Chuck English, a Deer Valley original, retires from post
Longtime director of mountain operations, grooms final ski run
January 13, 2017
When Chuck English began working at Deer Valley Resort, Park City was a little bit different.
The town in those days, he recalled, didn't have a stoplight. And the resort, which now stretches nearly five miles from the Jordanelle Reservoir to Empire Pass, had just five lifts.
That was in 1981, the resort's inaugural season.
Now, 36 years later, English is saying goodbye to Deer Valley. He is retiring from his post as director of mountain operations, a position he has held for 28 years. He said that, after three decades of winters working tirelessly to provide skiers with an excellent experience, he is looking forward to the freedom to travel this time of year.
Already, he is planning a trip to Mexico and to the beaches of California, where he grew up surfing as a boy.
"I guess it's because I can retire, is the reason," he said. "I still have a lot of stuff I'd like to do with my life. When you work in this business, you are tied to it with a pretty big sea anchor from October through the end of April. There's not any getting away in the wintertime, so I have plans."
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English is well known in the community as a mainstay at Deer Valley, and he reminisced about its early days. For example, he said, it took a few years for residents to warm up to the resort, which some viewed as "the snobs down at the end of the street."
"It took a while to get through that to a point where I think we are a big contributor to the community," he said.
At the same time, employees were working out the kinks that arose from trying to do something that was rare in the ski world at the time, English said: Operate a ski resort like a fine hotel. Soon enough, however, the community embraced Deer Valley, and the resort began to flourish, eventually carving out a reputation as one of the most respected ski areas in North America.
Being part of that transformation was something special, primarily because of the people he shared the journey with.
"The staff that I have in mountain operations has made my job really quite enjoyable," he said. "It's all the different people that I've worked with who have kept me here."
English's job as director of mountain operations has been to oversee all activity on the mountain, including snowmaking, grooming, ski patrol, guest services and chairlift operations. He said he's seen it all, from massive storms that forced him to scramble to keep lifts open to draughts that threatened the start of ski season.
Through it all, English's efforts were "nothing less than critical" to the resort's success, said Bob Wheaton, president and general manager of Deer Valley.
"Chuck is one of my very best friends, and we've worked together for 36 years," he said. "I'm going to miss working with him. But to Chuck's credit, in his typically fashion, he's passed his knowledge and his focus along to others that he's worked with over the years. He is stepping aside and retiring and leaving Deer Valley in the very best possible shape it could be in."
English is confident his successor will be up to the task as well. He is being replaced by Steve Graff, who has worked at Deer Valley since 1993, most recently as ski patrol manager, a position that has given him a broad view of how the resort operates. He was set to take over the position Monday, Jan. 16.
"He sees the whole mountain," English said. "He's a very smart fellow and a really smart manager. He knows how to get the most out of his staff. He's going to do really well in this position."
Even so, English sees challenges for Deer Valley in the future as he steps away. When the resort opened, it was among the first to offer services such as overnight ski storage and valets who unloaded ski gear for guests. English said other resorts have replicated that level of service, so the resort must work hard to maintain its status.
"I think the hardest thing for Deer Valley Resort is to maintain relevance in the ski industry," he said. "We started with all sorts of new ideas. … Nowadays, there's a number of ski areas that have mimicked that. So the biggest challenge is to not sit back on our laurels and think we're the best."
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