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Heavenly ski resort loses its voice

Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Molly Cuffe is leaving Heavenly Mountain Resort after nine years for a tourism job in Colorado.
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When you’re living your dream job, one might ask how to go up from there.

But the voice on the other end of the Heavenly Mountain Resort phone line, Molly Cuffe, heard her inner voice tell her – it’s time to leave for other grand horizons.

After nine seasons, the communications director is leaving for a parallel post with an expanded role. She’ll be managing the public relations effort for the 24 resorts that are part of the Colorado Ski Country USA in Denver. The trade association for Colorado’s ski industry offered her the job two weeks ago. Her last day at Heavenly is March 3.



“I told myself it would have to be a big job to get me to leave,” she said, strolling through the Heavenly Village with her frayed leather boots, jean skirt and Heavenly jacket.

Cuffe, 32, has essentially grown up at Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe.




“This was my first job out of college,” the University of Montana graduate said. A native of Libby, Mont., she recalled moving here with four boxes in her car. Now, it will take a U-Haul to empty the home she bought from former Heavenly communications director, Monica Bandows. Bandows ended up running a convention center in Big Bear.

Cuffe recounted her first month on the job, working with Bandows, as memorable.

Entertainer Sonny Bono was killed in 1997 when he hit a tree while skiing.

“That’s where I was taught crisis management,” she said.

The media descended on the small mountain town like bees on honey.

In 2002, a wildfire consumed 673 acres from a spot under the resort’s gondola.

“What struck me about that is what happened afterward. I saw someone throw a cigarette out the (car) window,” she said.

She made sure the butt was out.

Her fondest memory happened at about 5:30 a.m. over a year ago. She stood alone in the middle of the Ridge Run for the first day of snowmaking. The guns burst into action all around her.

“I called my mom and said: ‘It doesn’t get any better than this,’ ” she said.

The memories at Lake Tahoe have been plentiful. This includes putting on the Big Bang parties.

“This was important because it was the first big event for Vail Resorts,” she said of Heavenly’s new owner that took over a few years ago.

An accomplished skier, Cuffe started in the ski school department and evolved as a race administrator. She moved over to marketing as a communications coordinator, ran the Internet program and then went to work for Weidinger Public Relations at Stateline. She returned to Heavenly as the director of communications.

She’ll miss the friendships the most. Some have brought her to tears, including words of kindness from her mentor and boss, John Wagnon, vice president of marketing.

“I think the world of Molly. I’d hate to see her go, but the opportunity is great for her to expand her horizons and her career,” Wagnon said. “We will miss her energy, her expertise and her great positive attitude.”

Wagnon has started recruiting for the position.


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