Vail chief Jensen jumps to competitor |

Vail chief Jensen jumps to competitor

Kathy Lippert/Vail Daily

VAIL ” Bill Jensen, the top executive at Vail Mountain and president of its mountain division, is leaving Vail Resorts to work for rival ski company Intrawest.

Jensen will become chief executive officer of Intrawest, based in Vancouver.

Gary deFrange, president and chief operating officer for Winter Park Resort, said he believes Jensen to be a very experienced senior level executive who knows the ski business “extremely well.”

“We sit here in Colorado, which is one of, if not the most competitive ski market in the world. Bill knows this market very well,” deFrange said. “We’re positioned for growth, we’ve restructured, we’ve moved forward, and I think Bill is a great leader for our company to do that. I think he’s the guy to take Intrawest to the next level.”

Eagle County native Chris Jarnot, who had been senior vice president of marketing and sales for Vail Resorts, was promoted to chief operating officer of Vail Mountain.

John Garnsey, now chief operating officer of Beaver Creek, and Blaise Carrig, top exec at Heavenly, will now co-lead the company’s mountain division.

In addition to being the chief operating officer at Vail, Jensen had been overseeing Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly mountains as president of Vail Resorts’ mountain division.

His new company, Intrawest, owns Steamboat, Winter Park, Copper and Whistler Blackcomb ” a venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics. It also owns a share of Mammoth Mountain, where Jensen started his career as a lift operator in 1974.

Jensen presided over Vail as it notched repeated No. 1 rankings in the annual SKI magazine poll. He also pushed for more grooming and increased environmental initiatives, including Vail’s move to 100 percent wind power.

“Bill has contributed greatly to the success of Vail Mountain and his experience has been invaluable for all of our mountain resorts,” said Rob Katz, CEO of Vail Resorts, in a press release. “In addition, he has been a true leader within both the Vail community and the U.S. ski industry. Bill will be missed by everyone at our company for both his contributions and experience. At the same time, we understand Bill’s decision to take on a new role with completely new responsibilities.”

After Vail Resorts’ corporate headquarters left Avon for the Front Range, Jensen became the top local official for the company, which runs the two ski resorts in the county. He is often the public face of Vail Resorts here, from chamber of commerce meetings to Town Council meetings to ceremonial events.

Jensen has said he considers himself a caretaker of the dream of Vail founder Peter Seibert.

“I think Pete had a very clear vision that developed over one or two decades of what he saw as the perfect ski mountain,” Jensen said in 2006. “He searched long and hard for it. He didn’t compromise.”

Jensen has been chairman of the National Ski Areas Association trade group since 2006. He has said he wanted to push environmental stewardship among ski resorts in that position.

For the 2007 fiscal year, Jensen received $1.15 million in compensation, according to a document filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in October.

The Southern California native has been the chief operating officer at Vail Mountain since 1999. Before that, he held the same position at Breckenridge.

He and his wife, Cheryl, live in West Vail. Cheryl Jensen is active in local nonprofit groups, including the Vail Veterans Program, which she created, and the Buddy Mentors program.

Earlier in his career, Jensen worked for the company that owned Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Bear Mountain Ski Resort in Southern California. Prior to that, he worked for Sunday River in Maine and Kassbohrer All Terrain Vehicles.

He started his career as a liftie at Mammoth Mountain, working his way up the ranks. Mammoth founder Dave McCoy became a mentor for Jensen.

Jensen shared oversight of Vail Resorts’ mountains through last year, when the other co-president, Roger McCarthy, left Vail Resorts to start a ski resort near Sochi, Russia, the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

” Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or

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