[ By Dawne Belloise ]
On a powder day with excited crowds piling up at the bus stops throughout town, itching to hit some of those first stashes of white fluff, you might find Jeremy Herzog in his ambassador mode, two-way radio in hand, negotiating between Mountain Express drivers and waiting riders. With the COVID-19 rider protections in place, allowing 19 passengers per bus, Jeremy sums up the numbers situation at key stops and relays that information to the drivers as they count the riders already on board. It’s just one of the many hats Jeremy wears as the new Mountain Express managing director, hired in June to replace retiring Chris Larsen.
Born in Millbrook, N.Y., a small town about two hours north of New York City, he was raised with a younger brother by school teacher parents. “The community I grew up in was similar in size to Crested Butte. I was a rule follower,” he laughs, “and I wore sweater vests.” Hockey was Jeremy’s big sport. “I learned to skate when I was four on the pond in front of my house,” but because he attended a small school, he was also able to play soccer and tennis, although he claims he wasn’t very good at the latter. “When you only have 12 kids trying out for a tennis team, you don’t have to be very good. Hockey was my primary obsession.”
In high school, Jeremy considered participation in community service to be of utmost importance so he started the Interact Club, in conjunction with the Rotary Club, to help increase community service by teens. “We took on a bunch of projects. For example, on Halloween we trick-or-treated for canned goods for the food pantry… instead of toilet papering people’s houses.” He graduated in 1997 in a class of 48 kids and was accepted into Notre Dame University.
Jeremy’s choice to attend Notre Dame was quite intentional. “I was in this small connected community and worked as hard as I could to get out,” he admits. His graduating class at Notre Dame was larger than his hometown population and he was only an hour or so away from Chicago, where there was plenty to do. Having played hockey for most of his life, Jeremy recalls, “I saw the rugby team practicing one day and said to myself, I need to do that.” So he signed up and played through his college days. To continue his involvement in serving his community, he became the resident advisor in the dorms. He graduated in 2001 with a dual degree, a BA in political science and a BS in management information systems, essentially a business degree with a focus on computers.
Jeremy was determined to begin his career after graduation so he moved to Chicago, utilizing his computer degree. “I started working for a big management consulting company, Eccentrue, which dealt with Fortune 500 companies.”
He was with them for six years before moving to Leo Burnett, the second largest advertising firm in America. “They make about 40 percent of the Superbowl commercials you’ll see. I was leading teams to build websites, mobile apps and transform business. It was very corporate. I was working in a 35-story building in downtown Chicago,” he says of the firm that created Tony the Tiger, the Marlboro Man, the Maytag repair man and Allstate’s good hands. He was there for seven years, enjoying what he calls the urban experience. “Coming from a small town, I especially liked the anonymity of getting on a stacked subway car and not knowing anyone. I also rode my bike to work. I loved exploring new restaurants—Chicago is a great city for restaurants. I was a season ticket holder for the Bears and taking the subway to the games was really cool.” He joined a competitive rugby club, playing with them for over a decade. “We had night training twice a week and Saturday matches in the park.”
Jeremy was late to the ski scene, only discovering it during his senior year at Notre Dame when a college buddy invited him to spend spring break at his Dillon, Colo. condo. They skied Copper the first day. “It was the first time I had seen the Rocky Mountains and I was just awestruck. My first day of skiing, my friend took me to the top of a groomed black diamond run and told me, if you get going too fast just do a hockey stop. My friend was a ski racer. It was pretty steep and I was kind of scared but I got down without falling. I was hooked. I knew I had to get back to Colorado someday.”
Jeremy met his wife, Nicole Del Sasso, through mutual friends in Chicago and they married there in 2013. Throughout his career in the city, he continued to return to Colorado yearly to ski, realizing, “When I took these trips, I always felt more at home in the mountains. I’d ski mostly the I-70 corridor resorts. After Nicole and I got married, we talked about our future together and imagined a different lifestyle for us than my urban counterparts. Starting with our honeymoon in Jackson Hole, we visited 23 mountain towns over a three-year period.” But he feels they saved the best for last, visiting Crested Butte twice in 2016. “We just knew by the first hour of being in Crested Butte it was the more connected community and ski town that we wanted to call home.”