UPDATED: Bob Wheaton, crucial ski industry figure, to leave Deer Valley Resort
August 16, 2018
Bob Wheaton, the president and chief operating officer of Deer Valley Resort and a crucial figure in the rise of the state's ski industry to international status, will leave the resort in early January for a role with Deer Valley's parent company.
The departure will end an extraordinary run helming one of North America's elite mountain resorts during an era of growth in skier numbers and an expansion of the resort itself to one that stretches from just off the banks of the Jordanelle Reservoir to the heights of the top of Empire Canyon.
Wheaton arrived at Deer Valley in the 1980s, rising to the top staff position in 1988 and leading the resort through the boom years of the 1990s, the 2002 Winter Olympic era, the recession and then a post-downturn reviving of the industry.
Deer Valley during Wheaton's tenure became a renowned destination for skiers, offering a mountain of well-groomed slopes, fine dining and service that is widely seen as tops in the industry. The resort under Wheaton's leadership has ranked No. 1 eight times in Ski Magazine's influential listing of mountain resorts, the only resort to do so.
"The growth is pretty incredible. I would like to think we never lost that small company feel, if you will," Wheaton said in an interview.
Wheaton, a soft-spoken leader, oversaw dramatic expansion at Deer Valley as third-party developers pursued major projects on the resort's slopes that required cooperation from the resort. The move into the Empire Canyon area of Deer Valley was especially notable, opening long-desirable terrain as the privately held Empire Pass was developed around the lift. The Deer Crest development, which brought Deer Valley's slopes toward the Jordanelle Reservoir, was also a consequential move for the resort.
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Wheaton, meanwhile, led Deer Valley through the Winter Olympics. The resort hosted skiing and freestyle skiing events in 2002. The venue, just outside Snow Park Lodge, was widely praised and, since then, has been a regular stop on the World Cup circuit and has hosted world freestyle championships.
Wheaton, 66 and a Woodland resident, started at Deer Valley a few months before the resort debuted in late 1981. He was hired as a ski instructor but became the building maintenance manager before ever beginning to teach skiing at Deer Valley. He rose through the ranks, holding posts like the equipment operations and maintenance manager as well as the director of mountain operations before being named the general manager, the top staff position, in 1988.
He was named president and chief operating officer when Alterra Mountain Company acquired Deer Valley in October of 2017 from co-owners Royal Street Corporation and Red Gables Corporation. Royal Street Corporation is the firm once led by the late Deer Valley founder Edgar Stern while Roger Penske leads Red Gables Corporation.
Stern's influence on Deer Valley was of outsized significance as he is credited with instilling a dedication to the top-tier customer service that many see as defining the resort. Wheaton said Stern's lessons continue to guide the staffers. He said Deer Valley looks at staff positions through the experience of resort guests. Wheaton described the staffers at Deer Valley as key to the overall success over the years.
"It has always been a focus to attract and retain people with top-notch skills," Wheaton said.
Wheaton will become a senior strategic advisor to the Alterra Mountain Company board of directors when he leaves the Deer Valley post. It is an open-ended post that is expected to provide Wheaton the opportunity to help craft a vision for a firm that rapidly became one of the top players in the ski industry.
Alterra Mountain Company appointed Todd Shallan as the successor president and chief operating officer at Deer Valley. He is scheduled to start at Deer Valley on Sept. 24, working with Wheaton through his departure. Shallan has a background in the hotel industry and once worked for KSL Capital Partners. Alterra Mountain Company was created through a joint venture between KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company affiliates.