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April 26th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 17
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‘Snowy Joey’ O’Brien hired as Manager of Community Services
Crowsnest Pass Herald Front Page
New Manager of Community Services, Joey O'Brien
ANNA KROUPINA
Pass Herald Reporter
The Municipality of Crowsnest Pass’ new Manager of Community Services, Joey O’Brien, has a legacy of turning bankrupt or almost-there ski resorts into profitable businesses, but he has one strong message to convey: he’s much more than just a “snow guy.”

While the Pass Powderkeg Ski Hill makes up about 15% of his responsibilities, the umbrella of responsibilities will have him overseeing sports and recreation, Family and Community Support Services, the pool and some elements of tourism.

He will also have the challenging task of examining the Pass’ many aging facilities and come up with a strategic plan for maintenance, or demolition. One such controversial matter is looking at the worn-out Blairmore’s Albert Stella Memorial Arena, home to a skateboard park, a rock climbing wall and gymnastics facilities.

“My mandate to look at the Stella complex and figure out whether the right thing to do is to blow it up and decide what to do with the major activities that occur there, or to spend some money and put some polish on it until we have a more comprehensive plan on what to do,” he says.

O’Brien has been on the job for about a week now and while he is still formulating his vision for the Pass, he makes it clear that attracting tourism to the area is high on the list, an attitude and agenda welcomed by Crowsnest Pass.
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Antigonish-born O’Brien grew up in an entrepreneurial family. His father owned a number of businesses and O’Brien himself had a ski hill as his first business by age 19. By 21, he had over 100 people working under him.

O’Brien is largely credited with bringing numerous bankrupt or failing ski resorts back to success, turning them into profitable enterprises that contribute to both the social and economic wealth of the region.

He saved Ski Martock in his home province of Nova Scotia from the brinks of bankruptcy, and later did the same with Fortress Mountain in Kananaskis, Alberta. His latest rescue is B.C.’s Mount Baldy Ski Resort, which he got back up and running after it filed for bankruptcy.

In 2015, he started his own business focused on environmental sustainability, SustainDriven. The consulting and event operations company contributed to making the 2014 Alberta Winter Games the world’s greenest multi-sport games in history.

But, again, O’Brien is more than just a “snow guy”, even though his nickname may be “Snowy Joey”, a quip that has stuck since 1982 when he was doing live radio spots.

While most of us look at the Pass Powderkeg and think snow, skis and winter, O’Brien sees it as more than just a one-season operation. In the ski business, he says, you can no longer be successful long-term by providing services for just a single season.
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“I don’t look at it as a winter-only occasion. Most of the investment that’s occurring in the ski industry these days is to make them three- or four-season facilities,” he says. “Using the ski resort as an anchor to create those types of activities is one of the things I’d like to accomplish over time, building a complete economic model for four seasons, not just for a ski resort.”

While he holds many accolades and accomplishments in the private sector, working for a municipality is a new experience for him.

“My one area of greatest weakness is never having worked in government and my area of greatest strength is never having worked in government,” he says. “I bring a private sector, ‘do it now, we know how to make money’ attitude.”

With a Council mandate focused on attracting tourism and beautification of the Crowsnest Pass, O’Brien certainly seems to fit the bill as Manager of Community Services.
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April 26th, 2017 ~ Vol. 87 No. 17
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