Note: This article has been updated to reflect the version printed in the Oct. 10, 2012 issue of the Revelstoke Times Review.
When Rod Kessler first came to Revelstoke to interview for the position of Chief Operating Officer, the town was buried in snow.
“The snow was up to the roof for the first storey homes in the community,” he recalled. “I never really saw the community in the interview process – it was buried.”
Not long after he was hired to direct the mountain operations of the resort as it went from dreams and decades of planning to reality.
Last week, after more than 5.5 years in Revelstoke, he stepped down from his post to take a position with LL Bean in Maine and be closer to his children. The Times Review first reported his resignation on Thursday.
“I think at the end of the day the feeling was the family strings were pulling much harder than we expected,” he said in an interview. “We didn’t see that coming. This opportunity presented itself and to be 30 minutes away from some of our kids looked appealing.”
Kessler joined RMR as COO at the outset of its operations in February 2007, not long after the resort announced the purchase of the Revelation Gondola and Stoke Chair. He later added the title of Vice-President to his position.
He came to Revelstoke after 30 years in the ski resort industry, including 15 years in senior management at Vermont’s Stowe Mountain Resort and Stratton Mountain Resort.
“I would like to wish Rod well, he and (Rod’s wife) Brenda, and thank them for their efforts,” said Graham Rennie, the President and COO of Northland Asset Management, which operates RMR.
Kessler was put in charge of the resort’s entire mountain operations, including skier services, mountain maintenance and construction, cat skiing; food, beverage and retail services; the ski school and ticket sales.
He helped oversee the preparation of the resort for winter operations over the spring, summer and fall of 2007, and the growth since then, including the addition of the Ripper Chair in 2008 and Turtle Creek beginner area in 2011.
“Rod’s been with the resort since its early days and has seen it to what it is today and we’re looking forward to continuing that growth,” said Rennie.
Kessler cited the initial construction of the resort, followed almost immediately afterward by the Great Recession as the biggest challenges he faced, and he credited Northland for stepping in and rescuing the resort from financial ruin at the time.
“Instead of being in an offensive position we were in an awkward defensive position along with the rest of the world,” he said.
Kessler’s resignation comes less than two months before RMR was set to open for the 2012-13 season. Rennie said the search has started for a replacement and that Steve Bailey would continue to direct skiers services and Mike Verwey mountain operations as the resort prepares for the upcoming winter.
“Any time you lose a senior member of a team, its concerning.” said Rennie. “There’s no good times, there’s no bad time. It takes a huge effort at the mountain to get things up and going and that’s just continuing.
“They’re the two key people to keep things running and we’re confident there’s going to be no disruptions there,” he added.
Kessler said his time in Revelstoke has been “overwheimingly positive” and the thing he would miss most was the people – both those he worked with and lived with in the community. He spoke of the previous weekend, where he encountered a bear on his morning run, before going for a night bike ride with friends and then fly fishing in the Akolkolex River the next morning.
“Most rewarding is the reality that Revelstoke is in the eye of the world at a larger scale within the ski community than it ever has been, and that’s not to underestimate the awareness that was global prior to the resort,” he said.
He said the resort was poised for double-digit growth in the next few years and the community as a whole should benefit.
“There will not be any significant challenges filling my role,” he said. “When you speak to the community and the people and Canada and Canadians and the politics in Canada, it’s an overwhelmingly positive experience for us.”