Experienced ski patroller takes over as longtime Steamboat Resort director retires
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — As a teenager, John Kohnke told his mother how he dreamed of living in a small, friendly mountain community.
“Those kinds of places only exist in movies,” Kohnke remembers his mother telling him while the two were living in Syracuse, New York.
After graduating from Syracuse University, Kohnke took his chances in Steamboat Springs, where he moved after college to work as a lift operator at Steamboat Resort.
“Before I knew it, 46 great years had gone by,” Kohnke said.
Kohnke officially retired earlier this year, and Steamboat Ski & Resort Corp. hired Wes Richey to take his place. Richey has worked for Ski Corp. since 1978 and assumed the role March 1.
After two years as a lift operator, Richey was hired as a ski patroller and participated in the creation of many of the resort’s famous ski runs as a member of the Steamboat Slope Maintenance Trail Crew over his tenure.
Richey worked as the assistant ski patrol director from 1994 to November 2020 when he was named interim ski patrol director.
“We are always looking to identify leaders within our staff and encourage advancement within the company,” said Rob Perlman, Ski Corp. president and COO. “That strategy allows Steamboat to draw on years of industry specific knowledge and community commitment, which strengthens our brand experience.”
Richey will be responsible for planning, organizing and supervising all positions within the ski patrol department, including caring for injured guests, risk mitigation for employees and guests, and enforcement of mountain regulations and policies, according to Loryn Duke, Ski Corp. director of communications. He will also oversee public and interdepartmental relations with employees and guests.
Richey is a National Avalanche School Graduate and holds multiple emergency medical and first aid certifications. He was also recognized with the inaugural Ski Patroller of the Year award from Colorado Ski Country, USA in 1991.
“We are all about service excellence and being out on the trail to educate those that might be skiing beyond their abilities but also to service the guests,” Richey said in an interview. “That’s what’s most important to me.”
While Richey has spent most of his time with Ski Corp. on the slopes helping injured skiers and preparing trails for usage, he said he is ready to trade out his skis and first aid kit for a desk and computer to help fulfill his goal of making ski patrol more visible.
“It takes a village, and without all the different groups, none of us would be as successful as we are,” Richey said. “One of our jobs is to try to be present out there and be visible because a lot of people newer to the industry don’t understand what we do.”
Dave Hunter, vice president of mountain operations, said Richey’s decades of experience will serve the position well.
“The safety of our guests and employees is always our top priority. Having Wes at the helm of our ski patrol department will allow us to continue to provide the best possible care and experience at Steamboat — both on and off the mountain,” Hunter said. “He has been part of shaping the resort and department into what it is today, and we could not be happier to have him to continue to lead our team.”
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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