Former Red Mountain Resort general manager Jim Greene has taken up a teaching post at Selkirk College and will begin passing on knowledge he has earned over a 25-year career as a leader in the tourism industry.
Beginning this month, Greene will teach a number of Fall Semester classes in the School of Hospitality, Tourism & Cosmetology on Nelson’s Tenth Street Campus. With a resume decorated with a diversity of tourism-related achievements and a Masters in Business Administration from the University of Western Ontario, Greene compliments the already solid stable of faculty with plenty to offer students.
Selkirk College instructor Jim Greene is settling into his new office on the Tenth Street Campus and excited to be helping foster a new generation of tourism leaders.
“It’s an entirely new career for me,” says the 57-year-old. “It’s scary, but that’s what life is all about. If I can pass on what I have learned in tourism over the years, I’m happy to do it.”
This semester, Greene will teach Business Finance, Accounting, Hospitality Law and Mixology to students in the Ski Resort Operations & Management Program (SROAM), the Resort & Hotel Management Program (RHOT) and the Post-Graduate Diploma in Hospitality Management.
Following a Passion to the West Kootenay
Greene is a well-known personality in the West Kootenay outdoor scene, but planting roots in the mountainous topography of Rossland was one of happenstance.
In 1994, Greene was living in Edmonton where he managed a Canadian Tire store and on the side was a partner in Supernatural Adventures, an inbound tour operator that packaged British Columbia travel products to large European tour companies like Inghams Travel. In February of that year, Greene and a friend went on a two-week BC ski trip where they hit many of the province’s interior resorts—Blue River, Sun Peaks, Big White and Silver Star.
While making their way from the Okanagan to Fernie, the pair decided to make an unscheduled dip into Rossland. It didn’t go well.
“It was puking so hard by the time we got to Red, you couldn’t see anything it was snowing so hard,” Greene recalls. “We looked at this trail map which was almost useless and for the whole day we poked our way down the runs.”
They stayed in Rossland that night with the struggles of the day behind them and planned to head to Fernie the next morning. While having dinner at Rockingham’s and watching the opening ceremonies of the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, they met the restaurant’s co-owner Billy Blackburn.
When they described their day and provided a less than stellar account of the adventure, Blackburn was having none of it. The gracious host told Greene he would meet them at Red’s base the next morning for a more intimate look at the legendary terrain.
“Billy showed up that next morning and kicked our asses,” says Greene. “He took us all over that mountain… it was amazing,” says Greene.
Hooked on Mountain Life
As it does for so many bitten by the winter majesty of the region, life changed that day and soon after Greene had moved his family to Rossland.
It didn’t take long for Greene to get involved in the community with his first major assignment being the president of the Rossland Chamber of Commerce. While helping foster and bring new business to the alpine community, Greene was approached by former Red Mountain Resort general manager Rich Morton to come on board as marketing manager. After a year in that position, Morton left and the ownership group offered Greene the resort’s top job.
Greene’s first season as GM was 1998, an epic snow year for the West Kootenay that saw 145,000 skier visits to Red Mountain.
“We had great snow and I was a genius,” he says.
The next season was a relative bust because of poor snow and at times during the season Red Mountain was only seeing 80 skiers a day.
“You go from hero to goat because it’s all about snow,” says Greene.
As general manager, Greene helped establish Red Mountain as a bigger player in the outdoor winter scene. He helped negotiate the master plan with the province in 2001 that saw the Rossland resort sign a 60-year lease and open up the potential of 4,200 acres of terrain.
“Certainly opening up Mount Gray was one of our biggest goals going into 2004,” says Greene. “Opening up 1,000 acres of new terrain with a lift was pretty spectacular. That was a pretty big achievement.”
In his final years at Red Mountain, Greene headed up the real estate division and oversaw the development of the Slalom Creek condominium project.
Looking back on his time spent at Red Mountain, Greene says it was a tremendous opportunity and exciting to be part of an important period in the resort’s history.
“This region is on the map big time,” he says. “Now we go to ski shows where 10 or 15 years ago they would say ‘where is Red Mountain.’ Now you don’t have that, everybody knows where we are and they have all heard about us.”
Despite the awareness, the very nature of life in the West Kootenay comes with barriers to growth.
“The biggest challenge we have is getting people here,” says Greene. “In our entire region we only have 70,000 people to draw from and that is not a large skier base. In order to prosper you have to bring in the destination traveler and there are major challenges with access.”
New Chapter Begins in the Classroom
Greene is no stranger to Selkirk College. Between 2004 and 2007 he sat on the SROAM advisory board which provides direction on trends and the key skills the ever-changing industry requires from graduates.
“I think it’s a great program,” Greene says of SROAM. “The students that come out of the program are getting jobs, they are trained well and they have an advantage over everybody else in the business.”
Greene had been pondering a move to the education sector for a couple of years. When the opportunity came up at Selkirk College this past spring, he jumped at the chance to make a change. Though his own learning curve is steep as he steps into the role of mentor, Greene says his experience in the industry will help students get a grasp on key concepts.
With strong enrollment in the programs he is teaching, Greene is excited to be passing on his knowledge in a sector that is vital to the economic growth of the region and province.
“It’s a very bright future,” says Greene. “Tourism as a global industry is growing leaps and bounds. It’s one of the largest growth industries in the world and that is not going to change for a while. The opportunities both entry level and management level will grow along with it. They will need students coming out with the right training and the students graduating from Selkirk College will always have a leg up.”