PEOPLE ON THE MOVE | Fall 2019
Pete Sonntag | Senior Vice President, Mountain Division
Pete Sonntag has been appointed to the executive committee and will take on the role of Senior Vice President, Mountain Division based in Broomfield effective Oct. 1, 2019. Pete stepped out of day-to-day operations to oversee Whistler Blackcomb, Tahoe, Stevens Pass and Australia.
A life-long skier, Pete has held many key leadership positions within the Vail Resorts portfolio including Tahoe California region, Beaver Creek, Vail and Keystone. Most recently, Pete served as the Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Whistler Blackcomb. Pete began his ski career as an instructor for the Beaver Creek Ski and Snowboard School. Pete is an avid skier, mountain biker, outdoor enthusiast and proud hockey dad and has spent a significant portion of the last 10 years in ice rinks across North America.
Geoff Buchheister | Chief Operating Officer
Geoff started in his new role as COO of Whistler Blackcomb on October 1 2019. Geoff began his career in the ski industry in 2000 at Park City Mountain Resort immediately following graduation from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Geoff’s tenure with Vail Resorts began in 2014 when the company acquired Park City Mountain Resort, where he was the Director of Finance & Resort Services. Geoff was appointed to lead the Urban Ski Areas including Afton Alps in Minnesota, Mt. Brighton in Michigan and, upon acquisition in 2016, Wilmot in Wisconsin. Most recently, Geoff was Vice President and General Manager of Keystone Resort before his appointment in October as Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Whistler Blackcomb.
Geoff has spent his life in the ski industry having grown up as a ski racer in Winter Park, Colorado. Geoff, his wife Tina and their two children are all avid skiers and spend as much time as possible out in the mountains.
Bob Dufour | Vice President, Mountain Operations
Bob has decided to retire at the end of the 2019-20 ski season after 47 years with Whistler Blackcomb.
Bob came west from the Laurentians in 1972 and ever since then has been a part of the fabric of this place, involved with the growth of Whistler Mountain almost from its inception. He started as a ski instructor, hired by another legend, Jim McConkey. Bob went on to take over from McConkey as Whistler’s Director of Ski School and helped develop new ventures like the Whistler Mountain Kids Ski School, a program that introduced generations to our sport. As most of you know, Bob’s enthusiasm for Whistler is hard to contain, along with his eagerness to be involved in every facet of the business. He directed Marketing for Whistler during the intense days of rivalry with a new upstart mountain across the Fitz drainage, Blackcomb. In 1997, he played a key role in the merger of the two mountains to create the resort we know and love today.
Mountain Operations is where Bob made his biggest mark. As Vice President of Mountain Operations and Maintenance, Bob was responsible for both the on-mountain product and our infrastructure. His responsibility included Lift Operations, Maintenance, Snowmaking, Grooming, Ski Patrol, Parks, Events, Safety, as well as Fleet and Building Maintenance. Bob’s leadership made a difference and Whistler Blackcomb won numerous accolades for overall guest experience. Perhaps his crowning achievement was hosting the world at the 2010 Olympics where Bob was responsible for the alpine venue for both the Olympic and Paralympic Games. He clearly nailed it!
What I love most about Bob is how much he cares. All of us have a Bob Dufour story, a memorable interaction with him. He advocates for our guests like nobody else, ensuring we are vigilant and always working to improve on the service we provide. Despite the huge scope of his job, Bob is in the field almost every day and makes guests feel welcome regardless of their circumstances. He listens and takes all the feedback to heart, good and bad, with a goal to constantly improve. Bob also advocates for all of you and your experience. He recognizes that employee culture and guest service have a direct impact on whether or not guests come back to our resort. At the same time, he understands that while we work hard, it is important to have fun and truly appreciate this place and the opportunity to make a life in the mountains.
Bob will move into a senior advisor role while we transition to new leadership of Mountain Operations and Maintenance. For now, let’s take the time to celebrate Bob’s long and distinguished career. As I said before, I will truly cherish my time working alongside Bob. Please join me in wishing Bob, Leanne and their family the very best on their new adventures.
Bob’s decision has also allowed us to review Mountain Operations and we have decided to focus on areas where we have room for growth as well as create an organizational structure aligned with our other resorts. As a result, we will be moving a number of departments from Mountain Operations over to a new Base Operations division. The new division will include:
- Building Maintenance
- Maintenance Planning
- Ops Warehouse
- Sign Shop
Doug MacFarlane | Vice President, Mountain Operations
Doug Macfarlane has been appointed Vice President, Mountain Operations. As you know, Doug is a key member of our team and first joined WB in 1988. Doug started as a Ski Patroller on Blackcomb and later became Safety Manager. After holding that position for a number of years, Doug served as Mountain Manager and ultimately became WB’s Senior Director, Mountain Operations. Doug has worked as our point person with many of our partners including BC Parks, Ski Clubs, RCMP, SAR and is on the board of the Canada West Ski Areas Association. Doug plays a significant leadership role within the Mountain Division and represents WB on many of our company’s best practice groups. When Doug is not on the mountain, you’ll find him at the rink. Doug is a committed hockey dad and he and his wife, Kerri, are active with the Whistler Minor Hockey Association.
Matt Davies | Senior Director, Base Operations
To oversee Base Operations, Matt Davies has been appointed Senior Director, Base Operations and will report directly to Geoff. Matt joined WB in 2000 and has worked in various departments from Retail/Rental to Guest Service and played a key role during integration. He will continue to lead our summer business and oversee Crankworx while taking on the challenge of leading our new Base Operations division. Matt and his family live in Pemberton, they spend their summers riding bikes and winters skiing. As an avid car & motorbike enthusiast, Matt enjoys the summer commutes in a sports car or on his motorbike.
Miriam Macdonald | Director, Product Sales & Services
To replace Matt, I am pleased to announce that Miriam Macdonald has been appointed Director, Product Sales and Services. Miriam has worked for WB since 2002 in PSS with a two year stint in Snow School Sales. She has held various positions with PSS and worked her way through the ranks with her most recent position, Senior Manager. Miriam’s contributions to WB are many. She led the Whistler Blackcomb Service project for 3 years surpassing the target service goal year-over-year. Most importantly, Miriam is a founding member of the Women of Whistler Blackcomb and current co-leader of the POWDER steering committee, an example of how Miriam is making an impact across the company. A native of Dublin, Ireland, she is a qualified chef who graduated with distinction from the Dublin College of Catering. Miriam lives in Whistler with her family and enjoys skiing, biking, camping and food. She will report directly to Geoff and will become the newest member of Whistler Blackcomb’s Senior Leadership Team.
Dave Hennessey | Senior Manager Fleet Maintenance
Dave has been part of the Fleet team for the past 32 years. He started as a mechanic and was appointed as Manager of the Whistler Mountain Fleet Department in 1993.
Following the merger of Whistler and Blackcomb in 1997, Dave took on the management position of both Whistler and Blackcomb teams. Through his hard work and dedication, plus his amazing organizational skills, he turned the Fleet Maintenance department into what I consider to be the best in the industry.
Dave was always focused on looking for efficiencies and analyzing the strengths of the various new technologies that were introduced year over year. He was always looking for equipment that would be best suited for our coastal mountain snow conditions. Dave also worked very closely with Allana and Stan Kelly on reductions in our fuel consumption. Tracking snowcat idling helping to reduce our overall consumption by 15%. This is now a standard practice in most ski areas throughout the world.
He is known in the industry as an individual who is extremely knowledgeable in all matters relating to snow maintenance equipment.
Dave, Lenka, Brody and Brett aren’t moving very far and they will continue to make Whistler their home as Dave has taken on a position with the McLean Group (Blackcomb Helicopters and other holdings) as their rolling Fleet Maintenance manager.
Please join me in thanking Dave for the many years of service he has given us and wishing him and his family all the very best in this new chapter of their lives.
Mike Dean | Senior Manager Fleet Maintenance
I am pleased to announce that Mike Dean has taken on the position of Senior Manager of Fleet Maintenance.
Mike first started out on Blackcomb as an apprentice in 1988. He held a number of roles on Blackcomb, eventually managing the department from 1997 – 2001.
This was followed by the merger of the Whistler Blackcomb fleet departments and Mike took on one of the shop supervisory roles.
Mike brings with him over 20 years of supervisory and management experience along with a tremendous amount of in-depth knowledge, and has gained the respect of everyone he interacts with here at Whistler Blackcomb.
He has also been a 2 time Supervisor of the Year Award winner.
I am very excited to have him on board and know he will lead a smooth and efficient year round operation in all 3 fleet shops.
Mike will also be very involved with the Vail best practice groups. I am sure that with his knowledge he will quickly become a valuable participant in that team.
Please join me in congratulating Mike on his new position.
Peter Tongue | Assistant Manager Lift Operations
For those that don’t already know, Matt Denham has moved on to other adventures in the southern hemisphere. Matt started out his career in the ski business at Panorama as a Lift Operator before coming to join Whistler Blackcomb. His first role was in Guest Service / Validations in Creekside prior to the 2010 Olympics. He was quickly poached to be the supervisor of the Tube Park before eventually moving into Lift Ops as a supervisor. After a couple years in that role he was promoted to Assistant Manager of Lift Operations and held that position for the next 7.5 years. I am truly grateful to have been able to work with Matt over that whole time. His calm, thoughtful style was often exactly what I needed when faced with challenges. Matt’s attention to the details and sense of humor (he has all the Simpson’s quotes dialed) made work a fun place for me and so many others. Matt will definitely be missed by many but we wish him well and expect him to be back, at least for a visit in the coming years.
To fill the vacancy of the Lift Operations Assistant Manager role, we are excited to welcome Peter Tongue! Pete comes to us from Mount Washington where he was the Lift Operations Manager, also overseeing their Tube Park Operations. He has experience with their Electrical Maintenance team as well as experience working with the Operations and Maintenance leadership teams there. Pete is an avid biker and snowboarder and has spent a lot of spare time enjoying our mountains in summer and winter. Pete’s passion for the operations division has had him reach out to us many times over the years to exchange ideas and has been a driving force behind creating a network of Lift Ops leaders across BC. He also comes with a strong reputation and established relationship with Technical Safety British Columbia - our governing body around our lift operations. Pete will complete his move to Whistler by the end of the month an you will start to see him around our operations starting the end of this week. Please help me in giving him a warm welcome as we bring him up to speed with our operations.
Mike St.Eve | Senior Manager of Lift Operations