Longtime Skico exec Rich Burkley off to helm Lake Louise Ski Resort | AspenTimes.com

Longtime Skico exec Rich Burkley off to helm Lake Louise Ski Resort

Business VP will depart Aspen for CEO gig “in the coming months”

Rich Burkley stands in a heavily wooded section of Aspen Mountain where Pandora’s expansion is proposed on Thursday, August 12, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Longtime Aspen Skiing Co. executive Rich Burkley is leaving his position as the senior vice president of strategy and business development and heading up north, where he has accepted a job as the CEO of Lake Louise Ski Resort in Alberta, Canada, according to an announcement made Thursday.

Burkley said in a phone call that he’ll be around for another few months as he transitions out of the role.

“I still have quite a bit to disentangle from,” he said. “This was unexpected and humbling to get the offer and then honestly, by far the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.”

The move will mark an end to Burkley’s 33-year tenure with Skico.

“Making the decision to leave a team I respect, experiences I cherish, and a job I love has been incredibly difficult, but this is an opportunity I can’t pass up,” Burkley said in a news release issued by Skico.

He started working for the company in 1989 when he took a job in the purchasing department and has since held roles that include positions in accounting and finance, as the director of ski and snowboard schools and as vice president of mountain operations, according to the release. (He has also been a fixture at the annual Buttermilk Bacon Appreciation Day, where he usually served up samples at the base of Tiehack.)

Rich Burkley helps distribute jalapeño-infused bacon at the base of Tiehack during Bacon Appreciation Day at Buttermilk on Sunday, April 3, 2022.
Kaya Williams/The Aspen Times

He was selected to lead a new strategic business development group in his current senior vice president role in 2017 during a restructuring of Skico’s senior management team.

Burkley said in the interview he hadn’t considered a CEO position until the folks from Lake Louise Ski Resort came to him with the job offer, and he hadn’t been to the resort until he was being recruited.

The offer was the “right position, right time, in the right place,” he said. It was the skiing experience — a “fundamental” in Burkley’s book — that helped seal the deal.

“You think about it over the years, and this is just unique, and then, obviously, a new experience: international, bilingual, a whole different perspective. … It felt right (and) it was unexpected,” he said. “This is not something I was looking for.”

Mike Kaplan, the current president and CEO, said in a news release that he has worked with Burkley for 29 of the 33 years Burkley has been with the company. Kaplan also is slated to take his name off the Skico rosters soon; he announced this spring that he’ll be stepping down from the role at the end of the 2022-23 season.

“We’ve been through a lot together, from ski school to operations, to (COVID-19), not to mention quite a few adventures in the mountains and on the rivers, he’s been there for me every step of the way,” Kaplan said in the statement. “I know he will achieve great things up in Canada and I’m incredibly proud and happy for (him) and (his wife) Bobbie to be embarking on this journey.”

Burkley will be at the helm of Lake Louise as the ski resort continues to work on expanding its lifts, terrain and facilities, Lake Louise Ski Resort proprietor Charlie Locke said in the news release. Burkley said in the interview heading to this next chapter as a CEO feels “unexpected, humbling and scary.”

“I’ve sat next to Mike for the last 29 years and I know what pressures, what relentless pressures of the position are, and the responsibility,” Burkley said.

He also emphasized his gratitude for his three-decade experience here, working for the Crown family who owns Aspen Skiing Co. and working for Kaplan.

“It’s been such a — more than even a joy, it’s almost a charmed career working for the Crown family and Mike. … It’s just been such a wonderful run,” he said.