Bob Wheaton, former Deer Valley leader, honored with Spirit of Hospitality Award
When Bob Wheaton moved to Park City in 1979, there were few signs hinting at what the town would eventually become. Like many others who lived here in the decades before the area gained prominence as a skiing mecca, he cites an example that can be difficult for those who arrived in the post-Olympic era to picture.
“There was not one stoplight in Park City and there was only one stop sign,” he said.
At the helm of Deer Valley Resort for three decades, Wheaton played a pivotal role in the town shedding its sleepy roots and transforming into one of the most famous mountain destinations in North America. On Tuesday, he was honored for his contributions, as the Park City Chamber/Bureau presented him with its Myles Rademan Spirit of Hospitality Award during a luncheon at the Sheraton Park City.
Wheaton, who stepped down as president and chief operating officer of Deer Valley over the winter after more than 30 years at the resort, said the local and regional influence of the Chamber/Bureau makes the honor significant.
The award is also special, he said, because of the others who have won it through the years, a list that includes figures such as Wasatch Brewery founder Greg Schirf, former U.S. Ski and Snowboard CEO Bill Marolt, former Park City Mayor Brad Olch and Rademan, the award’s first recipient and namesake.
“You look at the list of past recipients, it’s like, ‘Holy smokes,’” Wheaton said. “This is as cool as it gets.”
Rademan, a former public affairs director at City Hall who also leads the long-running Park City Leadership program, said in an interview Wheaton’s influence on Park City is indisputable. After climbing to the top staff post at Deer Valley in 1988, he executed the vision of the resort’s founder Edgar Stern: provide a first-class experience for skiers comparable to that of a luxury hotel. Under Wheaton’s leadership, the resort earned the No. 1 spot in Ski Magazine’s prestigious resort rankings an unprecedented eight times. He was known for being a frequent sight on the mountain, mingling with guests and guiding employees.
“You can put a lot of appellations on people like entrepreneur, visionary and all that. Bob was none of those things,” Rademan said. “Bob was a consummate operator. He loved skiing. He loved the whole idea of skiing and what it took to make a great skiing experience.”
Wheaton, who now serves in a senior adviser role with Deer Valley owner Alterra Mountain Company, attributed much of the resort’s success over the decades to his staff.
He added that, though the resort and the town surrounding it have changed, the core mission he and those who worked under him pursued at Deer Valley has not.
“We always knew we wanted to be a ski resort with the best level of guest service, friendly staff and all the stuff it is today,” he said. “It was a different time and a different ski industry. But that focus is one that’s never changed.”
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