In a letter printed in the Aspen Times, outgoing Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan bids farewell. He reflects on his 30 years at the company and in the community, thanks the locals and his employers, the Crown Family, and leaves with optimism for the best ski town in North America.
Dear Roaring Fork Valley Community,
As the 2022-23 ski season ends, so does my 17-year tenure as president and CEO of Aspen Skiing Company.
In saying goodbye, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the communities and people of this valley. Because while this was a winter for the ages — a bonanza of consistent snowfall, cold temperatures, and countless powder days — it was the locals who shined the brightest, reminding the world yet again that the best ski town in North America is alive and well.
Welcoming back international visitors, hosting the World Cup, and seeing so many of you open your homes to seasonal employees were all highlights for me. And that’s just from the past season. Looking back on my full 30 years is a bit daunting, but several things stand out.
First is the passion for this place that is so palpable among locals. I never had to look for it; it always found me — on the gondola, at the Farmers’ Market, at closing parties, and on opening days.
Second is the privilege it has been for my wife and me to raise our four children here. This community nurtured them, challenged them, and launched them into the world as confident and compassionate human beings. A great measure of a place is the young people it produces. The valley is doing very well on that score.
Finally, I feel blessed to have worked for the Crown family, who have not only made my career possible, but also the values-based approach Skico uses to run the business. When we spoke out over the years on the need for climate action, racial justice, and the value of our immigrant population, it was with more than their blessing.
They also brought their input and encouragement. When we did right by our employees during tough times like COVID or the Great Recession, they always pushed us to do even more and lead our industry. The Crowns are committed, humanistic, and smart, and they love and understand this place.
So, I step down with sincere optimism. Why? Because of that enlightened ownership and the talented and dedicated employees who show up every day — they’re still here.
Because we hold onto an idea, the Aspen Idea, that this place and the experiences it offers can make the bigger world a little better — it’s still here.
And because of a community that radiates character and passion, breathing colorful life into everything Aspen stands for in a most authentic, unforgettable way — you’re still here.
We’re all still here — and that means Laura and me, too. Thanks to all of you for your love and support. We look forward to seeing you around the valley this summer and beyond.
See you on the hill,
Geoff Buchheister has been named as Kaplan’s successor and began onboarding on March 1, 2023. Geoff’s first priority will be to spend the next two months learning and transitioning responsibilities from Kaplan, who officially retires on April 30, 2023. Geoff joins ASC from his current role as Chief Operating Officer at Whistler Blackcomb, the largest resort in North America, where he has been since 2019.
“While this process took longer than expected, we firmly believe it was worth the wait. In the end, we found the ideal candidate to lead our ski and summer-time mountain operations into the future. Geoff has a long history in the industry, a true passion for the sport and understands the importance of long-term planning, community relations, and the role employees play in delivering guests a world-class experience.”
– Jim Crown
Buchheister has nearly 25 years of overall ski industry experience, primarily gained at Park City, where he spent 16 years in various leadership roles. He joined Vail Resorts in 2014 when they acquired Park City Mountain Resort and then was appointed to lead the company’s urban ski areas: Afton Alps, Minnesota, Mt. Brighton, Michigan, and Wilmot, Wisconsin. In 2017 he was named general manager of Keystone, Colorado, before taking on his current role at Whistler Blackcomb.
“Geoff and I connected on so many levels. He has a deep understanding of the business, but just as important, he is a lifelong skier, and has a deep tie to the mountain lifestyle. He worked his way up through the industry and understands the importance of building a solid team and putting employees first.”
– Mike Kaplan, president and CEO, Aspen Skiing Company
Buchheister is a Colorado native who grew up in Winter Park, Colorado, where his father was a ski resort executive for 44 years and was instrumental in starting the National Sports Center for the Disabled and became the organization’s first CEO. Geoff attended the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he was a three-time NCAA All-American racer on the ski team. His wife Tina grew up ski racing in Slovenia and was an NCAA All-American for the University of Utah. They have two children, a 16-year-old daughter, Stella, who skis for Team Summit Colorado and is on the national development group for the U.S. Ski Team, and a 13-year-old son, Luka, who has been racing with the Whistler Mountain Ski Club in British Columbia.
“I’m incredibly excited to be returning to Colorado and joining the Aspen Skiing Company. I feel a strong connection to the values that the Crown family brings to this organization, and I look forward to being part of this team. Aspen has such deep history, built by a community that loves and celebrates its unique mountain culture. I’m humbled to have the opportunity to listen and learn as I integrate into the company and the community.”
– Geoff Buchheister