Magazine / News / People

Alumnus Mike Kaplan is Aspen Skiing Co.’s king of the hill

Mike Kaplan started as director of Aspen’s ski school then moved up to operations. In 2005, he was named chief operating officer; a year later, he was appointed CEO and president. Photo courtesy of Aspen/Snowmass

A lifelong skier who learned the sport on a tiny ski hill in Wisconsin, Aspen Skiing Co. CEO and President Mike Kaplan (MBA ’93) now runs one of the world’s top ski complexes.

Aspen has four resorts offering a wide range of terrain: the beginner’s paradise at Buttermilk; the steeps at Aspen Mountain and Aspen Highlands; and the sprawling, family-friendly Snowmass.

Kaplan set his heart on a career in the ski industry while ski bumming at New Mexico’s Taos Ski Valley Resort, where he headed after earning his undergraduate degree from the University of Colorado. At Taos, he taught skiing, worked the graveyard shift running the snow guns and learned the science of avalanche control on the ski patrol.

Needing a stronger foundation in management to make his next career move, he enrolled at DU’s Daniels College of Business to earn his MBA.

“I’d come to realize that most managers in the ski industry back then had come up through the ranks and had gotten on-the-job training,” recalls Kaplan, who lives in Aspen with his wife, Laura, and four children. “A business degree was a good next step.”

He started as director of Aspen’s ski school then moved up to operations. In 2005, he was named chief operating officer; a year later, he was appointed CEO and president.

Five years later, Kaplan says Aspen is poised for renewed growth. Health-conscious baby boomers are reaching their 50s and 60s still in shape, with money to spend, and with legs strong enough to head down a run in a foot of fresh powder. Better mountain grooming and improved ski technology has also improved the on-mountain experience.

Those years, however, won’t last forever, and Kaplan — like the rest of the ski industry — knows Aspen needs to reach out to the younger generation to get more skiers and snowboarders up on the mountain.

“Things are good right now, but down the road, we need to replace those baby boomers with Gen X and Gen Y,” Kaplan says. “We need to build and nurture Gen X, and Gen Y is a different generation. It’s more diverse, and our business is not that diverse. We need to diversify our customer base to compete for those vacation dollars.”

Tags:

2 Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*