Discovering a zeal for skiing at a young age is not unusual, but dedicating your career to a sport you are so passionate about, is much less commonplace. Yet, this is exactly what John Buhler, retired Vice President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Breckenridge Ski Resort, did. Not only did John rise through the ranks as his career progressed, but he also has found success through the happiness that comes with knowing that he did all that he could to achieve his goals in his career, family and through involvement in his community.

John’s early life began in South Pasadena in California with every other weekend spent at Mt. Baldy Resort in the San Gabriel Mountains where he spent time skiing and his dad served as a National Ski Patroller. Eventually, his parents purchased a cabin at June Lake near Mammoth Mountain in California where the family enjoyed their time outside skiing, hiking, and fishing. 

Since Colorado is the mecca of the ski industry, John set his sights on Breckenridge, and relocated his young family in order to take a job at the Breckenridge Resort Ski School. This was also a positive move for John’s wife Kerry who is originally from Colorado. A position with the Breckenridge Resort Ski School was a comfortable first assignment for John who, from his first year of college, worked as a part-time ski instructor and never looked back. He states,

“I couldn’t get enough of the environment, the energy and passion everyone had for skiing, it is an amazing bonding experience for everyone, especially families. I am fortunate that I have had such a long career in the industry and the ability to work for an amazing company Vail Resorts and the privilege to run two of the largest resorts in the country, Keystone and Breckenridge.”

John and Kerry enjoying the mountains

John’s professional life has not been without its challenges, however, as an employee of a seasonal business, working in the ski industry could be taxing on a number of levels. Many people shared their skepticism of his choice of career, questioning when he would get a “real job”. Alongside the stress of raising a family, year after year, he had to find summer employment for the five months that the ski resorts were closed. Luckily, he found another passion, which filled those off-season months, in building and remodeling mountain homes, becoming a journeyman carpenter and later, a licensed General Contractor in California. 

After a 41-year career in the ski industry, John has retired and is enjoying spending time with his wife, kids and grandchildren. He continues to pursue his passions of skiing, hiking and biking and has recently picked up golf as a new hobby. In his younger years, John tackled more high-adventure sports, heli-skiing in the Wasatch mountains in Utah and running the Colorado River on a private raft trip. 

Joining John on his life’s journey is his steadfast wife Kerry. He attributes his success to her dedication, support, and the sacrifices that she made to be the best wife and mother while still maintaining an impressive career as teacher, principal, and finally, superintendent of the Summit School District before she also retired.

John and his family on the golf course

The BOEC is grateful to have had John as a board member over the past five years. Given his past career, he has a long history of knowing and supporting the BOEC to some degree since 1994 when he ran the Village Ski School, as the Ski School Director, and finally as the COO of Breckenridge Resort. His knowledge of the ski industry and passion for winter sports has made him a natural fit and incredible resource for the BOEC. He describes his qualities as a board member as, “Having a passion for the mission, the ability to listen and understand the needs of the organization and then supporting the team to achieve their goals and ambitions.” 

Serving on the board has been a bit of a rollercoaster over the last few years due, in part, to the challenges that came with the pandemic. However, John notes that the BOEC has come out stronger than before. 

“The team is amazing, we have grown the administration staffing to better support the organization giving the staff the ability to continue to deliver passionate and quality programming in both summer and winter. There has been work on a strategic plan that has delivered on growth in our donor pool, ways to support the staff, a look at facilities and so much more. We have also increased wages in support of holding onto the incredible team that makes up the BOEC.”

Although the pandemic has subsided, there are still challenges that every non-profit faces. In our small community, there are over 80 non-profits vying for funding from the same donor pool and hiring and retention hurdles continually exist. John expands on how BOEC overcomes these things, saying,

“I’m proud of the work the Board of Directors and the team has done over the last several years to rethink and reimagine how they can and have expanded our donor pool. The marketing arm has grown in numbers and has created a clear roadmap for our future success. Staffing and retention is always a concern as a non-profit organization and again we are fortunate based on the outdoor adventures that we create for so many and the passion for all to succeed who visit the BOEC, not only for the individuals but also their families.”

John and Kerry at the 2022 Fiesta for BOEC dinner - Photo by: Elaine Collins

John discusses the importance of diversity and inclusion in the BOEC volunteer and support base, “I believe that Sonya, BOEC Executive Director, does a wonderful job of staying connected with the non-profit community within Summit County.” He continues,

“This is an area of concern for most mountain communities and large employers are also looking at ways to engage a more diverse group. There is not a simple solution, we have brought unconscious biases to the workplace for years and I believe we have all become more aware of that phenomenon. This allows us to think about inclusion differently and may allow us to look beyond where we have looked previously for staff and for participants.”

Holding a position on the board has been meaningful to John and he advises others to actively support and give to others in something that gives you joy as you will also feel the reward for doing so. For him, this rewarding work is assisting BOEC and discusses its impact this way, “The BOEC is a long-standing organization that has met all of the challenges you might expect of a non-profit.  It has and will continue to succeed because of the passion for the mission, the amazing staff and strong involvement of the board and our incredible community involvement. The BOEC has not only succeeded but thrived. I am proud to be a part of the BOEC and feel confident that it will continue to bring joy to all that experience it now and into the future.”

BOEC has a long history of strong and dedicated board members which is a testament to the importance of BOEC’s mission and the impact it has on the individuals it serves. In the words of  Sonya Norris, Executive Director,

“John’s expertise and commitment have been invaluable to the board’s efforts. His passion for the organization’s mission is contagious, and his knowledge and experience have helped guide our decisions and ensure that we are always working towards the organization’s fiscal and operational priorities. We could not be more grateful to John for being a strong supporter of all that we do.” 

Read more stories of the BOEC Board of Directors, Erin Beckerman, Jennifer Schappert, Tim Casey, Barb Rankin.