Nathan Rafferty: CEO of the Year
Congratulations to Nathan Rafferty, president and chief executive officer at Ski Utah. He was named one of the 2018 CEO of the Year honorees.
On a day when the mountains are blanketed with a fresh coat of white powder, you won’t find Nathan Rafferty or anyone else from Ski Utah in the office—they’ll be hitting the slopes, practicing what they preach.
“We made an official policy that when it snowed over a foot, there was going to be an option for everybody in the office to go ski. So ski in the morning and obviously come back and work that afternoon and then into the evening to make up that time,” says Rafferty. “Maybe it doesn’t surprise people about our office, but it keeps the stoke level high and people’s passion, and gives them a reason to work at Ski Utah. I would hate to be sitting there looking out the window at the mountains and not have a chance to ski except on weekends. Two days a week? That’s not enough.”
It’s a quality evident to others in the industry, including Bob Wheaton, president and CEO of Deer Valley resort. “Nathan’s passion for skiing and the ski industry is extremely infectious, and that infection starts with the staff and grows from there. When you walk into the Ski Utah office, you’re not walking into an office, you’re walking into the ski industry. Everybody there is so engaged, and that feeling is fed by the daily direction, almost, that the staff get out and enjoy what they represent,” says Wheaton. “That’s the engagement Nathan brings to the industry and Ski Utah in particular.”
Rafferty’s passion for the sport and the industry built around it is obvious, which is part of what has made him so effective at promoting the state and the ski industry to locals, the nation and the world. The Utah native has always felt most at home on the slopes, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that there were careers in the industry. In 1994, he started at Ski Utah as an unpaid intern; when the previous president and CEO of Ski Utah stepped down in 2005, Rafferty had worked his way up through the nonprofit and was ready to take the reins.
Utah’s ski industry has “come of age” since the state hosted the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, but the last handful of years have seen broken record after broken record for attendance, visitors and spending. “The spending is more than a billion dollars now and that equates to state and local taxes that helps pave our roads, educate our kids,” he says. “It’s not just a small industry with a couple of rinky-dink ski hills like it was many decades ago, but it’s a well-known, worldwide, thriving business that contributes to our state’s economy.”