Andrew Gast, currently in SOU administration, starts new job Dec. 21
By Lee Juillerat for Ashland.news
For the past five winters, especially when there’s been fresh snow, Andrew Gast has rearranged his work schedule so he could hustle up to the Mt. Ashland Ski Area to get in some downhill skiing.
Finding time to scramble from Southern Oregon University in Ashland, where he’s been SOU’s director of finance and administration, to Mt. Ashland won’t be necessary in another month.
“It’s the mountain where I ski all the time,” explains Gast, who begins work Dec. 21 as Mt. Ashland’s new general manager “I’ve skied the mountain almost every day that it’s been open the last five years.”
He succeeds Hiram Towle, now the general manager of the Bridger Bowl Ski Area in Montana. Gast’s hiring was announced earlier this month. In making the announcement, Curt Burrill, Mt. Ashland Association’s president, said, “The board is thrilled to find a talented person like Andrew in our own backyard. Andrew understands how special Mt. Ashland is and he is ready to further enhance the experience on the mountain.”
Gast is experienced, both with the mountain and ski industry.
“I knew that’s the industry I wanted to get back to again,” said Gast, of working and recreating at ski areas. In his new post his responsibilities will include managing daily operations and helping to develop and implement long-term goals. “My desire is to provide an outstanding alpine recreation experience for people of all ages and skill levels.”
Gast, 41, and his family — wife Kristen and sons Wyatt, 11, and Weston, 8 — understand the town and the ski area. The family moved to Ashland five years ago when Kristen was hired at SOU’s financial aid director. “She has moved many times for me so it was my turn,” he said of relocating with his family from Wyoming, where he helped revive a small nonprofit ski area that had been closed for more than 10 years.
Access to a ski area figured in the move — “Mt. Ashland,” Gast explains, “was one of the reasons we moved here in the first place.”
During their years in Ashland, he and his family have enjoyed being part of the outdoor community. Skiing is a primary focus, but Gast is also an endurance runner who participates in 50-mile and 50-kilometer ultramarathons, “I fell in love with trail running,” including training on the many trails in the hills in and near Ashland.
Mountains have been, and are, part of Gast’s life. Like his sons, who are members of the Mt. Ashland Racing Association and often join him on Ashland’s slopes, he learned to ski as a youngster in Georgia. That love eventually led to jobs at the Sky Valley Ski Area in Georgia, Whitefish Mountain Resort in Montana, and Antelope Butte Mountain Recreation Area in Wyoming.
As a teenager, when he was already thinking of a career in the ski industry, he enrolled in the ski area management program at Colorado State University Ski Area Management, where he earned an undergraduate degree in outdoor recreation and an MBA in tourism.
“I knew pretty young that’s the industry I wanted to get into,” Gast says of his long-time interest in skiing. “My immediate goal is to listen and learn from our amazing team and this community of skiers and snowboarders. Then we can focus on continuing the evolution of Mt. Ashland to elevate our experience and sustainability.”
Gast hopes to build Mt. Ashland’s capacity, not only by possibly adding new runs, including more for beginning skiers and snowboarders, but by continuing to increase access, parking and offerings at the lodge. He also plans to study skier age demographics while also exploring ways of creating longer seasons, such as by snowmaking. Another goal is studying “what can be done when it’s not winter. There’s a lot of options that don’t involve mountain biking,” a popular off-season offering at many ski hills.
For the upcoming ski season — which Gast hopes will begin by mid-December — a newly installed “magic carpet” will help beginning skiers and snowboarders reach easy runs without having to ride a chairlift.
By providing opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to learn to ski and snowboard, Gash hopes to mimic opportunities that he had as a child and that he’s provided for his sons as one of his main goals.
“I want to focus getting people introduced to the sport. This is the mountain where my kids ski all the time so it’s important to me,” Gast explains. “It’s a good opportunity to give back.
Email freelance writer Lee Juillerat at firstname.lastname@example.org.