Ski Area’s Horning: 'An Exciting, Challenging Time.'
by Martinique Davis
Sep 06, 2012 | 6237 views | 1 1 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print

MOUNTAIN VILLAGE – Chuck Horning, owner of Telluride Ski and Golf, sits at the head of a long conference table in his office overlooking the Mountain Village Plaza and the lush, green slopes of the Telluride Ski Resort.

“This is an exciting and challenging time,” he ruminates, as daughter Summerly Horning looks on. Horning says the towns of Telluride and Mountain Village, and the ski company, will need to re-evaluate their models of sustainability and explore new conduits for economic vitality in the months to come.

“We’ve gone through a lot of stages, and now we’re in an economic situation similar to what would have happened at build-out,” Horning said, referring to unsustainability of the two towns’ pre-recession dependence on real-estate sales to support the local economy.

Following a series of recent meetings with employees and members of the community, Horning says he has a better understanding of what the community wants from TSG, the community’s largest employer, and of what can be done to improve the economy.

“We care about how this looks and feels, 10 and 20 years from now,” he says, emphasizing that TSG’s long-term vision depends on consensus-building within the community about the company’s goals for the future, which begins with learning as much as he can from the people who live, work and play here.

Both Hornings say they are focused on nurturing a company culture that makes the ski company human, a part of the community fabric, and fun, while exercising a lot of listening and performance.

Since last month’s announcement that TSG CEO Dave Riley would be reassigned to the CEO position of Newport Federal Financial, TSG’s parent company, Horning has been mum about who, if anyone, will be appointed to the CEO position. He says that Riley will remain in Telluride for much of the 2012-2013 ski season.

Horning says that recent interactions with TSG staff and with community members have proven fruitful. Discussions with Telluride Ski School representatives suggest the need for a restaurant or warming hut facility at the top of the Sunshine Express (Lift 10), and that the restrooms there are below the company’s standards; plans to construct a temporary heated yurt and to plumb water to the restrooms are underway, slated to be functional by this ski season, with a more permanent structure at the top of Lift 10 scheduled for installation by next winter.

Long-term improvements to snowmaking, with the installation of a new pump facility designed to increase the water supply, will get underway this fall.

The Big Billie’s base lodge is also receiving a refurbishment in anticipation of the coming ski season, with plans to remove the bar and make the area more inviting for children and families.

These projects are just a few of the building blocks that make up the ski company’s evolving strategy to respond to the needs of its guests, Horning explains.

Horning says that TSG’s number one goal in the foreseeable future is to work with the local hotels, businesses and governments to boost the economy by filling in the “low spots” in the year, when towns and local businesses struggle. He plans to use local talent to get this done, rather than recruiting from the outside.

“We have a huge untapped supply of talent in this community,” he maintains.

Anecdotally illustrating his business philosophy for TSG, Horning shares a story from his childhood. Growing up on a ranch outside of Chico, Calif., in the midst of an economy rooted in agriculture – specifically almonds, peaches and other crops that require a long-term investment of time and money before farmers receive any type of return – taught him important lessons. For example: “We need to think and plan long-term, and be willing to spend the first many years investing money nurturing something without any return at all,” he says, going on to explain that the TSG business philosophy includes a long-term vision for the resort and its allied communities.

TSG is the custodian of a major amenity in Telluride, Horning believes. “The ski company's size brings with it a company town image that is not healthy,” he says. “We are human, and we intend to operate that way with our staff and this community. Cutting waste and resolving problems will bode well for the future of this great area. I remain optimistic that the rest will want to be part of a pretty open and transparent effort to take this economy to a level we want and deserve,” he says. To do this, he says, “will require change and cooperation, refocusing some public expenditure to achieve more effective results and a vital and sustainable economy for folks who work here and would like to raise families in a community with opportunity for their children and grandchildren.  

“It’s easy for me to say this, and really mean it: I’d like to see this become the most sought-after resort in the world, and a great place to live and work.”

Horning invites community, customer and staff input at chuck@telski.com. 

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September 07, 2012
Wow, the change in direction, its feeling of inclusion of the community stakeholders, the true concern for TOT/TMV is really a great thing.

Thanks Chuck! Way to go!

It would be great if the future restaurant on top of 10 would be not a fancy one but one that serves kids with kid meals and lower prices. I am a regular at Alpino Vino but my grand kids think it is too much!

Go Chuck Go!