A reflection with Gary DeFrange
February 9, 2017
After almost 20 years at Winter Park Resort President and COO Gary DeFrange is set to retire in March. Though he will miss time spent at the ski area, he is optimistic that he will enjoy time to travel and continue skiing at the resort he loves.
Why did you decide to retire?
DeFrange said his decision was based largely on his age. He will turn 69 in March, the same month he is set to retire.
"I thought about it for a long time," he said.
"All of my friends are retired, and my wife and I want to take time to travel and pursue personal interests. This was the most difficult career decision I have ever made."
Both sides of Defrange's family are from Italy, and he has never been, so he plans to travel there next year. He said there are many parts of the United States that he has not seen other than briefly during business trips, so he plans to explore within the country as well.
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He said he has watched many people stay in their jobs for too long, and he does not want to make the same mistake.
Biggest accomplishment as President and COO?
DeFrange said many people assume he counts the return of the Winter Park Express as his biggest accomplishment, and while that was a huge achievement for him, he considers it to be more than that.
"I would say my biggest accomplishment would be helping with the development of the people who work at Winter Park," DeFrange said.
He began working with many employees who are now senior staff and hold key positions at Winter Park Resort.
DeFrange said he hopes he played a role in mentoring some of the employees throughout his career.
"I got to watch these employees progress and develop over the years through the changes that the resort went through," he said.
DeFrange said another accomplishment of his was being included in the sale of Winter Park Resort to Intrawest Resorts. He pointed out that before Winter Park was owned by Intrawest, the ski area had little access to outside equities.
"After the deal with Intrawest we were able to build a village at the resort that included shopping and lodging; we expanded the terrain to the Cirque and Eaglewind; and we remodeled facilities," DeFrange said.
He also pointed out the deal helped with the development of terrain parks and opening Trestle Bike Park, the largest downhill bike park in the United States.
Will you stay in Colorado?
DeFrange is a Colorado native, and he plans to continue living here after retirement. He has a house in Grand County and one in Denver, and plans to keep both. He will focus on golfing as much as possible in the summer, and skiing as much as possible in the winter. He plans to ski Winter Park Resort as much as he can, though he admitted it is going to be hard to detach himself from his position at the resort.
"It will be difficult because of my relationship with the people here. I wasn't from the company when I moved here, but they all embraced me as though they knew me, so I feel a lot of loyalty here," DeFrange said.
"But at the same time, I know it is important for me to separate myself from my work here. I will be more than willing to talk with the person that takes my place anytime, but I will not stand in their way."
"I did things differently when I came in, and I know the next person will do the same. It is always important to take a fresh look, and I will have appreciation for any changes that may be made," DeFrange said.
He plans to relax when he is at Winter Park and enjoy his time on the mountain.
What would you like to see for the future of Winter Park Resort?
I think Grand County has a big future because it has a good culture," DeFrange said.
"I hope it continues to maintain its culture as the county goes through changes, and I hope it continues to be inclusive for anyone that wants to be here."
He has been involved with the National Sports Center for the Disabled (NSCD) for 33 years, and he hopes the program continues to thrive and advance technologically.
He also hopes the county expands as a whole with year-round residents and new businesses.
"The other day a friend of mine asked me how it feels to not have to worry about work anymore in a few weeks, and in some ways I feel some relief, but in other ways I feel like I have left my own child behind. I have many mixed emotions about retiring, but I am proud of what we have done, and look forward to maintaining a close relationship with my friends here."