The next time you are cruising the pristine corduroy of your favorite Deer Valley Resort ski run, you can thank Steve Graff. As Deer Valley Resort’s director of mountain operations, Steve makes the call on which trails will be groomed each day and which will not, along with hundreds of other decisions that contribute to the awardwinning Deer Valley experience. “The best way to put it,” says Steve, “is that everything that’s outside at the resort, except for ski school, is my responsibility.”
Overseeing more than 700 employees during the winter season and 16 different departments keep Steve remarkably busy. And he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Hey, I get to ski over 100 days per year!” he says. And I doubt there is an inch of Deer Valley Resort’s 2,026 acres of skiable terrain that he is not intimately familiar with. Steve and his talented team are responsible for maintaining and operating three base areas, 21 chairlifts on six mountains, 103 runs, six bowls, employee housing facilities, and ski patrol, as well as the resort’s summer hiking and biking trails and operations.
There is no handbook for operating a ski resort during a pandemic and Steve is justifiably proud of his team and what they accomplished last summer. Laughing, he says, “I liked being outside before the pandemic and I think I like being outside even more now!” Many others feel the same. He has had zero staffing problems for the 2020-21 winter season since so many people want jobs working outside.
And as for this past summer, Steve says, “It was our busiest year so far. We hosted approaching 1,000 guests on our busiest days.” With more visitors than ever before, he is particularly proud of the resort’s health and safety record: “My crew started summer operations on May 1, doing maintenance and such, and with hundreds of employees and thousands of guests this summer we didn’t have one employee case of COVID-19 and we don’t know of any contact cases due to exposure here.”
It’s an outcome Steve hopes to carry over to the winter season. His typical winter workday starts around 6 a.m. when he turns on his radio to listen
to reports from his on-mountain team. “It’s really a 24-hour operation,” says Steve. “So, early in the morning I’m listening in on the transition from the nighttime crew to the daytime staff, how that’s going and what challenges might be there.
From 8 a.m. to around 10 a.m., Steve gets to ski. “I usually ski the mountain, checking in with the heads of my departments before heading into meetings midday.” In the afternoon, he’s usually back on skis. You might find him on Solid Muldoon or Stein’s Way, but on a powder day, he says he heads to the gladed sections of Ontario Bowl.
When asked what’s new for the 2020-2021 season, Steve laughs and replies emphatically, “What’s NOT new for 2021!” Graff is nothing if not a glass-half-full guy. In regard to the challenges of operating in a pandemic, he says, “I wholeheartedly believe some great positives will come out of this. We actually are going to be able to provide better service levels than before; this [challenge] is right up Deer Valley’s alley.”