Rusty Gregory's iconic rise to the top of Alterra
2019 CEO of the Year Finalist: Rusty Gregory joined Alterra in 2018 to helm the new 14-resort operator
Rusty Gregory | CEO
Alterra Mountain Co., Denver
2019 CEO of the Year Finalist
Rusty Gregory, 66, got his start in the ski biz as a liftie at Mammoth Mountain in California in the late 1970s. “I was making all sorts of other plans,” he laughs, “of going out and doing something respectable.”
But he stuck with Mammoth and rose to the top. After wearing every hat up to and including CEO, he joined Alterra in 2018 to helm the new 14-resort operator with a pass designed to take on Vail Resorts’ best-selling Epic Pass.
Alterra’s Ikon Pass was an instant hit when it debuted for the 2018-19 ski season, offering access to Alterra’s portfolio and 27 partner resorts. The pass surpassed forecasts by 30% for its debut season, and 2019-20 is looking even brighter: “We sold more Ikon Passes in our spring sale than we sold the entire season prior to that,” Gregory says.
It follows that Alterra is investing big in its resorts: The company announced a five-year, $555 million capital improvement plan in 2018.
Alterra’s portfolio of world-class destinations includes Mammoth, Steamboat and Winter Park, as well as partners like Aspen and Jackson Hole. That’s by design.
“If we don’t get it right, we’re not going to sell passes,” Gregory says. “It also creates a hedge for our guests. They know there’s another 40 resorts that might have great snow.”
But it doesn’t begin and end on the slopes, he adds. “We know it’s about providing an incredible experience for our guests, but equally providing the same thing for our 25,000 employees.”
Gregory swapped the Sierra Nevada for the Rockies for the job. “There was absolute passion and consensus on having [Alterra headquarters] here in Denver,” he says. “I’m definitely a California guy, but I couldn’t be happier living in downtown Denver.”
This article is part of ColoradoBiz Magazine's annual CEO of the Year feature. Read more about this year's winner John Hayes and the other finalists: