NSAA Honors Rob Kautz with Lifetime Achievement Award

NSAA Honors Rob Kautz with Lifetime Achievement Award

Thursday, May 19, 2016

LAKEWOOD, Colo., May 19, 2016—The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has presented its 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award to Rob Kautz, former president and chief executive officer of California’s Sugar Bowl Resort. Kautz received the ski industry’s highest honor at a special awards presentation today at NSAA’s National Convention and Tradeshow, which is being held this week in Nashville, Tenn.

Kautz retired from the helm of Sugar Bowl in fall 2015 after nearly four decades—one of the longest and most distinguished careers in the history of the Tahoe ski industry. He spearheaded expansion of the resort, modernizing its chairlift system and leading a revitalization of real estate at the nation’s only snowbound, roadless village. He also led and executed the plan to build the Mt. Judah Day Lodge and parking area, a new ski academy campus, and the Sporthaus aquatics and training facility in the Sugar Bowl Village. In 2012, he had an active role in the resort’s move to take over ownership and operation of adjoining Royal Gorge, North America’s largest cross-country ski resort.

“Rob Kautz’s passion and commitment extended beyond Sugar Bowl to the entire industry, particularly his commitment to NSAA and his exceptional service to our board of directors,” said Michael Berry, president of NSAA. “Rob’s role in leading Sugar Bowl is a shining example for the rest of the industry. He clearly deserves to be celebrated.”  Berry emphasized that in addition to Kautz’s service over several terms on the NSAA Board, he also chaired NSAA’s Public Lands Committee for nearly 20 years, and pioneered the effort to make Sugar Bowl the industry leader on chairlift safety.

Kautz started out at Sugar Bowl as a ski patroller in 1976, and rose through the ranks to become the director of the resort’s ski patrol team and mountain manger. Since taking the reins as CEO at Sugar Bowl in 1987, he has 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.

Kautz’s success in leading Sugar Bowl Resort has earned him distinctions and recognition within the ski industry. NSAA’s 2016 Convention in Nashville marks the end of Kautz’s tenure on NSAA’s Board of Directors. He has served on the board on and off since 1994 and was chair from 2002 to 2004. He also has served as both a long-time 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, former 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, he mentored dozens of resort managers and employees. 

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

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

Kautz also worked hand-in-hand with one of the most unique ownership factions 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, as well as Hellman’s 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 Bechtle. “He has played an integral role in every phase of the development of the resort. 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.

For his many achievements at Sugar Bowl, for his contributions to the Tahoe ski industry, and for his enduring example of leadership to the industry at large, NSAA is proud to present Rob Kautz with the 2016 Lifetime Achievement Award