In June, Vail Resorts gathered its top executives for an out-of-office summit. The theme of the leadership rally was “brave.” Chief executive Rob Katz was leading a conversation with the team about having the courage to say “no” to the things that are not priorities.
“So that we can have the capacity to say ‘yes’ to things that are truly valuable and truly our priorities,” said Chris Jarnot, who a month earlier celebrated his 30-year anniversary with Vail Resorts, a tenure that saw him climbing from marketing assistant to executive vice president of the company’s mountain division.
Katz surely was not aware that his motivational talk would lead Jarnot toward a decision to leave. But the dad of three — two high school boys and a daughter in college — took his boss’ words to heart and decided it was time for a change.
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The company on Friday announced his departure at the end of this year.
“It just made sense that I would do this now as opposed to waiting three years when they would be out of the house, you know,” said Jarnot, who lives in the Vail Valley and commutes during the week to Vail Resorts’ corporate headquarters in Broomfield. “I want to go skiing and fishing and hunting and go to high school games; relax and be a dad and a husband.”
Jarnot grew up in the Vail Valley. As a kid he lived in one of those now-abandoned houses in Gilman, the former mining town visible from the highway heading up Battle Mountain Pass outside of Minturn. He went to the same schools his kids went to and even had some of the same teachers.
In college, he spent his winter breaks working at Beaver Creek, so really he started working for Vail Resorts — then known as Vail Associates — 34 years ago. He joined the Vail ski area marketing team right out of college and eventually became Vail’s marketing chief and then ran the ski area. In 2016 he joined the company’s executive team, running its stable of ski areas under president Pat Campbell.
“Chris has played a pivotal role in the success of our company across so many different areas, leaving behind a legacy of operational excellence, business sophistication and a culture of outstanding guest service,” Katz said in a written statement. “Chris has been a key partner to me and all our senior leaders in driving an incredible transformation at our company. We wish him all the best and sincerely thank him for all that he has done for Vail Resorts.”
The last two years have been dynamic, as Vail Resorts and its new competitor Alterra Mountain Co. vie for control of both major and regional ski areas. Since Jarnot joined the executive team in 2016, Vail Resorts has acquired ski areas in British Columbia, Australia, Vermont, Washington, New Hampshire and Crested Butte.
“The slope of the curve of change has been skyrocketing,” Jarnot said. “I’m really proud to have been a part of that.”
This summer Vail Resorts acquired Peak Resorts’ 17 Midwestern ski areas and on Friday the company announced three new regional leadership positions.
Bill Rock, the head of Utah’s Park City ski area, is moving to Broomfield to run the company’s resorts in Utah and Colorado. Pete Sonntag, who is running Whistler Blackcomb, is moving to Broomfield to oversee Whistler Blackcomb, Washington’s Stevens Pass, California’s Northstar, Kirkwood and Heavenly and its three resorts in Australia.
Doug Pierini, the head of Vermont’s Okemo ski area, will run the company’s three Northeast ski areas, three urban ski area and the 17 new Peak Resorts hills.
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