PCMR chief hopeful Parkites approach ski season with fresh perspective
Deirdra Walsh recognizes past challenges, but wants to focus on the future
With snowmaking operations expected to start at Park City Mountain Resort in mid-October, the resort’s new chief is hopeful Parkites can leave the frustrating winter of 2021-2022 behind and approach the upcoming ski season with a fresh perspective.
Although Deirdra Walsh, the vice president and chief operating officer of PCMR, didn’t return to Park City until May, she recognized the challenges many residents and visitors faced last season. Streets were lined with traffic. Wait times for ski lifts were long. And many Parkites weren’t shy in voicing their dissatisfaction with PCMR’s parent company, Vail Resorts.
“Last year was a tough season. And I didn’t have to be here to know that. It was tough in a lot of places,” Walsh said in a Tuesday interview with The Park Record. “But I think going into this season is just making sure everyone feels the positivity and can sort of leave that behind, and focus on going forward.”
Summer operations at PCMR are still open, but there’s a noticeable chill in the air. This is a time of transition for resort employees as activities on the mountain wrap up over the next few weeks. Workers are completing maintenance and other routine checks on the slopes, before snowmaking operations begin sometime next month and they’re unable to drive on the terrain. Training seasonal employees and ensuring guests have a great experience are also key focus areas, according to Walsh.
“The energy starts to shift right now and so it’s always, to me, a really electrifying time,” she said.
Walsh hopes the positive atmosphere at PCMR will be felt by workers, Parkites and guests on the mountain despite how unpredictable the ski industry can be. As a solution-driven leader, she said, she’s committed to addressing the problem by looking at the past and future.
“I think going into this season as far as challenges is, I think ensuring, as there might be unpredictable elements going in, that we can just stay laser-focused on doing our very best work. Keeping our morale high,” Walsh said.
But she also recognizes the complex, strained relationship between Parkites and Vail Resorts, which started in 2014 when the company acquired PCMR.
“I think about really all of our communities that are small, tourist-based communities, many that are ski resort communities. The world has really shifted in the last few years and so I think about that factor into some of the pain points in Park City right now,” Walsh said.
As the vice president and chief operating officer of PCMR, she said, she’s responsible for listening to the community and coming at issues from a place of curiosity and with an open mind. Walsh also wants to use her role to find opportunities to better communicate the resort’s operations and the reasons behind decisions with the community, as well as participate in roundtable discussions with stakeholders to build understanding.
She pointed to a paid parking informational session scheduled from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 22 at Legacy Lodge as an example of resort staff collaborating with the public. PCMR will also continue partnering with City Hall to address issues related to parking and congestion, but Walsh is confident the new parking system will help alleviate concerns.
Walsh, having grown up in a family of 10 children, said she has skills crucial for the job like remaining calm and staying flexible and adaptable. And with a background in social work, hospitality and tourism, Walsh said, she’s the kind of leader who strives to remove barriers and can adjust, pivot and make changes to see a vision through.
She began working in the ski industry when she joined PCMR in 2007 and remained at the resort during the transitional period that followed the 2014 purchase. Walsh became senior director of mountain dining in 2016. She left PCMR in 2019 to take over as the vice president and general manager of Northstar Ski Resort in California, another Vail Resorts property, where she remained until this year.
Coming back to Park City was the “easiest ‘Yes’” for Walsh. She said she has deep roots in the community as her children were born here and learned to ski at the resort. The PCMR chief is looking forward to strapping on her snowboard, hitting the slopes and seeing familiar faces in November.
“There’s nothing like the feeling of an opening day,” she said.
The smell of roasted almonds. Crowds. Being surrounded by foreign languages. Trading Olympic pins. Leaving a legacy. These are what Parkites think about when remembering the 2002 Winter Games.
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