Todd Shallan on Deer Valley, Mayflower, and the Changing Snowsports Industry
Alterra Mountain Company tapped Deer Valley Chief Operating Officer Todd Shallan as COO of the organization's new Hospitality Division this week. KPCW spoke with Shallan about his new role and what could be in store for the future of Deer Valley and the greater snowsports industry.
Todd Shallan had been the President and Chief Operating Officer of Deer Valley since 2018 and said in a farewell letter to employees this week his decision to accept his new role with Alterra was a difficult one.
Even though his new position as COO of Alterra’s Hospitality Division takes him away from Park City, Deer Valley was acquired by Alterra in 2017 and will still be part of Shallan’s responsibilities moving forward.
With the industry trending towards the consolidation of ski resorts around the country into larger companies like Alterra and Park City Mountain Resort’s Vail Corporation over the past few years, many locals fear the individual nature of their home mountain will be lost in the effort to modernize and standardize.
Shallan says that’s not the goal for Alterra and pointed to capital improvement projects at Deer Valley as evidence of preserving what makes each of the company’s properties unique.
“That is significant in that it represents the investment in the individual nature of each of those resorts,” he explained. “We will continue to do that at Deer Valley and we’ll continue to grow Deer Valley and we’ll continue to try and improve upon the things that we do and it will be run differently than Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows. We will look at each of the resorts and how do we improve each of those individually. The goal is not to make cookie-cutter decisions, but the goal is to take best practices.”
Deer Valley is known for small crowds and, perhaps more infamously, no snowboarders. Deer Valley, Alta, and Mad River Glen in Vermont are the only three resorts in the nation to still ban snowboarders.
Shallan says Deer Valley’s model sets it apart from other resorts. Despite COVID-19 challenges making the prospect of opening up Deer Valley to a different clientele eager to spend money an attractive option in the short term, Deer Valley isn’t interested. He says he won’t say never, but it’s very unlikely you’ll be seeing snowboarders sliding around Deer Valley in the near future.
“I’m not one that will say never ever to anything in the future, but what I will say is that we see no reason to allow snowboarders at Deer Valley,” said Shallan. “We think the formula works, it differentiates Deer Valley and it’s been very successful. I can’t predict what’s going to happen in 10, 20, 30 years, but I’m pretty comfortable saying certainly for the next amount of time we’re not going to allow snowboarders.”
With the advent of multi-resort pass options like Vail’s Epic Pass and Alterra’s own Ikon Pass causing friction between visitors and some locals as crowds become bigger and bigger, Shallan says the pass isn’t the problem and points to industry data showing that pre-pandemic, skiing was actually becoming more popular in Utah.
Ski Utah reported a record-breaking season in 2019 and said 2020 was on track to match it before the pandemic shut the industry down in March.
When Deer Valley upped the number of on-mountain safety measures last season, Shallan says the caution signs and increased ski patroller presence weren’t because of the Ikon Pass, it was because skier visits were significantly up across the board, not just at Deer Valley.
“No, I believe that was just generally because we have seen increased skier visitation,” Shallan said. “You know, from [2017-2018] to the season of [2018-2019], skier visitation in Utah, in general, in all 17 of our resorts in Utah -- that’s not Alterra, just generally in Utah -- skier visitation was up 23%. So, it was a more crowded experience everywhere you went and it was not related to Ikon, it wasn’t related to anything specific, we just had more visitors on the mountain, more beginners, and so we felt like we weren’t doing enough from a safety perspective.”
Another issue at the top of many locals minds is the Mayflower development on the west shore of the Jordanelle Reservoir.
If and how Deer Valley will connect with Mayflower is an issue still being worked out between Alterra and Extell Development. Parts of Deer Valley at the base of the Sultan and Narrow Gauge chairlifts are actually on land owned by the Mayflower developers. A yet-to-be-built chairlift could give Mayflower skiers access to Deer Valley.
Although Shallan wouldn’t say whether Alterra wants to take over operations once Mayflower does open, he says, at the very least, cooperation between the two will be a necessity.
“There have been a lot of conversations and we have a very good relationship with Extell and are talking about, on a regular basis, about how we can work together when they open up their resort,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of conversations about what the resort is going to look like, we’ve had a lot of input and really good partners in that. We’ll see where that ends up but we are having those conversations.”
Shallan says with the industry more reliant on visitors living within driving distance of resorts than ever before, this winter will be different -- at least until COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.
He says although the greater hospitality industry has had a rough ride since the beginning of the pandemic, the resort side of the industry is actually in a much better position. The more individual nature of summer and winter resort activities means they’re not as reliant on group business, like conferences and weddings, as hotels in big population centers might be.
Shallan will officially begin his new role at Alterra later this month. His replacement at Deer Valley, Jeremy Levitt, is scheduled to begin on October 19th.
Alterra will be announcing COVID-19 protocols for their properties next week and Shallan says a reservation will not be required for pass holders to access the mountain, although that could change depending on local health regulations.
Opening day at Deer Valley is scheduled for December 5th.