Longtime Sugar Bowl President/CEO Rob Kautz to retire | SierraSun.com
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Longtime Sugar Bowl President/CEO Rob Kautz to retire

Special to the Sun
Rob Kautz has been president and CEO of Sugar Bowl Resort since 987. He will step down next June.
Courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort |

NORDEN, Calif. — After working nearly four decades at Sugar Bowl Resort, and boasting one of the longest careers in the history of the Tahoe-area ski industry, Rob Kautz, the resort’s president and CEO, has announced his retirement. 

Kautz will stay on until Sugar Bowl finds and trains a replacement, and will continue to work at the resort through June 2016. He will also remain on Sugar Bowl Corporation’s board of directors.

Kautz, a surfer from Southern California, started skiing at Sugar Bowl at 19, and was initially hired to work there a ski patroller after college in 1976.

Over the years, he’s been the director of Sugar Bowl’s ski patrol team and mountain manager, and he took over as CEO in 1987.

Kautz, working closely with and supported by the resort’s ownership group and senior management team, spearheaded the expansion of the resort, modernizing its chairlift system and leading a revitalization of real estate at the nation’s only snowbound village.

Kautz also led and executed the plan to build the Mt. Judah Day Lodge and parking area, a new ski academy campus, and the Sporthaus, a new pool and fitness training center in the Sugar Bowl Village.

In 2012, Sugar Bowl Resort took over ownership and operation of Royal Gorge — North America’s largest cross country ski resort.

“Royal Gorge is such a jewel and a great match for Sugar Bowl,” said Kautz. “It is essential to our brand.”

Since taking the reins at Sugar Bowl, Kautz executed a delicate balancing act — reshaping the resort into a state-of-the-art ski area while remaining true to its roots as an authentic ski-first mountain.

In 2012, Outside Magazine named Sugar Bowl one of the top 25 ski resorts in North America. His success in leading Sugar Bowl Resort earned him distinctions and recognition within the ski industry.

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READ MORE: Since opening Dec. 15, 1939, Sugar Bowl has seen many changes, although the most important thing that has remained consistent is its culture.

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He served as a board member and chairman of the National Ski Areas Association and was a long-time board member and chairman of the California Ski Industry Association.

“Rob, like the iconic resort he has nurtured and led over the past four decades, is a class act. He’s been one of the unflappable pillars of the winter sports industry,” said Bob Roberts, president and CEO of the California Ski Industry Association. “His intelligence, resourcefulness and effective leadership have been fundamental to the popularity and success of Sugar Bowl Resort. Rob’s legacy is well earned.”

In conjunction with his management team, Kautz developed a plan to thoughtfully renovate and expand the Village at Sugar Bowl. The sale of real estate in the Village helped finance more than $60 million of on-mountain improvements, including new express lifts, lodges and snowmaking.

But it was Kautz’s people-first management style that was as influential as his vision for the future of Sugar Bowl’s lifts, lodges, and village.

“I am a people person, and most of all I enjoyed working with the people at Sugar Bowl Resort,” said Kautz.

Over the years, Kautz mentored dozens of resort managers and employees. The number of employees who have remained working at Sugar Bowl Resort for decades is a testament to the success of his management style.

“Rob has been an incredible mentor and role model to so many of us. He consistently solicits our opinions and advice. Yet one of his favorite sayings is that ‘this is not a democracy,’” said Nicole Lieberman, director of administrative services at Sugar Bowl. “I have never known a leader who truly cared so much for his team.”

Kautz attracted top talent like Mike Iman, director of Sugar Bowl’s Mountain Sports Learning Center for the last 26 years.

Iman, who has announced he will retire next year, has spent 50 years in ski instruction, and was a board member, western division president and chief examiner for the Professional Ski Instructors of America.

Kautz brought his relationship building into the broader Tahoe and Truckee communities as well. He was a founding member of the Excellence in Education Foundation, a founding member of the Sierra Business Council and a founding member and chairman of the Tahoe Truckee Community Foundation.

“I think it is the responsibility of the industry to really support the community,” said Kautz.

Kautz also worked hand-in-hand with one of the most unique ownership groups in the ski industry, a group of Sugar Bowl homeowners who have stayed true to Sugar Bowl’s vision as an “authentic alpine experience.”

Sugar Bowl homeowners include visionaries such as the late Warren Hellman, a billionaire banker, legendary philanthropist and founder of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, and his sister Nancy Bechtle, who served as a board member for the Presidio Trust, the San Francisco Symphony and the Charles Schwab Corporation.

“Rob has done an outstanding job as our CEO for decades,” said Nancy Bechtle. “He has played an integral role in every phase of the development of the resort. On behalf of the board, I want to say that we will miss his guidance and dedication. Rob will always have an honored place in the history and lore of Sugar Bowl.”

In 2013, Sugar Bowl Resort honored Kautz with perhaps the most fitting distinction a former ski patroller and mountain manager could achieve.

A brand new, steep run that drops from the newly constructed Crow’s Peak chairlift was officially named “Rob’s Run,” a testament to a leader who has made a deep and indelible mark on Sugar Bowl Resort.

Kautz is married to Kerry Kautz, a long-time student mentor at the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District. He has a son Ryan Kautz, a successful business owner, and Jessie Kautz, a graduate student and former college soccer player.

Kautz will serve on the board member committee tasked with leading a nationwide search for his replacement.

This article was submitted to the Sun by Sugar Bowl Resort. Visit http://www.sugarbowl.com to learn more. To learn more about Royal Gorge Cross Country, visit http://www.royalgorge.com. Sierra Sun Managing Editor Kevin MacMillan contributed to this report.


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