So long — and thank you! | SierraSun.com

So long — and thank you!

Pete Bansen
Chief’s Corner

Squaw Valley Fire Department Chief Pete Bansen poses in his office on March 22.

I came to Squaw Valley 39 years ago, a couple of days after graduating from Colorado College where I learned to drive a Zamboni, which at the time was my most marketable skill.

I had been offered a job working at Blyth Arena, which was then operated by the U.S. Olympic Training Center. At 22 years old, I didn't have much of plan for my life — I planned on skiing a lot for a year or two and then getting a "real" job.

As time passed, I had several wonderful mentors who changed the direction of my life, and allowed me to have a long career in the mountains.

After a little over a year at the Olympic Training Center, I took a job working on the Squaw Valley Tram for a wonderful man named Hardy Herger. Hardy was Swiss and had worked on the original construction of the Tram in 1968 — he returned after the 1978 accident to repair and get it running again.

Hardy was a great mentor. He loved to work and try new things, yet he was patient, a great teacher, and committed to quality. We became good friends, and I will always be grateful to have known and worked with him.

Through Hardy, I met Hans Burkhart, who built the Tram and a number of tremendously challenging and unique aerial transportation projects in the western U.S. and Canada. Hans has been general manager and president of Squaw Valley several times, and is one of the most brilliant and the hardest working person I've ever known.

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You could learn much more working for Hans in a month than you'd learn on most jobs in a year, and his skills at managing people and projects are every bit as formidable as his technical and mechanical capabilities. Hans remains a great friend and mentor to this day.

Norm Simmons was a Squaw Valley legend — he'd been a pro ski patroller and had won the infamous Chinese Downhill every time it was run. He played pro football for the Houston Oilers and broomball with the Squaw Valley "Chiefs," and was a great boss and an incredibly skilled heavy equipment operator. Norm was a proud and enthusiast father, and a great mentor and coach of being a dad — a tough guy with a huge heart.

In 1981, my friend (and Squaw Valley plumbing legend) Dale Cox recruited me to become a volunteer firefighter for Squaw Valley Fire Department. I'll always be indebted to Dale for that suggestion — it changed my life and led to becoming Squaw Valley's Fire Chief in 1993, a job that provided tremendous personal growth and the rare opportunity to grow an organization while earning the trust of a community.

This job has enabled me to live out the example my parents modeled of service to others and dedication to the improvement of the community in which we live. I am most grateful to them for providing those values and to the bosses, mentors, and fire service colleagues who taught me the skills to be a successful and effective leader.

Thanks, and so long!