No Rock in the 'Shoe
For five years, Bill Rock has been at the helm of Snowshoe Mountain Resort, but the leadership team will head into this ski season without him. Rock announced Wednesday that he is leaving the mid-Atlantic to be vice president and chief operating officer at Northstar at Tahoe in California.
Rock said Vail Resorts called him about a month ago and the negotiations progressed quickly. When he gave his 30-day notice to Intrawest, management told him he should leave immediately.
That leaves Rock with some time on his hands before heading west. And that's never happened the week before Thanksgiving-Snowshoe's target opening date for ski season.
Even without a central leader, Rock said he is confident the resort will have a great season.
"If there's any regret I have it's leaving the team at this time of year," he said. "It's a great group of people here at Snowshoe. They're amazingly accomplished professionals. I have every confidence they'll do a great job, as they always do."
That team was taken by surprise Wednesday when Rock called them into his office one by one to share his news.
"They understand it's an opportunity of a lifetime for me and my family and they're proud that somebody from Snowshoe is being recognized for such a high profile leadership position," he said.
At the Pocahontas County Chamber of Commerce reception held at Snowshoe Mountain Resort Thursday night, members of that team were visibly emotional when sharing news of Rock's departure.
Ron Cadrette said Snowshoe employees are "extremely proud of the job Bill did while he was here."
Cadrette said Rock improved community relations through his work with the Snowshoe Foundation.
"He was a real friend and a true leader," Cadrette said.
Rock said he'd miss the people he's worked with for so long the most. Rock said Snowshoe employees are the most hardworking hospitable people.
And what will he miss the least?
He's finds the lingering disconnect between the resort and the community a disappointment, but said he is proud of what the resort has done to mend those fences in the past few years.
Rock said his work with the Snowshoe Foundation was the "single most gratifying thing" he's been involved with at the resort.
The foundation has donated $700,000 in Pocahontas, Randolph and Webster counties since its inception and just this year more than $33,000 in scholarships to college students.
Snowshoe Foundation holds an annual raffle that raises money to support its efforts. At $100 a ticket, "Treasure on the Mountain" raised money, not only for the foundation, but for non-profit agencies whose members helped sell tickets for a percentage of the proceeds and non-profit organizations are welcomed to the mountain on the day of the drawings to sell food.
Rock said the board is dedicated, as is its executive director, Coby Brown.
Also, resort employees now participate in every county festival and the resort sponsors a Little League team.
"Those are things we should have been doing all along," Rock said.
Resort employees who have lived in the area for a long time were eager to have that happen. Brown, Ruth Bachman and Tracy Samples were "thirsty for the resort to be more engaged in the community," Rock said.
And while the resort has been more visible off the mountain, Snowshoe has invited the community to the mountain so that local residents can visit free.
The last five years have been wrought with controversy for the resort and its sewage treatment facility, first proposed in 2002 as a privately-owned facility for the resort. Challenged by a neighbor as unconstitutionally depriving him of public facilities since the resort would use nearly all the wasteload allocation for the Elk River, resort officials agreed to build a regional plant. That plan didn't smell right to other neighbors, particularly when its location on a family farm caused opposition to the project and speculation about the county using its powers of eminent domain to take the nine-acre field.
Still an issue with no solution in sight, the resort is one of several Slaty Fork area property owners involved in a lawsuit to compel the Pocahontas Public Service District to build the regional facility. The PSD has voted to scrap plans for the regional plant and begin a new study of the area's sewage treatment needs. The three-man group turned back $25 million in interest free loans from the Infrastructure and Jobs Development Council that were slated for the project.
Now out of the controversy himself, Rock remains firm that the solution is at hand.
"The solution is to build the regional plant at Site 7 that's been certified by the PSC and funded by the IJDC," he said. "It needs to be built."
Rock said Pocahontas County has vast potential for tourism-related growth. The resort itself will continue to grow, he said, and the county will grow along with it. When Snowshoe does 10 percent better, then the county does 10 percent better and when the resort does 50 percent better, then the county does 50 percent better, he said, even in companies not necessarily related to tourism.
Hotel/Motel taxes from the resort-$960,000 for fiscal year 2009-10- comprise nearly 75 percent of the bed taxes raised here. Those taxes help fund everything from libraries to the hospital and emergency medical services.
Northstar Resort opened in 1972 and has "3,000 skiable acres," according to its website. A four season resort, it also offers snowboarding, ice skating, mountain biking and hiking and has an 18-hole golf course.