By Dan Walton
A chance to live much closer to his family and “a whole bucket load more money” convinced ‘Snowy’ Joey O’Brien to leave his role as the operations manager at Baldy Mountain Resort.
O’Brien, who was hired last summer to lead the resort out of bankruptcy, is largely credited with saving the hill from oblivion.
“Without Joey’s vision and hard work, the new Baldy would not have come into existence,” Baldy’s principal investor Victor Tsao said in a Facebook post.
O’Brien plans on staying involved with Baldy through an advisory role, though he’ll be giving his full-time attention to Pass Powderkeg Ski Resort in Crowsnest Pass. That resort is less than three hours from his home in Calgary which will make it much easier for O’Brien to spend weekends together with his family.
“I really love my family,” he said. “It wasn’t like I was getting away, it’s like I was missing them.”
O’Brien was able to keep his mind busy by working long days – up to 18-hour shifts. But at the end of the day when it was time to go to bed, he didn’t enjoy the solitude.
“I keep myself going like crazy, but when you want to settle down … people need to unplug. I’m at a stage of life where balance is important.”
From the Crows Nest Pass, “I’ll be able to zip home on Friday nights, occasionally.”
And beyond the invaluable benefit of being closer to family, getting offered a “bucket load” more money will always be a heavy draw.
After Baldy resort came out of bankruptcy on June 15 last year, O’Brien hustled for 260 days without any time off. When he first arrived in the South Okanagan, Baldy was in a derelict state.
And even though the ski hill was sporadically operational in the years prior, “there hadn’t been a lot of maintenance since 2008.”
In order to get Baldy and all of its equipment ready for the opening day of 2016, O’Brien and the team had 115 days to complete 20 “incredibly intense” projects.
“You add up all the projects, all the pieces, it was very intensive.”
Upon the end of the first full season of the new Baldy, O’Brien said nearly every pre established goal had been achieved.
“We exceeded some expectations and some areas were a little bit below, but overall it’s incredible for the resort moving forward.”
Many other South Okanagan businesses struggle to retain talent. And in many ways, O’Brien was a big fish in a small pond.
“I get head hunted all the time,” he said.