New Winter Sports Club director confident different background is his strength
Steamboat Springs — The most spectacular difference is the view.
The life transition new Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Executive Director Jim Boyne went through when he took the job this fall simply is stunning. A lawyer who’d spent his entire life in Chicago, he was the president and chief operating officer of a $30 billion investment firm with reach around the globe.
He grew up and attended school in the city and has spent his professional life going to work through heavy traffic and in big buildings downtown, turning each morning to a closet full of suits.
On Thursday, he stretched out in his new office in Steamboat Springs comfortable in blue jeans and a plaid shirt, no suit in sight. His office now is far from the glitz of corporate America, a shabby room with just enough space for a desk and two extra chairs and an oversized Winter Carnival poster hanging crookedly on the wall.
What is perhaps the best office view in Steamboat flooded in from a large window that encompassed most of one wall. Thursday crews worked to prepare Howelsen Hill for another season, snowcats pushing the night’s snowmaking take into position even as a team of cross-country skiers got in some of their first in-town, on-snow work of the winter.
And it will only get better, Boyne pointed out, glancing over at the ski jumps and the face of the hill that is the beating heart of Ski Town USA.
Change of plans
Boyne is only about two weeks into a job even he was a little shocked to be chosen for. Longtime Winter Sports Club Director Rick DeVos stepped down from the organization in June after 14 years, and even if he had stumbled across the job listing in the wanted ads, Boyne said he wouldn’t have considered applying.
He and his family — wife of 24 years, Leagh, three sons, Jay, 21, Connor, 18, and Sean, 12, and daughter, Annamarie, 8 — grew to love Steamboat Springs as vacationers, then bought a home in town several years ago. The plan always was to retire to the area, but a conversation with a Steamboat neighbor during the summer opened up a new option for Boyne, 47.
“I was talking to him about what would be next for me, how I would like to do something more meaningful,” Boyne said. “He threw this out there. Initially, I didn’t think there was a fit because I’m not a competitive winter sports athlete and I don’t come from the industry.”
He finished undergrad at the University of Northern Illinois, then got a law degree from the Illinois Institute of Technology Chicago-Kent College of Law. He practiced law for a decade, focused on finances and investments, then joined a group buying a piece of his firm’s business and broke away. Finally, about six years ago, he joined Calamos Investments.
Don’t mistake his surprise at landing as the executive director in Steamboat for a lack of confidence or of direction, however. Now that he’s in the position, he doesn’t see his life away from winter sports as a handicap, and he sees his extensive career managing business interests big and small as a huge advantage.
No one ever may turn to him for advice about maintaining speed low on a slalom course or landing a back full on a moguls course. Still, he’s confident that he can find ways to support the coaches who can answer those questions and that he can maintain the organization that grows the athletes who ask those questions.
“This job would have never hit my radar screen, but as I dug into the opportunity, I realized it’s well suited to a lot of the skills I have,” he said. “I’m a relationship builder. My biggest accomplishment in my career has been the people I’ve helped develop and the relationships I’ve built.
“One of the things I’ve always been good at, I have the ability to drill down into the details and learn quickly but also have the ability to lift myself out of the weeds and think strategically. Here, I can roll up my sleeves and get involved, but I also realize I have to protect my time to focus on building the sustainability of the club.”
Success for the Winter Sports Club, he explained, always has been about more than medals, podiums and U.S. Ski Team spots. That won’t change.
“Whether they end up being Olympians or teachers or whatever they decide to do, we’re not just teaching people to win,” he said. “We’re teaching them to be winners. That’s true in life as well as athletics.”
Soaking it up
Boyne still is settling in. He can ski but is eager to improve. He isn’t scared of the oncoming snow (Chicago annually receives about 10 percent of Steamboat’s average) but is debating the merits of snow tires. He knows the basics of the programs the club offers but still is learning about the many kinds of events and races.
He’s excited for his family to join him in town after the children’s semester ends next month, and he wants to see how they take to opportunities they’ll have to flourish in snow sports.
And he’s eager for that view, already one of Steamboat’s best, to improve as winter sets in. Steamboat’s young skiers and snowboarders will hurry over after school. Cross-country ski classes will stretch and warm up at the bottom of Howelsen. Young boys and girls will haul skis three times longer than themselves to the jumps, and coaches will drill in race courses. Ski Town USA will come alive on the face of Howelsen, just outside the window.
It’s a far cry from Chicago.
“I’m honestly surprised the search committee saw it the way I do, that there’s a great fit here,” Boyne said. “We’re going to try to make things better. It’s not broken, but we’re going to try to make it better.”
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