NSAA Honors Bill Jensen, Tim Silva

The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) honored Bill Jensen and Tim Silva, two ski industry veterans – and visionaries – with its Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated an extraordinary lifetime commitment to NSAA and the ski industry, and whose contributions will benefit the industry for decades to come. The awards were presented at the association’s virtual awards ceremony on June 11, and will again be celebrated at the association’s next in-person National Convention in 2022. NSAA wishes to thank MountainGuard for sponsoring its Lifetime Achievement awards.


Leading North America’s premier resorts to their loftiest heights, Jensen tirelessly mentored colleagues and always aced the “grocery store test.”

No one has led more major resorts in more markets than Bill Jensen, who held top posts at Vail Resorts and Intrawest and in a 45-year-career has applied his velvet touch to an A-list of mountains, including Sunday River, Northstar, Breckenridge, Vail, Whistler and Telluride. Perhaps even more impressive is the role he played as a career-shaping mentor to colleagues, many of whom went on to run their own resorts. Among the many “Bill-isms” Jensen has espoused along the way, this one stands out above all others:

“You are only as good as the people you work with.”

So in a move that will surprise none of his friends, Jensen planned to dedicate his U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall Of Fame acceptance speech not to his career accomplishments, but to thanking the dozens of colleagues and mentees who travelled to the Salt Lake City induction to share in his award.

Born in Hawaii but raised in Southern California, Jensen’s life changed in the fall of 1973 as a 21-year-old on a stroll along Ventura Boulevard, when he came upon the Sports Ltd. ski shop and saw a K2 Performers video playing in the storefront window. Within weeks he packed his car and headed to Mammoth Mountain, starting as a “liftie” in his first season. Promoted the next season to lift supervisor, Jensen’s ski industry career was off and running.

After spending four years at Mammoth, followed by two years as a lift manager at Sun Valley and then two more years overseeing construction of a new resort, Ski Bluewood in southeastern Washington, Jensen made a decision that would set the foundation for the rest of his career. As the North American sales manager (and then VP) of Pisten Bully Tracked Vehicles from 1981 to 1989, Jensen developed his business acumen and his sales and marketing chops, while increasing the company’s market share from non-existent to dominant. At virtually all of the North American resorts he regularly visited on his rounds, resort leaders would set aside time to have dinner or just talk with Jensen about operations. It was a full-on immersion in resort issues from coast to coast, and Jensen eagerly absorbed it all.

A chance meeting with Les Otten on an airplane led Jensen next to Sunday River in Maine, which at the time was among the most dynamic resort workplaces in the country. Serving as VP of marketing, Jensen saw Sunday River’s skier visits double over three seasons. With the goal of running his own resort by age 40, Jensen got his chance in 1991, joining publicly traded Fibreboard as president and GM of its Northstar resort in Lake Tahoe. Jensen increased skier visits by 120 percent in three seasons, acquired Sierra-at-Tahoe and Bear Mountain, and assumed leadership of the combined group. The experience of working for a public company, and lessons on the importance of making budgets, would serve Jensen well. After overseeing the resort group sale to Booth Creek in 1996, he was ready for bigger things.

The next move was to Breckenridge, where Jensen arrived as COO in 1997, not long after Vail Resorts had acquired the mountain. At company headquarters over the pass, they took notice when Breck’s business boomed, increasing 22 percent over two seasons and eclipsing Vail in skier visits for the first time. He was soon promoted to COO of Vail, where skier visits increased 25 percent and the resort returned to its No. 1 ranking in the annual SKI Magazine Reader Resort Survey. He was then promoted in 2006 to lead Vail Resorts mountain division, with oversight of Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Heavenly.

Jensen was recruited in 2008 to become CEO of Intrawest, at the time North America’s second largest ski and resort real-estate development company, with 12 ski resorts and 7 million skier visits. In 2010, the flagship, Whistler Blackcomb, would successfully host the 2010 Winter Olympics, and also earn the No. 1 ranking from SKI (from 2000 to 2012, under Jensen, Vail and Whistler achieved the No. 1 ranking nine times). But for perhaps the first time in his career, Jensen also hit an immovable object; the Great Recession had decimated Intrawest’s real-estate development business, resulting in the loss of hundreds of millions of dollars of annual revenue. Jensen and the Intrawest team faced that challenge head-on, and persevered inachieving a successful New York Stock Exchnage IPO in 2014.

Now happily ensconced as the CEO and partner at Telluride Ski and Golf, Jensen works in one of the most beautiful corners of the ski world, at a resort that has been widely acclaimed as one of the country’s best resort experiences. He’s managed to increase revenues by focusing on destination visitors while building a resort culture focused on the guest experience. He deserves a separate award for steering Telluride through the initially snowless 2017-18 season, maintaining employee enthusiasm and keeping the local economy humming.

Jensen is a past chairman of the National Ski Areas Association, a two-time recipient of the Colorado Ski Country USA Chairman’s Award, and was honored with the Ski Area Management (SAM) Industry Leadership Award in 2002. He was inducted into the Colorado Ski Hall of Fame in 2008.


Tim Silva identifies himself as someone born with mountains in his blood, picking up skiing as a child growing up in California, and choosing to dedicate his life’s work to the industry.

When one of his older brothers landed a pro patroller position at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Calif., Silva’s interest in mountain operations was piqued and his fate sealed: the ski industry would be his life’s work. With this goal in mind, Silva studied planning and management as an undergraduate at UC Davis and formed his Utah State University master’s thesis around a statistical study of factors affecting visitation at Utah ski areas.

While working on his degree, Silva got to know Sun Valley Resort, Idaho, and some of the people there who ultimately drew him out to his first official post in the ski industry. “I held a number of positions in the early days, including lift operator and lift supervisor,” Silva reported. “It was during these early days I met Michael Berry, who was running the lift department, and Bill Jensen, who was also lift supervisor.
This was very fortuitous as they have both been great friends, mentors and influential in my career.”

Little did Silva know at the time that he would be the one in charge of backfilling Berry at NSAA or that Jensen would be instrumental in shaping the next two decades of his career.

Like Jensen, Silva also started his career in lift operations; the two actually worked together for a time at Sun Valley at the beginning of their careers. He too served as general manager at Northstar, working under Jensen and reimagining the resort. Silva eventually returned to Sun Valley, reviving the resort from the Great Recession of the late 2000s, investing capital into new lifts, new lodges and a terrain expansion.

Integrity, honesty and hard work are also critical components of leadership, in Silva’s book, but ultimately, “a leader’s job is to say thank you.” Reflecting back, Silva is thankful for and most proud of the teams around him at Northstar and Sun Valley. Likewise, he has pride in and gratitude for his family. 

“My wife Leslie has supported me in my quest since the early days in Sun Valley, and she has always found time to be a dedicated force for good in the communities in which we have lived,” he reported. “Our children, Michael and Christina, have always been our best friends and sources of joy.”

First-time grandparents for all of a few months or so, the Silvas will be prioritizing spoiling the newest member of their family in retirement, along with enjoying all the outdoors have to offer. As for Sun Valley, thanks to Silva’s pre-retirementpriorities, the resort is in good hands.

Silva served on the NSAA Board of Directors for 13 years, and was also part of the ANSI B77 committee dedicated to the creation and evolution of lift operations standards.



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