Greg Finch of Arapahoe Basin Ski Area marks retirement
SUMMIT COUNTY — Greg Finch didn’t come to Colorado intending to run a ski resort. The snow and mountains certainly called to the native Canadian, who was working in Southern California at the time, but at first they were just perks of a brand new job.
In 1992, Dundee Resort Development recruited Finch to come to Beaver Creek to take over a real estate development project.
“I’m much more comfortable in the mountains than I would ever be in California,” said Finch, a longtime Edwards resident. “That (decision) was an easy one.”
He spent several years working on projects like St. James Place in Beaver Creek, when the company business plan — and Finch’s career — took on a new challenge.
“We got to know the Vail Resorts people pretty well and we started buying land from them. … Then in 1996, the Vail guys called us and said, ‘Would you like to buy Arapahoe Basin?’ So we said, ‘Sure. What’s Arapahoe Basin?’” Finch said with a laugh.
Dundee purchased Arapahoe Basin Ski Area from Vail Resorts in 1997 and put Finch in charge.
“So the next thing I knew, I was not only doing these real estate projects over here (in Vail), I was now the ‘supreme commander’ of a little ski area in Summit County,” Finch said, with a chuckle. “It was an interesting day.”
Originally from Ontario, Finch took a banking job after graduating from the University of Western Ontario. The company eventually moved him to Orange County, California, where he met his wife, Sharron.
Moving from banking to real estate development wasn’t a tough transition for Finch. But stepping into the world of ski resort management was a large task, and a challenge that Finch met head on.
“He was instrumental in that purchase of the ski area,” said David Reynolds, vice president of finance for Dundee and a long-time colleague of Finch’s. “He rolled up his sleeves and dove right in.”
Alan Henceroth was the ski patrol director at Arapahoe Basin when Dundee purchased it. Transitioning from ownership by Vail Resorts was a large task, and one that required a lot out of everybody involved.
“It was such an exciting time. We had so much fun and (Finch) was so much fun on this project. It was such a new thing for A-Basin and Dundee, and Greg was just right in the middle of it all, leading the charge,” Henceroth said. “The learning curve was really steep for all of us. … We were learning stuff every single day about how we were going to run the Basin.”
“We thought, how hard can it be, running a ski area?” Finch recalled. “We found out it’s a lot harder than it looks. Having owned it all these years, there have been phenomenal changes there.”
Finch and Dundee weren’t interested in merely running A-Basin; they wanted to make it better. Various improvements were added to the ski area throughout the years, including new lifts and new facilities.
“I think the biggest change was getting the snowmaking approved,” said Finch. After connecting with various government entities from the county to the federal level, as well as agencies like the U.S. Forest Service and various environmental organizations, A-Basin began its snowmaking operations in 2002.
“It was a very, very tough process, but that was the start of the game changer for Arapahoe Basin — being able to make snow every year, predictably open every year, predictably hire staff every year,” Finch said.
In the 2007-08 ski season, A-Basin nearly doubled its size by adding Montezuma Bowl.
“We just kept motoring along, making changes,” Finch recalled.
“Certainly all the progress we have made in improving the assets and experience and revenues, but maybe the best thing we have done is to keep the vibe the same,” he wrote in an email. “The lifts are better, the snow is better, the restaurants are better… but it is still the Basin that everybody loves.”
One of the perks of working and running a ski resort is definitely the skiing, though Finch admits he didn’t end up getting to ski as much as one might expect — there was always something to do. But he did make sure he got onto the slopes from time to time. Like a true parent, he doesn’t play favorites when it comes to runs, but just enjoys the mountain experience in general.
“If you stand on the top of the mountain on a beautiful sky blue day, you pound your chest and say this is why we do this, this is why we’re here, to see all the happy faces,” he said.
CONNECTING WITH COLLEAGUES
Both Reynolds and Henceroth describe Finch as an open collaborator with lots of ideas and a friendly personality.
Reynolds got to know Finch when they traveled together, such as going to California to look into the purchase of sister resort Bear Valley Mountain Resort.
“We had several trips in that direction that were kind of a planes-trains-and-automobiles routine of renting cars, spending nights in hotels,” Reynolds recalled.
He also spent some time in Finch’s hometown.
“Sitting in a bar in Canada watching hockey is an interesting experience,” Reynolds said with a laugh.
Finch officially stepped down from his position on June 30 of this year, though he’s sticking around for a bit to help the company with the transition.
He’s also enjoying extra time spent around the Rocky Mountains, including in Grand Lake, a favorite vacation location.
His next “great adventure,” as he calls it, might have something to do with real estate, though he’s not ruling anything else out just yet.
“I have a couple irons in the fire. They’re both real estate, more real estate-oriented than ski-oriented,” he said, “but if someone were to call me today and said, ‘We’d like you to come and help with the ski area part,’ I’d probably be real interested in doing that.”
You can take the man out of the ski industry, it seems, but you can’t ever fully take the ski industry out of the man.