Summit Stories

Meet Old-School Original, JW Whiteley

From '70s ski bum, backhoe operator to thriving (still skiing) business owner

By Katie Eldridge July 13, 2020 Published in the Summer/Fall 2020 issue of Park City Magazine

Image: Doug Burke

Back in 1973, John William Whiteley convinced his two best friends in Long Beach, California, to board a plane bound for Utah to become ski bums in Park City. 

“He definitely gets the credit for getting us to Park City—I had never skied a day in my life,” Vinny Buonadonna, one of that original trio, remembers. This tight friendship has lasted a half century, so there are few adventures they have not shared, from cross-country motorcycle trips to endless powder days.

JW, as he is now known by most, had an instant connection with Park City, an affection that has only grown since the early ’70s. Roam through his Old Town basement today and you’ll learn that each vintage trinket has a story that this natural athlete is always happy to share.

“I was immediately able to survive here on my own at 18. It was such a cute town … everyone came here to have fun and learned how to make money.”

JW brought in cash by working for a local excavator, driving a backhoe. “I didn’t even have a car for the first few years. I’d drive all over town in my backhoe—even to the Alamo [now known as the No Name Saloon].”

JW Whiteley reveals his vintage finds.

While living in one of the original miners’ shacks on Deer Valley Drive (that still stands to this day), the Cali boys couldn’t afford a big propane bill. So, each secured his own heated waterbed to combat winter temperatures.

That combination of innovation, optimism, humor, and overall zest for life—along with his trademark mop of curly hair—is what makes JW “Jay Dub.” Years later, those initials would end up on the side of his own trucks, after buying out his boss and launching JWW Excavation.

“He doesn’t take no for an answer,” says Pete Olson of PJ Builders, who has worked with JW for more than 20 years. “He’s a problem solver, and he knows everybody in Old Town. He hustles and always gets it done.” To this day, sitting still is not one of his strong suits, and neither is technology. But JW nearly always answers his flip phone (which doesn’t accept voicemails or texts) on the first ring and says his job is to drum up new business around town.

His perfect day? “I get up early, get everybody working, and then go ski—or if it’s summer, golf nine holes.”

Retiring at all, let alone anywhere else on the planet, is not in the master plan. “I will never leave this place. I may go on vacation, but I can’t wait to get home.”


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