Mike Goar wraps up tenure at Canyons
May 12, 2015
If Mike Goar, vice president and general manager at Canyons Resort, had his way, you won’t even notice he is gone next week.
Goar, who will take over as the chief operating officer at Keystone Resort in Colorado next week, will end his eight-year tenure at Canyons on Friday. Until then, he said, he’s trying to keep things as close to normal as possible.
"I suggested the other day that everybody keep their heads down and keep doing what we’ve always done," he said. "Then, one day, they’ll come to work and I won’t be here and that’ll be it."
That didn’t sound like a great option to Goar’s coworkers, though.
"I got a funny look from everybody," Goar laughed. "They said there could be a little bit more ceremony than that. But, for me, it’s work as usual and I’m going about it as business as usual. I have been around the community over the past month though, probably, trying to make sure I catch up with folks and thanking people for their support of the [Vail Resorts] company and of me, personally."
For someone who has spent nearly 35 years in Utah, working 27 at Solitude and eight at Canyons, the decision to move to Colorado wasn’t an easy one. But, Goar said, the timing was perfect and the opportunity was too good to pass up.
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"There’s no denying it was a tough decision," he said. "When you’re somewhere for almost 35 years, your roots are planted. Our kids grew up here. All those things weigh in on a decision.
"Here’s the thing, though — we had the good fortune of being able to stay planted while our kids were in school and growing up. We passed over opportunities over the years because we just didn’t want to move. Now, with them grown, it’s a little easier. It’s not easy, but it’s a little easier."
It’s anyone’s guess what the Park City ski landscape would look like today if Goar hadn’t been so firmly planted in Utah. During his eight years at Canyons, the resort has undergone several changes, had a couple different owners and experienced substantial growth.
Goar has presided over many big projects at Canyons, including the installation of the Orange Bubble lift and the long-awaited debut of the Canyons Golf Course, but he said those aren’t the best memories he has from his time at the resort.
"I don’t think a lot about it," he said of his legacy at Canyons. "But people will bring it up. I’ve always said that what I’m most proud of and what I’ll always remember is not at all any personal accomplishments — frankly, I don’t know what they are and they don’t come to mind — but who I’ve worked with and who I’ve worked for. That’s what stands out. The team at Canyons has been absolutely unbelievable."
As for the turmoil that has marked his time in Park City — the golf course drama, the demise of the resort’s previous owner, the American Skiing Company and Vail’s acquisition of Canyons and purchase of Park City Mountain Resort, to name a few — Goar said he never doubted the future of the resort.
"There was never a time where I wondered whether it was a good idea to be here or if we could overcome some of these things," he said. "There was always a great opportunity for this place. There was more noise around some of these issues — the future of the resort, getting a golf course built, all of those things — than there needed to be. That’s not to say there wasn’t a lot going on, though — there was a fair amount to overcome at times."
Though Goar said he’s excited by the stability of Keystone Resort and the smooth operation that awaits him, he hopes to be able to have as big an impact on Keystone as he’s had on Canyons.
"Every job I’ve ever had, and as I look at my new job, I would never want a job where I felt like I was a caretaker of something that was established and my job was just to not mess anything up," he said. "When I first looked at coming to Canyons Resort and all the way through to the last sale [of Park City Mountain Resort] to Vail Resorts, the thing that stands out is not that there were issues, but I’m really sincere when I say this, the potential and opportunity of Canyons Resort was pretty extraordinary. I think we all focused on and were energized by what it could become."
Big changes like the ones Goar made at Canyons may not be in his immediate future at Keystone, but he said there will be plenty to keep him busy.
"Keystone is a very, very well run ski resort," he said. "The gentleman who is leaving Keystone to move to Breckenridge has in place a terrific culture and a very strong team. You go to a place like that and things aren’t broken. You don’t look at it like ‘it works, so we’re going to leave it alone,’ though. We talked about the momentum that the place has. Keystone really has this trajectory in terms of it has a very strong family brand and they’ve done a great job executing on that. It’s a terrific family vacation — it’s a big place and there’s a lot for everybody. We’re going to continue that momentum and see where we can accelerate it.
"I’m not someone who is quick to go in and make change for the sake of change and put my fingerprints on things. I think I’m better at recognizing what is working and building on it. That place hums pretty well, it really does, so that’s a pretty good situation to step into."
With other Epic Pass resorts like Vail, Beaver Creek, Arapahoe Basin and Breckenridge in the vicinity of Keystone, Goar is excited by the opportunities for collaboration between the ski areas.
"Obviously, it’s unique," he said. "But we have the ability to share resources and expertise and knowledge, which is a real advantage for a company like ours that operates many resorts. But what a tremendous advantage it is for the consumer, our guests, to be able to ski that."
The 2014-15 winter was one of the worst on record, with dismal snow totals in Utah, especially. But Goar is confident that the ski industry is still in a good place and will reach record highs in the near future.
"This winter I don’t believe, in any way, shape or form, is the new norm," he said. "There’s no denying that we’re seeing these cycles that are much different. I’m hesitant to take a stab at what the new norm is, but I don’t believe that a winter like this, which was at one end of the extreme, is the new norm.
"I don’t think [the future of the ski industry] has ever been brighter. I have seen a lot of ebb and flow and impacts to the industry from weather and economic conditions and demographics and populations aging and everything else, but I believe the future is very bright. I am very, very confident that a new record for skier visits will be set in the United States sometime in the near future. If I thought for a minute that our industry was in decline, I certainly wouldn’t have any confidence that we were going to see a new record set for skier visits, but I’d bet money on it. The ski product has never been better, equipment has never been better and it’s never been easier to snowboard or ski than it is today. There’s just a lot going on that contributes to the future of the industry and it’s never been brighter."
Though his last day at Canyons is Friday and his first day at Keystone is Monday, Park City hasn’t seen the last of Goar. He said he’s thrilled to have the opportunity to continue working with many of the same people he’s spent the past couple years working alongside.
"I’m not going that far away," he said. "As someone said to me a while back, ‘You’re not moving across the ocean.’ It’s a short drive and I’ll be back and forth some. I still work for the company, so I’m going to have a lot of contact certainly with the folks here at Canyons and PCMR, which is good. I’m happy about that.
"One day, I’ll be behind a different desk and just keep on going."
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