Ski Country top exec to take Norton’s job | AspenTimes.com

Ski Country top exec to take Norton’s job

Janet Urquhart
Aspen Times Staff Writer

The Aspen Skiing Co. didn’t need to look long and hard to fill the big shoes left when John Norton resigned his post as chief operating officer last week.

David Perry, president and CEO of Colorado Ski Country USA, has resigned the helm of the trade association to become senior vice president with the Skico.

In addition, Mike Kaplan has been promoted to senior vice president of mountain operations with the ski company.

Perry’s last day with CSCUSA will be June 28. He will join the Skico on Aug. 5, assuming many of Norton’s responsibilities – specifically growing the company’s business, overseeing the marketing, sales, public relations and special events departments, and working with industry and community partners.

“David is, in my opinion, a real icon in today’s ski world in sales and marketing,” said Pat O’Donnell, president and chief executive officer of the Skico. “We’re just darned lucky to get the guy.”

“I can’t think of a better pick to come in here,” agreed Norton, who is leaving Aspen to become the new president and CEO of Crested Butte Mountain Resort ski area. “I think he’s imaginative, a hard charger, a wonderful people leader. I think he will be a very able community liaison for the Skico.”

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For his part, Perry said he is looking forward to working again with O’Donnell and for the family-owned Skico.

“The company and the community are right at the pinnacle of the world’s mountain resorts, and it is a dream come true to be able to move here with my family and contribute,” he said.

“Pat is a hard man to say `no’ to,” added Perry, who has said “yes” twice before.

He was lured away from a marketing post with Intrawest at Blackcomb Mountain to work as director of marketing at Whistler Mountain under O’Donnell’s reign there in the early 1990s.

Then, in September 2000, O’Donnell was instrumental in wooing Perry away from what became the combined Whistler/Blackcomb, where he was vice president of marketing and sales, to lead Colorado Ski Country.

The two have worked closely since then, as O’Donnell is chairman of the CSCUSA board of directors.

In Aspen, Perry will be charged with the daunting challenge of increasing skier visits, overseeing the company’s marketing campaign and playing a role in the town’s hotly debated marketing efforts.

“Everyone has an opinion on marketing,” he said. “It certainly has been my expertise. That’s one of the reasons they brought me to Ski Country – the resort leaders here thought Ski Country should take on a stronger role.

“I’m not going to pretend I’ll be able to walk into the community of Aspen and tell them what to do,” Perry said. “I want to talk to as many people as I can and listen – a lot.

“I’m confident that I can help.”

“He’s got a proven track record,” O’Donnell said. “You can measure what he’s done.”

Perry, 47, helped make Whistler/Blackcomb the top ski resort in North America by many measures and has aggressively pursued new business development strategies for Colorado resorts since joining Ski Country, according to O’Donnell.

Friday’s announcement of Perry’s appointment as Skico senior vice president came three days after Norton’s resignation.

“As John said, he hasn’t even scraped the gum off the underside of his desk yet,” Perry joked last week.

“John Norton’s resignation really caught us flat-footed,” O’Donnell said. “We hadn’t expected that at all.”

In examining the structure of his senior staff, O’Donnell said he quickly concluded he couldn’t do without a point person for marketing, sales and community relations.

The two men were chatting on the phone about Norton’s resignation when light bulbs went on above both their heads, O’Donnell said. Perry threw his hat in the ring before O’Donnell had a chance to ask, the Skico chief said.

Though Norton earned the title of chief operating officer when his job duties expanded to include operations and marketing, more recently Kaplan has been overseeing mountain operations while Norton focused on marketing.

O’Donnell said he decided not to appoint a new COO, but promote Kaplan, who was vice president of mountain operations, and turn most of Norton’s duties over to Perry.

Nonetheless, FedEx packages have been arriving on O’Donnell’s desk from “very high-profile names” interested in the COO’s job, he said.

With Colorado Ski Country’s annual meeting scheduled to begin Tuesday, O’Donnell said he had to disclose Perry’s hiring quickly. He broke the awkward news that the CSCUSA chairman was stealing away Perry to the organization’s executive board in a conference call last week.

Perry said he expects to report a minimal drop in skier visits to the Ski Country membership this week. Despite poor early season snow conditions and an economic downtown exacerbated by Sept. 11, preliminary numbers put the drop for the 2001-02 ski season at 3 to 4 percent statewide, he said.

It’s not often a decline in skier visits is cause for celebration, but in light of the circumstances, Perry said he’s pleased.

“We’re very encouraged by that,” he said.

State skier numbers rebounded in the 2000-01 ski season – Perry’s first as Ski Country’s top executive.

A native of Canada, Perry has spent 29 years in the ski industry. His first move to the United States brought him to Colorado two years ago to take the Ski Country post. Perry and his wife, Kathy McDevitt, have two daughters, ages 4 and 6. They currently reside in Evergreen.

Now, the family will be looking for a home in the Aspen area, where Perry has been a regular visitor to the slopes.

“I can’t believe how many times he’s over here, when I don’t even know he’s here,” O’Donnell said. “I’ll run into him on the slopes, especially at Snowmass.”

Perry said he is predominantly a skier, but he boards as well. “I’m better on skis than I am on a board,” he admitted.

Kaplan, who is out of town on vacation, joined the Skico in 1993. In addition to his responsibility for mountain operations and the Ski and Snowboard Schools, he will oversee the company’s food and beverage operations – a duty that had been Norton’s.

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