Visitors to Sundance Mountain Resort this winter have found a wonderful new experience at one of Utah’s great hidden gems. Working with the experienced Sundance team, legendary ski industry leader Bill Jensen has helped them transform the resort with new lifts, terrain, snowmaking and much more. Jensen, a longtime visionary who has led some of North America’s most notable resorts, talked to Ski Utah’s Last Chair about his storied career and the fun he’s having coaching the team at Sundance.
After stewarding Sundance for over a half-century, film legend Robert Redford sold his interest in December 2020 after carefully curating potential buyers to ensure his legacy would remain. The new investors included Broadreach Capital Partners and Cedar Capital Partners. But what was most important for skiers and riders was the inclusion of Jensen as a partner.
While he didn’t discover skiing until he was 19 in southern California, Jensen quickly grew passionate about the sport, starting his career at Mammoth Mountain as a liftie. In the decades since then he’s hopscotched around in leadership roles from Vail to Whistler to Telluride and Intrawest. In 2019, he was inducted into the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Hall of Fame.
In his new role, he fell in love with Sundance the day he hiked up to the top of Ray’s Lift and then up to Mandan Summit. His vision came clear in an instant when he soaked in the view of Mt. Timpanogos from Mandan.
This winter skiers were treated to a host of positive upgrades:
The new high-speed Outlaw Express taking skiers from base to Mandan Summit in just seven minutes.
New beginner and intermediate terrain off Mandan offering stunning new views and options. Check out Broadway!
A new beginner area with three magic carpets.
A new return lift, Stairway, from the back mountain along with a new run allowing Bear Claw to base skiing or riding.
The new Lookout restaurant with stunning views of Timp from the base.
New snow guns as part of an upgraded snowmaking system, including a water holding pond.
While he’s been the top executive of the biggest ski resort companies in North America, he remains a true mountain guy always anxious to take visitors up on the mountain. Here are a few teasers from the interview. Check out the full conversation on Last Chair, available through all podcast platforms.
Bill, you had a bit of a non-traditional introduction to skiing.
Unfortunately, later than most people I know. Born in Hawaii and grew up in Southern California. When I was 19, for some reason I walked into a Sports Ltd. store in Woodland hills. They were showing the K2 Performers video. I saw skiing for the first time and was fascinated. I just went, ‘wow, this is incredible.’ So I went skiing that winter one day, and that was it.
I’ll bet you were pretty excited to get a job as a liftie?
It just connects you to people, and, candidly, it was fun! So that's where it all started. It was all happenstance. I had no idea that a ski area was even a business. I just saw it as some great recreational fun pursuit. And I just - I fell in love. You know, I always say, I love skiing, but I became passionate about the ski industry and the business and that's where things unfolded.
You’ve lived in some great ski towns: Mammoth, Sun Valley, Whistler, Vail, Breckenridge. What has attracted you to those towns?
In small towns, you get to know a lot of people. And I also like the fact that people depend on each other, whether it was helping them split their firewood or snow removal or whatever. You built relationships and, in ski towns, there's a common denominator that everybody loves snow and they love sliding on snow, whether they snowboard or ski. But, you know, I just felt very comfortable in that environment. Living in a ski town, to me, just fit my ... who I was and my persona. I really like small mountain communities.
What did it mean to be honored in the Hall of Fame?
It's touching. It's gratifying. It wasn't something that you aspire to. I really believe in the sport. I believe that the skier is important and I've worked hard over my career to mentor people and bring new people into the business and see their careers grow. And that has been the most fulfilling part of my career.
When you visited Sundance in 2020, what stood out to you?
You know the word, and I don't want it to be overused, but just the sense of arrival and walking through the base - there's something magical about this resort and part of it is the environment it sits in, Mount Timp and the views. It is truly one of very few unique ski areas that have this setting. And because it was Robert Redford's business, it really was a family business, is what I would call it. And you can sense that in the culture, the staff and the people who are here. My sense is everyone feels a bit of a sense of ownership of Sundance and how it's played a role in their lives.
What was the vision for the new alignment of Outlaw Express to Mandan Summit?
When you're on the top of Mandan, it feels like you can just reach out and touch it (Timpanogos). It made a lot of sense for us to actually implement that lift alignment and put it all together. It was a bit more expensive than just putting something back in the place of Ray's lift. But I think for the long term and summer and everything else, it was the right decision. I think the view of Timp from the top of Mandan is probably the signature view!
As a resort leader over many years, any memorable powder stories?
So, Whistler Blackcomb in 2010 at the Olympics. One of the sayings in the ski industry is if you want it to snow, hold a downhill. It snowed to beat the band and the downhill was canceled. And up on the high alpine, I'm not exaggerating, there was 30 plus inches of fresh snow. And because the Olympic Committee was controlling access, there were very few people there.
And as the head of Whistler-Blackcomb at the time, you can be sure he was there!
Bill Jensen may be new to Utah, but he does have a favorite Utah craft beer! Learn about that and more in a fascinating discussion with one of America’s visionary ski leaders about his newfound passion working with the team at Sundance. And while he’s going to leave it to the Sundance staff to announce future plans, he at least gives us a few hints. Take a listen!
Chad Linebaugh: Blending Art, Nature and Skiing at Sundance Mountain Resort
Learn more about Sundance in this earlier episode from 2020 with President Chad Linebaugh.
When you look at Sundance Mountain Resort, you need to view it as much more than a ski area. Today, Robert Redford’s Sundance is a wonderful blend of art, nature and skiing. Sundance may be a small ski area, but it skis big. President and General Manager Chad Linebaugh will take you on a tour of his favorite Sundance runs in his conversation with host Tom Kelly, plus some little known facts about the famous actor.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:00| I love coming down the canyon to Sundance to do a podcast. We were here a couple of years ago. My guest today, Bill Jensen from Sundance. We're going to talk about all the new things happening at this amazing resort. But Bill, when you come into this place, especially after a snowfall, it doesn't get a lot prettier than this.
Bill Jensen: |00:00:19| This is a really special spot, not just here in Utah, but in North America. There are very few ski resorts or ski areas that have the vista that Sundance has and the uniqueness of the canyon and the mountains opening up to you. It's just a really special place.
Tom Kelly: |00:00:39| Yeah, it seems like every time I come down here. After the snowfall, we had a great little snowfall. In fact, I think Provo and Sundance got the lion's share out of this storm in the last couple of days.
Bill Jensen: |00:00:52| Yeah, I heard that they had nine inches yesterday and overnight, and I would say, you know, no matter whether you're in Utah or another state ski areas, there's always a bit of a snow derby every time it snows. And I think Sundance maybe had the most snow in Utah.
Tom Kelly: |00:01:11| I think they won this one. It was really great to see. We're going to talk more about Sundance, but I want to introduce you to the Utah audience. You have had an amazing career in the industry and we're going to talk more about it. Most of it has been outside of Utah, but it's great to have you involved in skiing in our state now. But let's talk about how you grew up as a skier, you have a little bit of an atypical background. Born in Hawaii, growing up in Southern California, and how did you find your way into the sport just as a participant?
Bill Jensen: |00:01:40| Well, unfortunately, later than most people I know. Born in Hawaii and grew up in Southern California and, you know, you do the Southern California sports, whether it's football or baseball. And you know, I ran track and, you know, rode motocross bikes and, you know, Southern California lifestyle. And when I was 19 years old, I was walking down Ventura Boulevard in Woodland Hills, which is a suburb of Los Angeles, and there's a ski retailer called Sports Ltd. And I, for one reason or another, I walked into the store and I saw what I would call a fairly primitive video machine that played film and they were showing I think it was the K2 Performers video And for the first time, I saw freestyle skiing and I was like, totally fascinated with it. And you know, whether I mean, all the people from Bob Salerno to John Clendenin to Wayne Wong to Eddie Ferguson to ... the list goes on and on, you know, even, you know, later got to know Stu O'Brien. I just went, wow, this is incredible. So I went skiing that winter one day, and that was it.
Tom Kelly: |00:03:01| How old were you then?
Bill Jensen: |00:03:02| 19, at a local mountain in Southern California, with Holiday Hill, now known as Mountain High. And that was it. And then, you know, going to school and then the next year, I had a whopping two days when I was 20. And then through college, 21. In November, just after my 21st birthday, a bunch of friends went to Mammoth for four days to ski at Thanksgiving. And so now I'm up to a whopping seven days of skiing. But when I was at Mammoth walking through the lodge, I was trying to figure out what I was going to do. And then I saw a sign that said Personnel Office and I walked in at Thanksgiving at a ski area and said, 'You guys have jobs?' And they went, 'Yes,' and I said, 'and I could get one? And they said 'yes.' And I said, I will be back shortly. And I truly went home packed, and I literally moved to Mammoth with seven days of skiing under my belt. And my first job at Mammoth, that first winter of the 73 74 winter was as lift operator.
Tom Kelly: |00:04:13| Great. Everybody should start as a lift operator, right?
Bill Jensen: |00:04:16| It's the best thing for you to give it just you connect to people and you know, and, candidly, it was fun. So that's where it all started, and it was candidly, all happenstance. I mean, I had no idea that a ski area was even a business. I just saw it as some great recreational fun pursuit. And then, you know, I think I was fortunate to go to Mammoth and you know, Dave McCoy, who founded Mammoth and was a true inspiration to everybody that worked in that organization, including me. And I just - I fell in love. You know, I always say, I love skiing, but I became passionate about the ski industry and the business and. And that's where things unfolded.
Tom Kelly: |00:05:09| In that first winter. Did you get in a few days of skiing yourself?
Bill Jensen: |00:05:13| Yeah, I skied. You know, I had a good work ethic, and so I always was willing. There was no overtime, so I was always willing to work. The extra shift, which I think may have endeared me to my managers and in the organization, but I probably skied that winter, you know, counting the four days at Thanksgiving, maybe twenty five days and you know, and you think about it. So I'd only ski 30 days in my life after the end of the first winter. So I still was pretty, You know, I could get down a blue run, you know, and there was no grooming back then. I mean, everything was bumps and you know, then it would snow and, you know, Sierra cement and trying to learn how to turn to that. And then, you know, fortuitously, when I was going to college in the summers, I worked for a friend, father who was a concrete contractor, and I learned to form and finish concrete and could do driveways and swimming pools. And mammoth was building a new maintenance shop, which really was the biggest thing the ski industry had ever seen. And it was all concrete tilt up. And I ended up they asked me if I wanted to stay that summer and work on it, and I was like, Oh, of course. So work worked the whole summer. And then in the fall, My boss approached me and said, You know, there's a lot of people that have been waiting for this job, but you know, I'd like to have you become a lift supervisor, which really meant that you got paid to ski all day. And he said, you got to work a little bit on your skiing, which I mean, I knew I had to get some miles in. And I think the next three years at Mammoth, I skied more than 200 days a year.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:02| Wonderful. So you could do that there.
Bill Jensen: |00:07:04| I guess you can do that? Yeah, because we were all those years back, in those years, we opened in October before Halloween and we closed the Fourth of July. You know, we had race camps in June, up on chair three, and so I worked, you know, actually those years, even though I was the lift supervisor, I loaded lifts and, you know, I still remember, you know, I mean, I was a big fan of pro racing, so I mean that Spider Sabich and Hank Kashiwa, Perry Thompson, you know, I mean, the whole crew was training there and you know, Duvillard was there, you know, all these famous racers. And so, you know, it was remarkable just to be in that environment. And I think it just fueled my passion, you know, for the sport and the business.
Tom Kelly: |00:07:52| Bill, you grew up in Southern California, Mammoth Lakes, California is a huge difference and you've been to ski towns all over the country, actually. What are the things that you found early on that it really attracted you to ski towns?
Bill Jensen: |00:08:05| I guess, in small towns, eventually you get to know a lot of people. And I also like the fact that people depended on each other, you know, whether it was helping people split their firewood or snow removal or whatever. And you know, but you built relationships and, candidly, in ski towns there's a common denominator that everybody loves snow and they love sliding on snow, whether they snowboard or ski now. But, you know, I just felt very comfortable in that environment and later in my career, you know, as I progressed, you know, I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia, downtown and went to an office and kind of the same thing in Denver after Vancouver. And, you know, while cities are wonderful and they have lots of great interesting options and choices. Living in a ski town, to me, just fit my ... who I was and my persona. And I really like small mountain communities.
Tom Kelly: |00:09:20| After you had worked in a few ski towns, mammoth Sun Valley, you migrated from that type of job to a selling job to the resorts. You went to Pisten Bully for a while. What prompted that change for you?
Bill Jensen: |00:09:34| I think I always knew what I wanted. I wanted to see if I could have the opportunity at some point in my career to run a ski resort. I think, you know, I admired Dave McCoy so much. But, you know, you have a lot to learn. And so, you know, I spent eight years in mountain operations, you know, outside, made snow and built lifts and cut trails and did all the things that you do. Construction jobs in the summer and then obviously operations during the winter, and but, you know, Pisten Bully was coming to the United States, the German manufacturer. I saw they were bringing technology to grooming that I thought was going to be a game-changer for the industry and the sport. I like to think as I look back on my career, every 10 years there's something new introduced in the industry, you know, whether it was high speed, you know, first the chairlift, but then high speed lifts. And when grooming came along Pisten Bully was the first to market with what we all know now was the power tiller and that corduroy ski surface that is just the norm today. But literally 40 years ago, it was just coming on and I saw that opportunity. And so, you know, I went to work for him, you know, in a sales position and then became the North American sales manager and then ultimately a vice president oversaw the track vehicle business. I think the best thing for me, and in my career, was it allowed me to really almost go to every single ski area in North America at some time over that seven year period. I can't say that I skied them all because sometimes I would just be there for two or three hours. But I saw a lot of different ski areas or ski resorts and how they operated and functioned. And it really made my mind work to say, you know, so what are the right models? There's no one model for success. There are several models, but I got to experience those and I look back on that experience. And I also, you know, part of the job, I got to go to Europe four or five times a year. And so I saw a lot of European resorts and saw how they operated. And so it really was an incredible growth and educational experience, a great learning experience. Incredible. You know, I just got exposed to different people, different management styles, you know, just different people in the industry that, you know, in my opinion, I think it's important to make a difference, and I saw lots of people who truly made a difference.
Tom Kelly: |00:12:26| I imagine in that role at Pisten Bully that did bring you to Utah a fair amount.
Bill Jensen: |00:12:31| It did. You know, when I first came, we had a branch here in Sandy, Utah, so I was in Utah. Probably, I probably was in Utah three or four weeks out of the year and visiting resorts, you know, a customer base was growing here pretty rapidly and visiting resorts and at that point got to know ... you know, a few of the general managers, but people in mountain operations, the guys in the shop. And you know, and you just spent time with a lot of people and then we did trips. We did customer trips to Europe. You know where we would invite the general managers or the mountain managers to come with us. And so I hosted several of those and it really developed some close relationships with, you know, people at Brighton, the people at Deer Valley, people at Snowbird, the people at Alta.
Tom Kelly: |00:13:30| So did you pass through Sundance at all? Back then,
Bill Jensen: |00:13:34| Only one time for about two hours. And you know, I have a very, you know, this is in the 80s. I have a very vague memory of, you know, coming around from Park City and coming here. And I didn't ski here. And just, yeah, I was on the property at some point, you know, probably 1985 or 1986. So a long time ago. Yeah.
Tom Kelly: |00:14:01| And you know, even at Sundance, a lot has changed. So since that day at least. Yeah. I'm not going to touch on all of the stops that you've made, but you've really been to some amazing resorts. You've worked for Sun Valley, Sunday River, Breckenridge, Vail, Beaver Creek, Telluride. Quite a few, I imagine. I mean, that's an amazing amount of diversity that you've built into this career of yours.
Bill Jensen: |00:14:24| Yeah. And, you know, in operating roles at the resorts, you said. And then as my career grew, I ran multi-resort companies. And so, you know, and that's a very different job. I actually love being, you know, on property and in the trenches with your team. But, you know, trying to run 10 or 12 resorts at one time is also a different skill set. And, you know, it's one that I enjoyed.
Bill Jensen: |00:14:56| And, you know, trying to keep the herd all moving in the same direction, so to speak, so yeah, I've had a I've had a wide variety of experiences and, you know, someone asked me maybe six or eight months ago, you know, how many resorts were you involved in? And I was like, Oh my God, you know, I think it's clearly in 2025, some, you know, in the twenties somewhere, but it was a lot great memories. So oh, I wouldn't trade it for the world. Yes, the best. I just think I was blessed to, you know, it's almost serendipitous how my career path went and where it took me.
Tom Kelly: |00:15:41| You were inducted into the U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame a couple of years ago, you and I in the same induction class, and I imagine that for you. I mean, nobody gets into this for the awards, but a recognition like that from your peers is very meaningful.
Bill Jensen: |00:15:56| Yeah, it's touching. And, you know, and it's gratifying. It wasn't something that you aspire to, and I don't think you aspired to it, but to be acknowledged for that contribution. And you know, in my case, I think, you know, it really was. I really believe in the sport and I believe that skier is important and I've worked hard over my career to, you know, mentor people and bring new people into the business and see their careers grow. And that probably to me, has been the most fulfilling part of my career.
Tom Kelly: |00:16:37| We're going to talk specifically about Sundance when we come back from our break here in just a minute. But as we go into the break, the ski industry has evolved tremendously during your tenure. It's quite a different business model than it was yours before. The customer expectation is different. How do you look at it today compared to where it was back then and how have you been able to evolve through all of this?
Bill Jensen: |00:17:00| You know, and I think you started in the seventies and I mean, it was it was, you know, I always say the sport kind of evolved from being an adventure activity to actually being a sport to being a lifestyle and you know, you enjoy all of those parts and you don't lose any of there's still the adventure aspect backcountry skiing, skinning up, you know, all those things. The sport is still there. Ski racing, we just saw, you know, I love the Olympics and I love ski racing and we saw that. And then, you know, we obviously … there's a lifestyle to it. And so many people, skiing is a part of who they are. But, you know, I think, you know, if I think back, I'll give a lot of credit to Bob Wheaton and Deer Valley in the 80s showed that there needs to be a hospitality component to skiing. And I think it took the rest of the ski industry a couple of decades to get that message and start to provide an experience that's more rounded. Obviously, sliding down the hill is why people come here, but there's a lot of other expectations about food or lodging or retail or all the pieces that go with it. So, you know, the sport has evolved and then, COVID has been interesting. You know, I really have a lot of respect for the people I know in the industry and what they've had to work through the last couple of years. But ultimately, you know, it's I think the industry is in a transitional period, you know, and I think, you know, Epic and Ikon passes are driving the industry and the sport in a direction that I don't think we quite know the answer to yet. So I watch it with interest. But at the same point, I really, truly believe that the guest experience and hospitality experience are still paramount.
Tom Kelly: |00:19:05| Speaking of that guest experience, you mentioned Bob Wheaton, a Deer Valley, and I know a part of that time you were overseeing Vail, and I think the two of you were, you know, engaged in this little competition to see who would be number one.
Bill Jensen: |00:19:18| Ski magazine, every year, you know, came out with a poll and Bob and I in my 10 year run at Vail and then obviously those 10 years he was the Deer Valley one or the other of us was number one and the other one was number two. And it was a bit of a back and forth piece and Ski magazine always let us know who was one and who was two. And then the number two made a very nice phone call to the number one and congratulated them. And, you know, and I was really proud because I think Bob is, you know, is one of the best people in the business. And I give him a tremendous amount of credit for creating that more well-rounded hospitality experience that, you know, the industry over a decade or two really adopted and has been the practice for at least the last 20 years,
Tom Kelly: |00:20:19| We're with Bill Jensen at Sundance this week on Last Chair. We'll be right back after this short break.
Tom Kelly: |00:20:26| We are back at Sundance Resort today on Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast talking to Bill Jensen, industry luminary, now one of the principals here at Sundance and in the second half, I want to talk about Sundance. And first of all, how did you initially get engaged in this? When Robert Redford was looking to sell back in 2020, how did you find your way into that process?
Bill Jensen: |00:20:52| A friend of mine and my wife's … a couple that had lived in Vail for 20 years and he has always been heavily involved in the hospitality business. He was chairman of Rosewood Resorts and Hotels. He built and owned several four seasons and for about 15 years. I think maybe 15 years ago, he had his first conversation with Robert Redford about Sundance. He's very attracted to it. They love, love the outdoors. They love the setting here. And at that time, Robert Redford wasn't, you know, thinking about selling it. And in 2020, I think, my understanding is, you know, Robert Redford decided it was maybe time to transition. And, you know, different parties came in and looked and my friend, you know, was like, Hey, Bill, would you go look at Sundance? And I'm like, oh, wow. Yeah, you know, blah blah blah, you know, and I had a memory that was, you know, whatever, thirty five years old your two hour visit. Yeah. So I finally, in I think it was August of twenty, came here and was very discreet. And I actually, instead of riding the lifts in the summer, I just hiked the mountain all the way up to the top and looked at. Every lift line, you know, spent a day hiking and then spent another day wandering around looking at all the base area of the village, the cottages and all the pieces. And I actually, because I hadn't skied here, I was like, Wow, this is it's it's pretty nice. And obviously, the setting is just incredible. And so I went home and said, you know, I took a look. I spent a couple of days there and I said, Yeah, I think it's interesting, you know, and it's, you know, you just, you know, is it going to happen and et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And so things moved on and helped a bit with the due diligence and then finally, it was, you know, the whole transaction was coming together and my friend is part of a small hospitality private equity firm in California. and and then another fund out of New York that also does hotel - small hotels. And the gentleman that runs that I met at Goldman Sachs, you know, eight or nine years ago, and he is he's running that fund and everybody came together and said, you know, let's let's move forward with this and, you know, come together and you know, and then we were successful. There's a lot of Utah investors in the investment group. So there's some real roots here in Utah and, you know, people in Provo that really love this place. So we were successful and closed on it in December of Twenty, right before Christmas. And so we've been operating it for about 14 months, you know, with the team here at Sundance and and I'm a partner with the private equity people and an investor andIt's fun for me. You know, it's it's fun to come in and … my role is a bit of a coach is how I describe myself. And I hope that's how the team here sees me. And I try to, you know, I'm not … I don't dabble in the minutia with them. It's just try to see the big picture and where we're going. And you know, and we're fortunate that we're in a position that we have money to invest but at the same point, really protect the integrity of Sundance that Robert Redford. Established over 50 years,
Tom Kelly: |00:25:01| Yeah, I want to talk a little bit more about that, and before we look forward, let's look a little bit backward and this really is a unique property and all of us who live in Utah have always valued this and truly respected what Robert Redford did, and he did this 50 years ago. You've been in a number of business ventures. Is this really a unique situation to have a place like this that has been so well preserved and has the heritage that it does? And then how does that impact you as you look forward to building a business plan here?
Bill Jensen: |00:25:35| You know, I think, you know, I've been fortunate in the industry, in my time in it to have met or worked with what I would call a lot of the founders of the industry. You know, whether it was Dave McCoy, but you know, you can go down a long list of people who really started from nothing. And I think Robert Redford here, too. He found the spot. And yes, there was a small little ski area here and, you know, over time. But he had a vision, and I really admire and respect the vision that he had. And I think it captured the hearts of people here in Utah and others. And when you come here, there's just … it's a different feeling. And I always say that you know, when I go to a new ski area or a new resort, I always go, What's the sense of place here? You know, and you everyone has a slightly different feeling. And I think Sundance is a very unique sense of place. And I think, you know, as the new caretaker's owners, you know, we have a very committed and we have a strong responsibility to maintain the integrity of the commitment to the environment, the commitment to the sense of place here. And so we really take that into consideration as we think about Sundance and where to invest in and where does it go, going forward.
Tom Kelly: |00:27:09| When you did that summer visit in 2020 and you walked the mountain? What was your feeling of the sense of place for what you were? You were seeing, really for the first time?
Bill Jensen: |00:27:35| You know the word, you know, and I don't want it to be overused, but just even from the sense of arrival and walking through the base, there's something magical about this and part of it is the environment it sits inAnd mount temp and the views. I mean, it is truly one of very few unique ski areas that have this setting. And then because I think, you know, it was Robert Redford's business and, you know, it really was a bit almost a family business, is what I would call it. And you can sense that in the culture and the staff and the people who are here. And you know, my sense is everyone, you know, particularly in Utah County, feels a bit of a sense of ownership of Sundance and how it's played a role in their life. I mean, I've already heard dozens of stories about first dates here and proposals here and weddings here. And you know, those are part of the fabric of Sundance. And I think that it has defined Sundance. And it's clearly our vision going forward is to maintain that special magical characteristic that Sundance exudes.
Tom Kelly: |00:28:43| I know that everyone's been happy to hear that since the acquisition took place. I want to remind listeners we also had Chad Linebaugh on two years ago, the general manager. Season one, episode seven and our first season of Lat Chair, and we'll link that up in the podcast notes at Ski Utah dot com. But it was an interesting talk about the place at that time prior to the acquisition and really looking back in time to share some of the thoughts of history. And Chad very much grew up on this mountain, too, so lots of real local lore. So let's talk about the changes so far. I was up skiing today - Outlaw Express, game-changer, high-speed quad coming out of the base right now, and it really has small change, big transformation.
Bill Jensen: |00:29:31| You know, in fairness, you looked at the mountain and the lift infrastructure and the snowmaking infrastructure and the grooming infrastructure and, you know, Sundance was doing the best they can, could or can with the resources they had. And when we came in and took a look, we recognized that the old Ray’s lift as a fixed script quad with midstation unload. The backside really necessitated that the staff operates that lift at a very slow line speed because beginners were getting on at ski school. And so, you know, the general consensus was the lift ride was 20 to 25, five minuteslong. And the lines and what it really did is it forced most skiers to go to the back and stay on the back mountain, which is a great skiing experience. So, you know, we came in and we looked and we worked with Sno Engineering, which is a fairly well-known ski resort planning group and worked with them. And I was here. And, you know we knew that we wanted to put a high speed quad in out of a base and we were up skiing. And I said, can we hike up this summit, Mandan Summit? So we hiked up with our skis. And when I stood up there,I went, Oh my God, this is where the new lift needs to go. And Chad pointed out that there was a lift there that they took out in 1995, so there hadn't been a lift there for 25 or 26 years. And so we worked with Sno Engineering to do that design and have a mid station load. But the biggest piece is high speed. Express lifts move very slowly in the two terminals or literally all three terminals with the mid station included, which makes ease of loading for a wide variety of skiers. But the lift lift time now is seven minutes versus the twenty or twenty five that we had. And so, you know, we made that investment, which candidly required a second lift on the backside that we call stairway, which is a very short lift to get you back to the top of Mandan. And you know, and then we recognize that their snowmaking infrastructure was fairly old and not particularly efficient. So we've invested in air water. We put a reservoir in that was in a natural swale. It was the reservoir was built in two or three weeks and put the liner in and we can fill that with water and really increase our snowmaking capabilities and built a new restaurant in the Creekside building, which we call Lookout. And, you know, beefed up the grooming and, you know, all those pieces. And you know, and we still have future plans. And I think the Sundance Group will probably be announcing something for this summer in the next two or three weeks. But, you know, but we also really believe in the summer business and we think, you know, the mountain biking off and the hiking off Mandan. The opportunity maybe to do wedding ceremonies on the top of Mandan. It really makes it attractive also for our summer activity.
Tom Kelly: |00:33:07| Yeah, it really has made a big difference. We had Katharina Schmitz from Doppelmayr on the podcast in December, and I think a lot of skiers say they look at high speed quads and they just think this is just we're able to get a lot more people up the mum. But really, as you mentioned, one of the principal reasons for high speed lift is you control that speed in the terminal. So it really accommodates skiers of all ability levels getting on and off the lift.
Bill Jensen: |00:33:28| Yeah. well, I mean, you know, in the old days, the lift was a fixed grip quad, but it still was a 2,200 an hour uphill capacity. If it ran at 500 feet a minute now, it ran at 250. So in essence, it maybe was 1,200 people an hour. Now, with Outlaw Express, we can run that at a much higher line speed and truly put 2,000 or 2,200 people up the mountain. And, you know, but we provided about 40 acres more of ski terrain when we went to the top of Mandan and we did a lot of …I mean, I know that we spent a seven figure amount on trail grading and, you know, created, you know, if you're up here skiing, you know, the new access off Mandar and called Broadway and you know, everything is snowmaking, you know, move to patrol outpost to the top of Mandan. Just, you know, there's a lot of pieces that go with putting in a new lift. And but you know, we think overall, you know, and you know, we had a lot of projects or I like to say we were juggling a lot of balls last summer. And, you know, in some ways, you know, we all want it to snow in November, but we were fortunate because we were on a really tight schedule. And you know, as you said, Katharina and Doppelmayr was great, but you know, even in that there are supply chain issues. And I mean, it just was an intense time. For the team here at Sundance, and but I have to say, you know, we got to the finish line on Christmas Eve. And, you know, and then it snowed and then, you know, then we didn't quite have a snowmaking temperature. We wanted for a couple of days and we got that knocked out. And now, you know, they've smoothed out a lot of the bumps that that, you know, it was … I have a saying that, you know, opening a ski area is like wrapping a Christmas present. You know, first you have to get it in the box, then you have to wrap the box and then you put a ribbon on it. In our case, we got the president in the box on Christmas Eve and then we got the wrapping on it as fast as we could between then and New Year's. And, you know, and then finally, in January, we were able to start putting the ribbon on it so it wouldn't happen again. You know, usually we like to have the ribbon on it, you know, the week before Christmas and my senses will be in that position next year. So in some way, you know, for our season, passholders apologies. But in recognition of their patronage and dedication to Sundance, we extended the season a week to give people an opportunity to get a few extra days in April.
Tom Kelly: |00:36:14| Well, I want to give a shout out for Broadway coming off Mandan that takes you down into some just absolutely stunning views of Timp. So you haven't really had before.
Bill Jensen: |00:36:23| Know when you're on the top of Mandan, it feels like you can just reach out and touch it. And it's just, you know, I think it made a lot of sense for us to take a look to do, not take a look to actually implement that lift alignment and put it all together. And you know, and it certainly was a bit more expensive than just putting something back in the place of Ray's lift. But I think for the long term and summer and everything else, it was the right decision.
Tom Kelly: |00:36:50| Folks, when you come out here to ski the new Sundance, you know you're going to take the lift and you're going to kind of have that old mentality. But pretty soon you're going to think, Ooh, this is not exactly the same line. This is a new experience.
Bill Jensen: |00:37:01| Yeah, it's a new experience. And you know, when you come up to the base of man, then it's like all of a sudden you pick up. But when I stood up there, you know, it's interesting. From there you can see Heber City, you can see the airport, you can see the reservoir and at the top of the old rays, you miss those views. And so you know, and obviously the views off the top, you know, the back mountain are just stunning.But I actually think the view of Timp from the top of Mandan is probably the signature view.
Tom Kelly: |00:37:32| Just a couple of quick things before we close. I would imagine, and I know you're not going to probably give away what you're going to announce, but I would imagine that you're going to start to focus a little more attention on the back mountain.
Bill Jensen: |00:37:44| I'll let those guys. I think the next step for us is we're still trying to balance the terrain here. And so I think we're looking at a new terrain pod that I'll let those guys put the word out. But yeah, and then yes, but long term, yes. Then the next next piece after that is on the back mountain. And there's an opportunity to do a fairly significant terrain expansion with both really good intermediate, high intermediate and advanced terrain.
Tom Kelly: |00:38:16| Well, I want to thank you for your insights here today. We're going to close it out with this section we call Fresh Tracks on Last Chair, the Ski Utah podcast. You have worked at literally all of, but not really. What did you say? 25 or more resorts? Do you have any favorite ski run of all the places you've worked, any particular favorite ski runs anywhere in the country?
Bill Jensen: |00:38:40| The way I'm going to respond to that. Tom is, you know, for those of us who get to work at a ski area or live in a ski town, we have the benefit of what I call being in the right place at the right time on a powder day. And so when I look back on my career, I don't, you know I know a lot of areas and I've skied a lot of runs and there's nice skiing. But what I really do remember at this point is I remember the best powder days. And obviously there were some great ones at Mammoth. I remember one in particular at Sun Valley. I actually remember one at Sunday River on the East Coast, you know, and it was maybe only nine inches, but nine inches in New England is a big day. And then obviously, when I was at Vail, We had a program called First Tracks that you went up early and along with my head of mountain operations, we would decide which three lifts we're going to open for first tracks. And when there was a powder event, we got something open in the back bowls and you know, and I went, I'm talking about powder events. I'm talking about, you know, skiing on track, 20 inches of snow, but probably my favorite story, and I'm sure. You were there, so Whistler Blackcomb in 2010 was the Olympics, and one of the sayings in the ski industry is if you want it to snow, hold it downhill and it snowed to beat the band at Whistler and the downhill was canceled. And up on the high alpine, I'm not exaggerating, there was 30 plus inches of fresh snow and because the Olympics and how the Olympic Committee was controlling access to Whistler, there were very few people there.
Tom Kelly: |00:40:30| But you were one of them!
Bill Jensen: |00:40:31| I was one of them. But I also will say what would surprise me, but also impressed me is up skiing in this 30 inches was about 50 or 60 World Cup Olympic athletes. And it was, you know, candidly, It was as incredible a powder experience and that one's probably etched into my mind. But again, so I don't really, you know, there's some great ski runs out there and I've skied them and you love them. But I go back to those powder days, just get burnt into your mind. And you know, and if you're not here, you know, I wasn't here this morning, so I missed the nine inches today. Now, hopefully it'll snow a little bit tonight and I can get a couple runs in tomorrow morning. But yeah, I think it's my memory. It's just powder days. I think the best ski run is the one that you're on on any given day. Yeah, right? Absolutely. You're in Utah now. So just wondered if you have found a favorite Utah craft beer yet?
Bill Jensen: |00:41:38| Yes, they serve it here at Sundance. And I'm a lager, pils kind of guy and they have a beer here called Kiitos Pilsner. Yeah, and I will probably have one tonight and one tomorrow night. And when the next night?
Tom Kelly: |00:41:52| Good. And then at some point we'll introduce you to High West. I look forward to it. Groomers, bumps, glades or powder?
Bill Jensen: |00:42:01| Powder!
Tom Kelly: |00:42:01| Yeah, it's everybody's choice.
Bill Jensen: |00:42:02| People, you want to go see some bumps and I go, Why? But in Paris, all those freestyle guys, the bumps was what I saw.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:10| But that's not easy. It's still crazy to me. I don't know, but they love it and they're good at it. They're very good at it. Final one Describe Sundance in just one word. Amazing place.
Bill Jensen: |00:42:27| Yeah, I … You know, I have to go back and I don't want to overuse it. Magical. You know, it's hard to say magical about big ski areas, you know, and this is a nice, warm place. And to me, there's just some magic here.
Tom Kelly: |00:42:43| Bill Jensen, thank you for joining us on Last Chair and welcome to Utah.
Bill Jensen: |00:42:47| Thanks, Tom.