Skico’s top brass called on to teach |

Skico’s top brass called on to teach

If you’re taking a ski or snowboarding lesson this weekend check your instructor’s name tag: you might wind up with one of the Aspen Skiing Co.’s higher-ups.

“Pat” could be short for Pat O’Donnell, president, CEO and Big Kahuna himself of the Skico. Because of high demand for ski school classes in the middle of the two holiday weeks, O’Donnell and vice presidents David Perry and Mike Kaplan will be helping out on the slopes this weekend.

“We have so many guests in town right now, and we couldn’t be happier about that,” O’Donnell said. “It’s all hands on deck.”

Skico will have 1,300 instructors for the multitudes of visitors this weekend, plus a few extra from the administrative offices. For O’Donnell, that means using his snowboard instructing certification he received last winter for the first time.

“I don’t have any teaching background, and I thought that it would be interesting to see what they go through to get certified,” he said. “I was shoulder to shoulder with the men and women who receive their certifications, and I wanted to walk a mile in their moccasins to see how really different it is.”

O’Donnell said he didn’t really think he’d ever use his newfound instructing abilities until he was asked to participate.

“I couldn’t be happier to use those teaching skills – we don’t want to turn anyone away,” he said. “The weather is going to be nice, the snow is terrific, and it’s a legitimate excuse for me to get out there.”

It’s not uncommon for certified ski instructors within the company’s offices to be asked to pitch in when the help is needed, and many enjoy the chance to get out on the hill.

“They’ll use any excuse they can to get out of the office,” said Rich Burkley, the Skico’s director of ski schools. “This weekend we’ll be using everyone, and our part-time staff is coming in [today].

“We’re definitely busy – there’s not a crush yet but it probably will get to that level.”

Burkley, who has taught locally for eight years, will be pitching in here and there, as will Kaplan, who has previously directed Skico’s ski schools. Perry, the newest member of Skico’s brass, will bring his own instructing experience from Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia.

“I taught and coached for eight years,” Perry said of his time in Canada. “I think I have the basic understanding.”

Skico’s in-house counsel, attorney David Bellack, will also be strapping on his skis to help out at Snowmass’ Big Burn Bears area for kids.

Burkley said the busy weekends allow the top brass to get “into the trenches,” and that those of them who taught before – including himself – miss that opportunity. On average, about 19 percent of people annually who come to Aspen/Snowmass to ski enroll in ski school lessons, he said.

“It’s one thing to turn down a private lesson because you are full – it’s another thing to turn down a child because that affects the whole family,” Perry said.

“This is a statement about how well we’re doing over the holidays,” O’Donnell said. “It’s not a chore, it’s an opportunity to make relationships with some of our guests. I love to ride, and I’m totally psyched about getting out there.”

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