How does a native Australian become president and general manager of one of the largest ski resorts in the United States? If it hadn't been for snow fields within driving distance of Sydney, John McLeod's path may never have intersected with Bend.
McLeod grew up in the beach town of Coffs Harbour in New South Wales and attended university in Sydney. Up to then, he had never seen snow in his life. While working in Sydney in his early 20s, he joined a group of friends heading to the snow fields. Late that night, they stopped at a gas station. It was snowing and McLeod was captured by the magic.
"I had plenty of beach growing up in my life. Not that I don't like the beach but I really fell in love when I found the mountains and the snow and the sport of skiing," McLeod says.
The next day he took a ski lesson and knew he had discovered a new passion. The next weekend he hopped in a car again and repeated the experience. By then he was hooked for life. Later work experiences took him to Asia and Europe where he kept skiing.
Back in Sydney he met his wife, a Midwest American girl. They moved to Atlanta in 2001 where she was working with the Olympics. They started a family and in 2005, deciding they wanted an outdoor life, they set their sights on the Pacific Northwest. "I wanted to be able to give that to the family and make that part of their lifestyle." The family found Bend and Mt. Bachelor and moved in 2005.
He went to work as financial controller at Mt. Bachelor in October 2005. McLeod then worked four years as chief financial officer for Bend Research, eventually returning to Mt. Bachelor where he was appointed president and general manager in May 2016 after serving as interim general manager.
As for this year, McLeod says, "Biz is great! It's easy when there's snow. Everybody looks like a hero when there's snow. We're probably on pace for one of our best years if not the best year in the last 10." McLeod also says the level of business at the present time demonstrates a "vote of confidence" in Mt. Bachelor's $6 million investment in the new Cloudchaser lift, which greatly expanded the mountain's intermediate runs.
"To be able to put in a new lift this year has been a great privilege and it's a great addition to the mountain," he says. McLeod says the new lift has accomplished the company's goals of providing disbursement of crowds while increasing access to the mountain. "It provides an alternative place to go when it's windy on the Northwest side," says McLeod.
With Bend's continuing growth, McLeod says Mt. Bachelor should grow with it. He says the present lift capacity meets demand. He expects current modifications to the Rainbow lift to take pressure off the Summit lift.
With no urgent needs with lift capacity, McLeod says his executive team is turning its attention to lodge capacity. "We don't have enough lodge space for the kind of crowds that we're consistently getting now over Christmas holiday or President's weekend."
Saying it's hard to add additional square footage to present lodges, McLeod says there may be a re-configuration of existing lodges. "The master plan calls for a new lodge at the Sunrise base area, so I would hope to start the planning process for that and have that as our next major project here. We're doing a deep dive into lodging," he says.
Will Mt. Bachelor ever have overnight accommodations? "I would love to see overnight accommodations," he replies. Present regulations with the Forest Service and the Northwest Forest Plan prevent such development, but the issue has been discussed.
McLeod doesn't foresee a major resort-like village at Mt. Bachelor. A hotel has been discussed from time to time, but is not in the current master plan. "But, at some point inevitably we'll enter into discussions to see if that is possible with the Forest Service to see if we can put some kind of overnight accommodation or hotel here."
McLeod says, "With lodging on the mountain, I think that would catapult Mt. Bachelor into the top-tier of well known, high-end ski destinations. I would love to see that happen someday. Whether that happens in my tenure or not remains to be seen."
Longer term, McLeod also sees a possible need for a new—and third—access road from Bend and Sunriver to Mt. Bachelor, intersecting south of Bend from Highway 97, crossing the Deschutes River and connecting to Century Drive.