A season of change

Powderhorn general manager steps down in 'seamless transition'

Powderhorn Mountain Resort General Manager Daren Cole on Wednesday announced his resignation, effective Nov. 1. During his two-year tenure, Cole helped sculpt what formerly was an undermanaged ski resort into western Colorado’s premier small resort.

Sam Williams, right, mountain operations manager for Powderhorn Mountain Resort, discusses ski resort business with slope operations manager Dave Smith. Williams, who has skied at Powderhorn since he was 8, will become the resort’s general manager Nov. 1.

In a move Wednesday that surprised most of the Grand Valley skiing and business community, yet portends positive results for the future on every side, Powderhorn Mountain Resort General Manager Daren Cole announced he is stepping aside as of Nov. 1.

In his place, current Powderhorn mountain operations manager Sam Williams will become the general manager.

It’s first major change in management since the rejuvenation of Powderhorn Mountain Resort in 2011, when the resort was purchased by a consortium of well-known Colorado ski industry insiders: Andy Daly and Tom and Ken Gart.

Cole, who has known Daly since their days together at Vail two decades ago, cited “personal health and family reasons” for his taking premature leave of a resort he helped sculpt into one of the state’s most successful smaller ski resorts.

“Everyone has been very supportive, and overall it’s definitely been the right decision for us,” said Cole, who said he spent many hours discussing his future with his wife, Becky. “It’s been a seamless transition. I look at Sam as the legacy general manager, with his deep passion for the resort and the community.”

Williams, who was 8 when he first skied at Powderhorn, said, “Daren and I always talked about having people in place to take over in case someone left, so it’s going to be pretty much business as usual.

“We are going to continue with our goals and look forward to having a great opening day when we have snow on Dec. 12.”

Daly, longtime friends with Sam’s parents, Kevin and Jan Williams of Fruita, has known Sam since his birth.

“People outgrow positions, and our plan all along was to have succession plans in case someone left,” Daly said Friday. “I know Sam is very talented, and he will continue Daren’s plans of developing a guest-centric resort. This just isn’t quite the way we anticipated it happening.”

He said that while Cole brought a much-needed marketing background to the GM position, Williams brings a mountain operations background to the same position.

“It’s going to help tremendously that Daren will be around full-time through the end of October,” Daly said. “And it’s a real benefit that we have him on retainer through the ski season.”

Cole said his health issues concern a recent flare-up of Graves’ disease, a form of hyperthyroidism he was diagnosed with six years ago.

It’s easily controllable, but Cole, as is his nature, put his personal concerns aside to focus on his family and the resort.

“My biggest concern wasn’t for myself but for the resort, the employees and the community, and I wanted to make sure we weren’t in the middle of the season if I had to make a change,” said Cole, who plans to restart his marketing consulting business, Synergy Sales Solutions.

“I’m very excited about the future of Powderhorn, and hope I can continue to be a part of that future.”

Williams and his wife, Kim, and their two sons, Colton, 10, and Preston, 8, a year ago sold their Grand Junction home and purchased a small house close to Powderhorn.

“With my working weekends during the season, it’s going to let us be more flexible to spend time together on those rare off days,” he said.

“There still is lot to do to get ready for the season. I always think of October 1 as the start of the wacky season when things really get going full speed.”

“I’ve been around this mountain for a long time,” Williams said. “I’ve ski raced here, and some of my best relationships with people are because of this mountain. I love it and want it to succeed.”

But success doesn’t mean leaving behind the resort’s values and traditions, he said.

“We want to continue to improve but still retain Powderhorn’s roots, community and friendliness,” he said. “We want to be sure the ski area remains a place where families can come to enjoy themselves, where your kids are safe and where there is great terrain, great snow and great skiing.”

He sees a bright future for small ski resorts and for Powderhorn in particular.

“Powderhorn is still a real ski resort,” he said. “If you want to ski or ride, you come to Powderhorn.”


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