By KIM SMITH DEDAM
---- — WILMINGTON — The resort operations team at Whiteface has a new point man.
This week, New York’s Olympic Regional Development Authority named Aaron Kellet as general manager.
Kellet, 34, will drop into the job as Bruce McCulley departs at the end of September.
McCulley, 50, is retiring after 30 years at Whiteface to become pastor at High Peaks Church in Saranac Lake.
But the leadership post at Whiteface is being turned over to a long-time colleague with a degree in business and experience in ski-sport competition.
Kellet has worked at the mountain for 12 years and skied here as a child.
“I worked in the terrain park when I first started,” Kellet said. “I worked as a terrain park ranger for five years. Then I became terrain park manager until 2009, when I was hired as operations manager.”
Kellet earned a bachelor of science degree from Plattsburgh State in business and accounting, taking a full load of courses while working full time at the mountain resort.
He also competed in aerial and moguls competition but is listed as retired from Federation International du Ski rosters.
Whiteface, he said, holds a special place among ski resorts in the world.
“I love its uniqueness — it is a very challenging yet fun mountain. I grew up here and started skiing Whiteface when my dad was on the Ski Patrol.
“I lived on Beartown Road, near Chazy. So, I learned to ski (at Beartown) as a kid. My dad got a job at Whiteface when I was 11 or 12, and it was just non-stop skiing for me.”
Kellet said his familiarity with Whiteface and its long-time employee base makes the career move most satisfying.
“The staff here is amazing. We’ve been fortunate to have people come back over the years. A lot of the people at Whiteface are like family. They are a big part of my success, for sure — the staff here is very knowledgeable, friendly. They take a lot of time in their jobs to help people out.”
Kellet expects a smooth transition as McCulley retires. The two have worked closely together for the past three years.
And Kellet credits McCulley for sharing a solid knowledge base of mountain operations.
“We will miss Bruce,” Kellet said. “I have his phone number, though. I’m grateful and honored to be part of this team.”
Kellet sees the biggest challenge ahead is the changeable winter.
“It’s definitely the weather. Last season was tough. We did a really great job with snowmaking, but when people look out their window and see there is no snow, they don’t think about skiing.”
Whiteface has continued this summer to expand snowmaking capacity with new water pipes and snow guns planted on upper parts of the mountain, specifically on black-diamond terrain at Hoyt’s High trail.
Kellet expressed gratitude to everyone at Whiteface who has been part of his career growth.
“I look forward to an amazing future here,” he said. “Being the GM of Whiteface has been a dream of mine since the first time I skied down Cloudspin in the early ‘90s.”
Cloudspin is one of the steepest black-diamond trails on Whiteface Mountain.
Kellet and his wife, Lindsay, live near the mountain in the Town of Jay. They are expecting their first child in late December.
“I have always been impressed with Aaron,” ORDA CEO/President Ted Blazer said in a statement. “He has a style that combines knowledge and diplomacy that will make him successful at the mountain. Whiteface has an incredible staff, and I’m confident that, with the combination of Aaron at the helm and the wonders that the staff perform, we all will be in good hands.”
ORDA spokesman Jon Lundin said Kellet’s salary has not been decided.
ORDA also named Lauren Garfield as Whiteface Mountain’s sales and marketing manager and moved Joe Shoemaker into her prior job, as mountain’s group sales manager.
Email Kim Smith Dedam: firstname.lastname@example.org