Pastor Don Curry (left) from New Testatment Church of Massena awards High Peaks Church Pastor Bruce McCulley a plaque during the installation service on Sept. 14.
Bruce McCulley now answers to a power higher than a walkie-talkie on the frigid ski slopes of Whiteface Mountain.
After 31 years, the Whiteface Mountain Ski Center general manager is leaving his job with the Olympic Regional Development Authority (ORDA) to become the pastor of his church, the High Peaks Church in Saranac Lake.
“My career there at Whiteface has been great, you know, I love the outdoors,” McCulley said. “But I knew in my heart ultimately there was a calling for this type of ministry and serving at some point in my life, so now is the opportunity, and I’m looking forward to it.”
McCulley, who lives in Vermontville, is working part time now at Whiteface and expects to leave his post by mid-October. He’s already begun working as pastor and was installed during a ceremony on Sept. 14. The High Peaks Church, located at 97 Will Rogers Dr., is described as a Bible-believing non-denominational church.
“I’ve always been involved in the local church here,” McCulley said. “And I’ve always done training over the years and thought that at some point that would be my call, to the ministry, and it appears that now’s the time, so I made the step.”
McCulley has been a religious services volunteer at the Federal Bureau of Prisons system at Ray Brook for about 20 years and has been an elder at his church for about 12 years.
While 31 years working for the state is a long time, the Whiteface GM is hesitant to call this a retirement.
“I’m still not really old enough to actually retire,” McCully said. “It’s more of a career change at this point.”
At age 19, McCulley began his career at Whiteface Mountain in 1981 as a summer attendant for the double chairlift. Eventually he moved to the overnight snowmaking crew for about seven years and then management.
“I love being out in the night hours,” McCulley said. “It’s beautiful. Of course, about March I was ready for the daytime hours again. But I did enjoy it. Snowmaking was a fun job.”
In 2009, McCulley — the assistant Whiteface GM at the time — was promoted to replace GM Jay Rand, who left to become executive director of the New York Ski Educational Foundation.
The transition this year is familiar.
ORDA has named Assistant GM Aaron Kellet to replace McCulley as the Whiteface GM. Kellet, a 2009 graduate of Plattsburgh State University College, began working at Whiteface in 2000 as a member of the mountain’s terrain park crew. Five years later, he was promoted to terrain park and half-pipe manager before becoming the assistant general manager to McCulley in 2009.
“I have always been impressed with Aaron,” ORDA president/CEO Ted Blazer said in a prepared release. “He has a style that combines knowledge and diplomacy that will make him successful at the mountain. Whiteface has an incredible staff and I’m confident that the combination of Aaron at the helm and the wonders that the staff performs, that we all will be in good hands.”
Kellet said he’s honored to accept the new position.
“Being the GM of Whiteface has been a dream of mine since the first time I skied down Cloudspin in the early 90s,” Kellet said in the ORDA release.
Kellet began skiing at the age of 2 and started skiing Whiteface in 1992, with his father, Rob, a member of the mountain’s ski patrol. He also competed internationally in aerials and moguls.
Kellet makes his home in Jay, where he and his wife, Lindsay, are expecting their first child in December.
In other news, Lauren Garfield was named Whiteface Mountain’s sales and marketing manager. Previously, she had been employed as the mountain’s group sales manager. Joe Shoemaker took over the position of group sales.