SOLD! Cub Reporter Interview with Karl Kapuscinski and Tim Cohee, California Mountain Resort Company
“It’s not a complicated industry if everybody is dedicated. We’re not magicians, but we know how to run ski resorts.”—Tim Cohee
The following interview is reprinted with permission from the November 2023 edition of The Cub Reporter, the monthly newspaper for Bear Valley. The Cub Reporter is written and edited by Eric Jung, who is also a BVRI Board Member. Scroll down to see how to make sure you never miss an edition of this valuable community news resource!
Bear Valley resort has entered a promising new era. California Mountain Resort Company has bought all the holdings of Skyline, including the downhill ski area, the Lodge, the Commercial Center, the BaseCamp Lodge, and several developable parcels. The sale closed November 1.
Karl Kapuscinski and Tim Cohee bring a combined 97 years of ski area management experience to the job. CMRC adds Bear Valley to Mountain High, Dodge Ridge, and China Peak to their growing string of ski resorts. Kapuscinski says, “This connects the dots from San Diego all the way to Sacramento. We are the closest resorts to the skiing public.”
Cohee says each of their resorts will offer a different experience, like a major resort but friendlier – “Like Tahoe but not Tahoe. It’s why Bob Conrad and Lloyd Bridges came here. It’s not a trap.”
They point out that Bear Valley ranks in the Top Ten of Western resorts for elevation and quality of the ski experience.
What do they want to bring to Bear Valley? Cohee emphasizes that the resort will be professionally operated. Businesses open all the time, on time, lifts run on time, bus runs on time, burgers are fat and warm. It’ll be well run, like a major resort but you won’t stand in line. Not in a community that’s unhappy with them. People doing their jobs.
Says Cohee, “It’s not a complicated industry if everybody is dedicated. We’re not magicians, but we know how to run ski resorts. Not like an area with no guidance – we will bring onsite direction.”
Tim and Karl note that they both have residences close enough that they can trade off shifts in Bear Valley as needed. Cohee just bought a Bear Valley condo, and Kapuscinski has a place near Dodge Ridge.
Karl grew up in Vermont. He got his first ski area job at 13, making snow at Mt. Scutney. He moved up the ladder; at 23, he was running Hunt Hallow ski area. Five years later he was recruited to be General Manager of Mountain High. He left in 1994 to become Executive Director of Spirit Mountain in Minnesota. Two years later he joined a new ownership group and ran Stevens Pass in Washington from 2011 to 2018. In 2021 they bought Dodge Ridge, which has its best year ever last year. Last year they completed the purchase of China Peak.
Cohee grew up in Long Beach, California. His pals were ski instructors, and by 1974 he was ski racing. In 1979 he went to work in marketing at Snow Summit. In 1993 he became CEO at Kirkwood in Alpine County.
They want to maintain and foster the Bear Valley culture. “It’s not a cookie cutter resort,” says Cohee. They are keeping resort personnel while putting them into new positions that will allow them to thrive. Tim Schimke has been promoted to General Manager, strengthening the connection to Bear Valley’s roots with the Schimke family, who go back to the 1930’s in the area.
Karl and Tim want to change the focus to allow people and the resort to succeed. “It wasn’t run for success,” Cohee says, hinting at the doldrums the town has been in.
Karl says, “This is a turnaround project — visits, performance, appearance. We want to make it what it should be. It’s a lifetime opportunity to make dramatic changes, emphasize what’s special about Bear Valley, bring it back. Do something special.”
And about the long term…
Employee housing: Karl says they recognize the importance of that perennial bugaboo for ski resorts. They are working on it, although the immediate needs will take precedence for a time. The village lift: Cohee points out that the gondola proposal won’t pencil out. They envision two lifts, the first from town to Sunrise Bowl, then the second from there to the top. Their preliminary vision has the village Transportation Group responsible for installation of the bottom lift, CMRC for the upper lift. CMRC will operate and maintain both.
Snowmaking: They have bought a truckload of new snow guns. They’ve also bought two new snowcats.
Lifts: Consolidation and replacement of aging chairlifts are on the drawing board. Grizzly Chair is slated for an upgrade, including improved access to the Grizzly bowl.
CMRC will add Bear Valley to the Cali Pass which allows skiers to use all four of their resorts. Karl says “Bear Valley is a big mountain that skis really big. It has the most Tahoe feel of any of our resorts, so it will give our Cali Pass holders a totally different experience.”
Bear Valley ski area enters its fifth incarnation/ownership. (Read “The Fifth Age: A Brief History of Bear Valley’s Owners.”) The new owners have the credentials and financial backing to wake up a town that has been close to dormant.
The Cub Reporter is for sale at the Bear Valley Adventure Company and the General Store. To have it sent to your home for a year, send $15 with your name and mailing address to Cub Reporter, Box 5087, Bear Valley, CA 95223. A lifetime subscription can be had for just $75.