Jensen, now a competitor, to enter Vail hall of fame |

Jensen, now a competitor, to enter Vail hall of fame

Bill Jensen

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail will always be special to Bill Jensen. But he’s excited to have Whistler as his home resort now.

Excitement around the 2010 Winter Olympics is building, and Whistler is about to debut the Peak 2 Peak gondola, which stretches nearly three miles from Whistler to Blackcomb.

Jensen, chief operating officer at Vail Mountain for nearly a decade, started his new job as CEO of Intrawest in June.

“I’m through the first 100 days,” Jensen said when he stopped by the Vail Daily last week. “I’m enjoying it. It’s a very different role than what I had before.”

But it was Jensen’s accomplishments at Vail Mountain that helped him clinch induction into the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame. After next month’s induction ceremony, Jensen’s name will be in the hall among the greats of the sport, including Pete Seibert, Billy Kidd and Walter Paepcke.

“I’m humbled by it,” Jensen said. “These are the stars of the sport and the legends of the industry. To me, it’s an incredible honor.”

Jensen will be inducted alongside the late Merrill G. Hastings Jr., the longtime Eagle County resident. Other inductees are Paul T. Bailey, Chuck Ferries and Knox T. Williams. Ski Club Vail’s Lindsey Vonn will receive the Competitor of the Year award.

The honor has made Jensen pause and look back at his career, he said, citing the influences of mentors such as Bill Healy, founder of Mount Bachelor; Dave McCoy, founder of Mammoth; and Michael Berry, with whom Jensen worked at Sun Valley and the National Ski Areas Association.

Jensen also mentioned the hundreds of other people he has worked with in his career, which has included stops at Breckenridge; the company that owned Northstar-at-Tahoe, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Bear Mountain; Kassbohrer, a snowcat manufacturer; and Sunday River.

“I’m going to share it with those people,” he said.

Berry, president of the National Ski Area Association, said Jensen has a unique appreciation for what resort customers want.

“Bill is one of those individual who recognizes it’s all for naught if we don’t resonate definitively with our customers,” Berry said.

Vail has always had high standards, but Jensen was able to move up the bar even farther, Berry said.

Andy Daly, a former Vail Resorts president who is already a member of the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, hired Jensen to run Breckenridge in 1997. Daly noted how Jensen rose from the front lines of Mammoth, where he was a liftie, to one of the industry’s most powerful positions.

“He has a unique understanding of the sport, and he has a deep appreciation of the guest, particularly the higher-end guest,” Daly said.

Intrawest owns Steamboat and Copper Mountain and operates Winter Park, so Jensen is still spending plenty of time in Colorado, and he and his wife, Cheryl, have kept their home in Vail.

But Jensen is based out of the big city of Vancouver now and has been traveling all over the country checking out Intrawest’s properties, from Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia to Blue Mountain in Ontario to Panorama Mountain in British Columbia. And his responsibilities extend beyond ski mountains to real estate and a resort club.

But that’s not to say Vail Mountain still doesn’t hold a place in his heart.

“I love all things Vail,” he said. “I love the mountain. I love the community. I love the people.”

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