Those were the words Mount Snow General Manager Kelly Pawlak used to describe her final weeks in the corner office of the Clocktower building. Her last day at Mount Snow is November 3, and shortly after that she will start a new chapter in her career, as president and chief executive officer of the National Ski Areas Association. Pawlak has spent the past 32 years at Mount Snow in various capacities, the last 12 as vice president and general manager.
“I’m really going to miss the little things,” said Pawlak. “I’m going to miss getting up at 6 am to read a snow report in the winter, that early morning drive into work, walking out of my office door to go skiing on a powder day. I guess I really don’t know what I will miss, it will probably hit me when I get out there.”
“Out there” is Lakewood, CO, just west of downtown Denver, where the NSAA offices are located. Pawlak and her husband Dan will be relocating to the area. Dan Pawlak will be house hunting while Kelly begins work for the organization. “”I’ve never spent much time in that area, it’s all new to Dan and me.”
NSAA is the ski and snowboard industry trade association, and Pawlak will go from being in charge of one ski resort to representing more than 300 ski areas and more than 400 industry suppliers.
Pawlak said she’s excited about the change, and looking forward to new challenges. “They’re working behind the scenes for the members, things like ski lift policies, working with the Forest Service, and monitoring government affairs,” she said.
Pawlak said it was time for a new adventure for her and her husband, as their children are both grown and out of the house. Daughter Marley is working at Stratton, and son Tanner is a senior in college. “When the kids leave the house, it’s time to try something new.”
Pawlak has had her share of challenges during her time at Mount Snow. From day-to-day operations of a weather-dependent business to overseeing construction of new chairlifts, a massive snowmaking reservoir, and a new base lodge, there have been plenty of big jobs to take on.
“Weather is number one,” Pawlak said. “But people, too. They’re one of the best things and the most challenging. It’s about managing people’s expectations: staff, co-workers, passholders, someone in the community. We’re all human beings, and we’re all built differently.”
Peak Resorts purchased Mount Snow in 2007. Wisely, they continued to let Pawlak run the mountain.
“In a nutshell, we’ll miss her greatly,” said Dick Deutsch, vice president of business and real estate development for Peak Resorts. “We only wish Kelly the very best. She’s been a pleasure to work with for the last 10 years. She has gained so much respect from everybody at Peak Resorts. We’ll miss her greatly, but we think she’ll do a great job for NSAA. We’re happy to see her further her career.”
Deutsch added that he was sad to see her go, and “I think the community is going to feel a loss with Kelly gone.”
There is no doubt about that loss for the community. Pawlak has been active in a number of groups outside her day job. She has served on the Vermont Ski Areas Association board of directors, the Dover planning commission, Dover trail committee, various chamber of commerce committees, and the regional advisory board for Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.
But the one volunteer group nearest and dearest to her is the Deerfield Valley Rotary Club.
“Rotary will be one of the things I’ll miss the most,” Pawlak said. “Rotary has been so good to me, it’s my support system.”
Some of the efforts she spearheaded with Rotary included the Gardens of Hope in Dover, Wilmington, and Whitingham and the annual Ski and Skate sale, a fundraiser held at Twin Valley Elementary School.
Former Rotary president Arlene Palmiter said, “Kelly was a phenomenal asset to Rotary. It always amazed me how she would get things done; if she said she would do it it would get done. She will be missed. They are big shoes to fill, for sure.”
Palmiter said Pawlak was an invaluable help for the club’s annual ski and skate sale, which is planned for November 11 at Twin Valley Elementary School this year. “We have to find someone to fill her shoes there. She was a wealth of knowledge, about the equipment and vendors.”
Palmiter also noted how Pawlak took charge of the Gardens of Hope when the club first proposed the idea for Dover.
“Digging in the dirt is one thing I’ll miss,” said Pawlak. “The Dover Garden of Hope is one that I’ll worry about. I spent more time there than the ones at my own house. When I lived in Dover, my gardens were a mess.”
Another thing that Pawlak said she’ll miss is her regular walk around Mount Snow. She would try to get around the resort every day, talking to staff, visitors, and season pass regulars.
“My most valuable times were my walks,” Pawlak said. “You see so much stuff.” She added that one of her goals for the new job was to visit every member resort, whether for skiing or just a visit in the off season. As for that bittersweet part of any new venture, Pawlak had a few words to say to the valley and Mount Snow.
“Thank you,” she said. “How blessed am I to have had this. I came here for a free season pass, and ended up staying. I’ve learned so much, gone all over the world, and am just so privileged. Dan and I, we’re pretty darn lucky.”