Daren Cole was no stranger to the ski industry when he joined Leitner-Poma of America in 2014.
Having spent time as the general manager of Powderhorn Mountain Resort and working at Purgatory and Crested Butte ski areas earlier in his career, he knew his way around hospitality. Where he needed to acclimate himself was on the manufacturing side.
But just five years later, Cole has not only done that, he's ascended to the role of CEO of the cable transport system manufacturer and is poised to move the company forward.
Leitner-Poma of America is headquartered in Grand Junction and is a leading manufacturer, installer and servicer of chairlifts, gondolas, trams, inclined elevators and urban transport systems. It is a subsidiary of Poma S.A., which has its headquarters in France, and is a sister company of Leitner AG in Italy.
Leitner-Poma of America makes equipment for ski resorts all over the U.S. and Canada and is working toward developing more projects related to urban transportation. Some notable projects on that end include the Roosevelt Island Tramway system in New York City and the High Roller Ferris wheel in Las Vegas.
"A huge goal is landing some urban transportation projects and to continue to be a leader in the ski industry," Cole said last week in an interview with The Daily Sentinel. "The ski industry is our bread and butter."
Cole was promoted to CEO earlier this year, replacing Rick Spear, who retired after more than 40 years with the organization.
"I know that I am leaving LPOA in good hands," Spear said in a press release in May. "Daren has shown a level of dedication and leadership to the company that will successfully transition into the future."
Spear led the company's move into a new facility at 2746 Seeber Drive in 2007, which expanded the manufacturing space for Leitner-Poma of America.
Cole said the company has roughly 140 of its 200 employees located in Grand Junction and he noted that 2018 was the company's best year in the new location. He said 2019 is still busy, but a little bit less so. However, 2020-21 is projected to be at least as busy as 2018, Cole said.
The ski industry had a bounce-back year in the 2018-19 season, which Cole said was desperately needed.
"It was a phenomenal year for the industry as a whole, which we needed coming off of last year," he said.
Cole served as general manager of Powderhorn until 2013, when he left the post and was replaced by Sam Williams.
He said the transition to Leitner-Poma was a good one, and it allowed him and his family to stay in the Grand Valley.
Grand Junction Economic Partnership Executive Director Robin Brown said the fact that a large manufacturer is based in Grand Junction is very important to the Grand Valley.
"It's a huge deal and I don't think we market it as much as we should," Brown said.
As GJEP has sought out companies in the outdoor recreation industry to relocate to Grand Junction, Brown notes that companies such as Leitner-Poma and DT Swiss Inc. have already made strides toward that goal.
"It gives us credibility," she said. "These are powerhouse companies."