Bob Kuusinen started flipping burgers at the top of Thunderhead more than 31 years ago. On Friday, the man who moved up through the ranks to become senior vice president of Steamboat Ski Area operations announced his retirement.
As senior vice president of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp., Kuusinen has overseen the ski area's operations and functions for the past four years. His last day at Ski Corp. will be Oct. 24, but he will be available in a consulting role through the winter.
After 31 years with the resort, "the time is right to move on," said Kuusinen, 50. He said he is unsure what his next move will be, but said there are business opportunities out there.
"I really just want to relax for a while, survey the landscape, spend time with the family," he said. "I do have things I am looking at, but I have a lot of work to do before deciding what it is I want to do."
As of now, he plans to stay in Steamboat, where he lives with his wife, daughter and son.
In 1972, Kuusinen started working in the grill area at Thunderhead Lodge. Before the ski season was over, he had moved into the assistant manager's position.
From there, he was promoted to a food service manager and vice president of food service operations. He also held positions in accounting and slope maintenance before becoming vice president of mountain operations.
In his last position, Kuusinen oversaw ski patrol, lift operations, lift maintenance, snowmaking, environmental, slope and vehicle maintenance, food and beverage, facilities, security, base area services, rental and retail, mountain bike operations and uniforms.
"Over my three decades in Steamboat, I've had a wonderful time working for the ski area and playing a role in what the resort has evolved into today," Kuusinen said. "I have truly enjoyed working with a group of incredible and talented people over the years. Steamboat is a very special place and one that I am blessed to have been a part of for so long."
Ski Corp. President Chris Diamond has not identified a replacement for the senior vice president position. Ski Corp. will take the next month or so to look for a replacement, he said.
"I'm not sure if you can ever replace a Bob Kuusinen," Diamond said.
Kuusinen was instrumental in the ski area's terrain expansion into Morningside Park and Pioneer Ridge, Diamond said.
He also was heavily involved in the development of on-mountain improvements such as the installation of high-speed chairlifts of Strom Peak and Thunderhead Express. He worked on expanding snowmaking to the top of Storm Peak.
With the food and beverage department until 1990, Kuusinen said one of his most rewarding projects was working on Rendezvous and bringing fine-dining venues such as Ragnar's and Hazie's to the ski area.
"(Rendezvous) was a big challenge. I really enjoyed that kind of challenge. We built a lot of things over the last (30) years," Kuusinen said.
Kuusinen also helped with the building of the Four Points Hut, bringing the Bear River Bar and Grill under Ski Corp.'s umbrella, creating the first phase of the Gondola Square remodel and upgrading the Gondola Square Transit Center.
Kuusinen has played a key role in the ski area's master plan process, which lays the foundation for possible on-mountain improvements in the next 10 years. Through his consulting services, Kuusinen plans to continue his involvement in the master plan update.
"The resort will miss his leadership, drive, determination and commitment to providing the best service and product every day," Diamond said. "Bob's support of the Steamboat Springs community has been unwavering, and I expect him to continue to be a part of Steamboat. In addition, he has made tremendous contributions to the resort and ski industry organizations during his 30-plus-year tenure."
Kuusinen has been involved in the Colorado Passenger Tramway Safety Board, Colorado Ski Country USA's Operations Committee, Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club, Steamboat Mental Health and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District.
"It has been fun," Kuusinen said. "I think, absolutely, I'll miss the most working with people here."
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