Former Aspen, Jackson Hole executive Jerry Blann lauded for work in ski industry |

Former Aspen, Jackson Hole executive Jerry Blann lauded for work in ski industry

Staff report

Jerry Blann, a former executive at Aspen Skiing Co. and Jackson Hole Mountain Resort, received a lifetime achievement award last weekend from the National Ski Areas Association, a ski industry trade association.

Blann spent 17 years with Aspen Skiing Co. and ascended to president and CEO in the mid-1980s. He became president at Jackson Hole in 1993 and stepped down after this season. Mary Kate Buckley will take the helm of the ski resort June 1.

“Blann has been one of the most influential and accomplished leaders in the ski industry’s history, building and defining the iconic Western destination ski resort experience,” NSAA said in a statement. “His fascinating background, stunning successes at both Jackson Hole and Colorado’s Aspen Mountain, and his dedication to the industry and NSAA, makes Blann long overdue for our industry’s most prestigious recognition from his immediate peers.”

Blann earned his business degree from Denver University and was offered a management training position with Aspen Skiing Co., where he worked for 17 years. He was named president in spring 1984 after the departure of Harry Holmes. Blann resigned in 1987 after a furor broke out over the company’s pricing policy.

Blann reflected back on that time for an April 2010 article in The Aspen Times. He said the Skico staff recommended a pricing structure approved by the ownership of the time. Miller-Klutznick-Davis-Gray had the controlling interest in the company. Blann said the pricing would create and uproar but would blow over if they stayed the course. The pricing featured a higher price for Aspen Mountain ($35 for a single-day lift ticket) than Snowmass or Buttermilk ($33). Aspen Highlands was still independently owned at the time. Pass prices also soared.

Ski bums revolted, local politicians vowed to take action and the lodging industry labeled it a slap to middle-class customers.

Despite the vow of support, the majority owners waffled on the pricing and called a community meeting. Blann had warned them the meeting would undermine his ability to manage the company.

The owners kept the $35 ticket for Aspen Mountain but adjusted the season pass prices. Blann resigned a short time later. He became president at Bear Mountain in Southern California and later helped develop the Lake Catamount ski community outside of Steamboat Springs.

Blann was hired as president of Jackson Hole after Jay and Connie Kemmerer purchased it in 1993. The resort was barely averaging 200,000 skier visits per season.

“Working closely with the Kemmerer family, Blann and his team drove exponential growth at the resort, while also preserving its independent, iconic Western flavor and commitment to guest services,” NSAA said. “In Blann’s 23 years as president, skier visits have on average tripled to more than 600,000.”

It set a record with 730,000 skier visits this season.

He also oversaw more than $200 million in resort investment during his tenure.

NSAA said Blann was being honored for his “astonishing success, leadership and commitment to our industry.”