Like tenor Luciano Pavarotti and actor James Earl Jones, Kent Kirkpatrick is famous for his voice.
Known simply as "Switchboard Kent," Kirkpatrick has been the voice of Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. for 12 years. His nametag, proudly displayed on the left side of his black Steamboat vest, bears the nickname instead of his whole name.
"When I started, it was sort of mandated that you say, 'Steamboat switchboard, this is Kent.' It just gets old," Kirkpatrick said. "Somebody said, 'Why don't you just say 'Switchboard Kent,' because everyone knows who you are.' I was like, that makes sense. The comma disappeared because you have to pause, and there's not enough time."
Kirkpatrick is responsible for directing phone calls to the appropriate extension, answering questions - mostly about lift tickets and ski school - and serving as an ambassador of sorts as the first voice many people hear when they call the Steamboat Ski Area.
"Anyone who has ever dealt with Ski Corp. is like, 'Where did you get that guy?'" said Chris Diamond, president of the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. "Everyone knows Kent. He is Mr. Steamboat. If you ask anyone, they will say the same thing."
Kirkpatrick's "office" is in the fourth-floor lobby of the gondola building. Everyone associated with marketing, sales, public relations, mountain operations, facilities, administration, ambassadors and IT services passes Kirkpatrick's desk at some point during the day.
Everyone acknowledges Kirkpatrick. When they learn he is going to be featured in Locals, they smile.
"Oh, good," said Erin Windt, who is in Steamboat's marketing and sales department. "He is perfect."
Kirkpatrick, 49, was born and raised in Denver. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Denver, and he started skiing with the Eskimo Club when he was 12.
"The guy who started it was a veteran in the Tenth Mountain Division," Kirkpatrick said. "You took the bus down to Union Station (in Denver), and everyone would pile on the train and go up to Winter Park. The people who weren't a part of the Eskimo Club had the nicer cars."
Kirkpatrick moved from Denver to Steamboat with his wife Julie and their sons Ian and Colin in 1994.
"I was tired of driving to go skiing," said Kirkpatrick. "We also liked Crested Butte, but it wasn't the community this was back then. I was in town for a couple weeks, and they got to town literally the day before school started."
Kirkpatrick found a job with the Steamboat Sheraton Resort and started with the ski area four months later. Ian is now 21 and at the University of Colorado. Colin is 18 and in culinary school at Johnson & Wales University in Denver.
"It's funny because he has always moved from job to job," said Julie, who works for the Ore House At The Pine Grove Restaurant. "When he started doing this he pretty much latched on to it. He did do PR, but it didn't even last a year, and he went back. He wasn't into the traveling part."
Other than vacations to Arizona during mud season or to Minnesota to visit Julie's home state, Kirkpatrick seems content to stay in the Yampa Valley. His job, his wife of nearly 24 years and his hobbies are here.
"He skis, skis and skis," Diamond said. "Same thing about biking. He rides his bike to work any time it is safe to be on the road - even in the winter. My guess is he does 4,000 to 5,000 miles a year."
Kirkpatrick estimates he gets in more than 100 days a year on the mountain, taking turns during lunch and on his days off. As the main man behind the daily ski reports, few people, except for groomers or ski patrollers, are more up to speed on mountain conditions.
On this particular day, the gondola is temporarily closed because of high winds, so Kirkpatrick makes sure to include that in his 11 a.m. snow report. Images of Kirkpatrick in a closed room, reading the snow report over and over again are false.
He takes information from ski patrol, writes it down on a form and tapes it at his desk. Rarely does he have to record the report more than once.
"You can ad lib within boundaries," he said. "Basically, there is an intro and a marketing message."
Kirkpatrick said a powder day is 4 inches or more but a morning of at least 8 inches is when the snow report readers "ramp it up."
Recording as many as three ski reports a day prevents many from resonating, but there are two powder days in the past 12 years that Kirkpatrick singles out.
"I think it was 1995 or 1996," Kirkpatrick said. "I think his first name was Billy. I don't remember his last name. It was dumping. I think it was like 18 inches. He brought in 'Flight of the Valkyries' by Wagner, and he had it playing in the background and was howling like a powder hound. It was hysterical.
"I still remember Fat Tuesday two years ago. It started snowing around three in the morning, so there was a fair amount of snow in town, but there were only like 3 or 4 inches on the snow report. But it kept snowing, so by the time 1 p.m. rolled around there was like 18 inches of snow. People were mad. They were like, 'You didn't tell us.' We were like, 'We told you, you just called the 5 a.m. report and didn't call after that.'"
Kirkpatrick works Monday through Friday, sitting with a headset on behind an organized desk with an oversized phone and a computer. On this day, he is following Steamboat freestyle skier Travis Mayer at the 2006 Winter Olympics.
"I have a couple ties," Kirkpatrick said when asked whether he could work an "office job." "I suppose it would depend on that job and the location, but in Steamboat who wears ties? Bank presidents don't wear ties."