the Bowl might now have a higher budgetary priority, O’Donnell laughed and said “After today’s exit, I asked them to bring something forward so it can be fully examined at my level.

“Yes, now that I’ve been there, we may be looking at some future expansion to the amenities out there this summer. They know exactly what they are doing, getting the old man out there.”

O’Donnell took up snowboarding four years ago after skiing and mountain climbing for decades.

His knees are now better suited for snowboarding than skiing and he’s been steadily working on getting comfortable on a board in steep terrain, having previously tackled double-black-diamond terrain such as the Hanging Valley Wall at the Snowmass Sk Area.

“I wanted to wait until my snowboarding was of a sufficient level, so that’s why I haven’t been there earlier,” O’Donnell said. “It was the steepest terrain that I have ever been on, on a snowboard. That part all went great.

“I don’t think Chris Klug has anything to worry about, but I felt comfortable. And I feel good at my age to be able to take it on and aggressively go after it.”

His regular snowboarding partner is Mike Kaplan, the Skico’s vice president of mountain operations. The duo try and get out at least once a week to one of the ski areas, and on Wednesday Kaplan told O’Donnell he was ready for the bowl.

But O’Donnell said, if he was going in on a board, so was Kaplan.

“So it was the first time for both of us on snowboards,” O’Donnell said. “It was a great day. it was the best day of the season for me.”


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