INKOM — Mary Reichman wasn’t expecting the goodbye she received on Thursday morning.
It was the last day of her 30-year career as the general manager of Pebble Creek Ski Area, and she thought she would only spend the day tying up some loose ends and turning over the keys to the new management.
Instead, a large group of well-wishers lined up at the base of the mountain to greet Reichman as she came to work for the last time.
“I was just totally overwhelmed and totally surprised,” she said.
Accompanied by Mike Rodriguez, the resort’s ski lift supervisor and director of possibilities, Reichman met with each of the well-wishers and hugged them. Many gave her roses, and some of the flowers had personal notes attached to the stems.
At the end of the line of well-wishers was Bannock County Commissioner Terrel “Ned” Tovey, who read a proclamation declaring Thursday as Mary Reichman Day throughout the county.
“It’s a way of saying thank you, especially for someone like Mary Reichman who has been so visible and has helped so many people in our community,” Tovey said.
Tovey also noted that Pebble Creek greatly contributes to Bannock County’s economy by bringing skiers and snowboarders into the area.
Reichman and her husband, John, were part of a group of investors who purchased Pebble Creek Ski Area in the early 1980s. However, the resort suffered from numerous financial problems, and by the late 1980s, the ski area almost shut down.
To help fix the resort’s poor financial situation, the investors placed Reichman, a former social worker from St. Louis, Missouri, in charge of Pebble Creek.
At the time of her appointment, she was one of only two women in the United States running ski resorts. The other female manager was at Pomerelle Mountain Resort in south-central Idaho.
Reichman said she felt that the key to making Pebble Creek financially solvent was to make the mountain more accessible, particularly for families and beginner and intermediate skiers.
“I’m an intermediate skier, and when I first started here, a whole lot of things on the mountain intimidated me,” she said. “The first developments I did were tiny projects that took away things that were intimidating to me. We did things like widen the cat track coming out of Lower Green Canyon. It was little projects like that which made the mountain more accessible to more people.”
Besides adding and modifying multiple runs that appealed to beginner- and intermediate-level skiers and snowboarders, more events were added to entertain ski bums each March, a time when resort attendance tends to decrease.
But the change that Reichman said was one of her proudest accomplishments was the implementation of school skiing programs, where students from local elementary and middle schools visit Pebble Creek to learn how to ski and snowboard as part of their physical education curriculum.
“With the school programs, and making them so affordable, my belief is that all of the young people who grow up within the shadow of this beautiful mountain need to have the opportunity to enjoy the outdoors during the winter,” she said.
The school programs, Reichman says, helped create generations of new skiers who still utilize and enjoy Pebble Creek to this day.
The rebranding of the resort worked, and six to seven years after Reichman’s appointment, Pebble Creek was financially solvent again.
In September 2016, Pebble Creek was purchased by Shay Carl, a popular Internet celebrity from Pocatello. To help with the transition of ownership and management, Reichman agreed to stay on for two additional ski seasons.
Mike Dixon has taken her place as Pebble Creek’s general manager.
Ironically, Reichman will celebrate her first day of retirement by visiting another mountain. She will fly to Peru on Friday to visit Machu Picchu, which is located in the Andes.
Then she plans to stay in Pocatello for the next three to four years to spend time with her two children and two grandchildren.
“I have a lot of good friends and a lot of positive energy in Pocatello,” Reichman said.
After the well-wishers said their goodbyes on Thursday, Reichman had everybody do the “mountain pose,” which is a popular pose used in yoga. She ended the pose by shouting, “let’s make it snow,” which drew laughter and applause from those in attendance.
“It is my hope for everyone who skis on this mountain to love and respect the mountain and have positive regard for each other,” she said.