The ongoing drought in California provokes legitimate worry about environmental and business impacts, but Andy Wirth, the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, predicts a solid future for California’s ski industry.
In a July 30 2015 interview with Madeleine Brand on KCRW’s midday show Press Play, Wirth confidently proclaimed he expected his company to continue to be successful for “infinite” years to come.
This positive outlook seems counterintuitive in light of a 20% decline in business from previous years due to the record dry 2014-2015 winter. Wirth, however, was quick to point out that 4,000 of the resort’s 6,000 acres were up and running that winter and the company still managed to make a comfortable profit. Learn more about Andy Wirth: http://squawalpine.com/explore/blog/andy-wirth-elected-chairman-reno-tahoe-regional-air-service-corporation and www.kcrw.com/people/andy-wirth
Ski resorts in general, and California ski resorts in particular, have had to build solid capital structures and to incorporate the weather’s increasing volatility into their business models in order to maintain profitability.
Under Andy Wirth’s leadership, Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, which operates Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley Resorts, has met the challenge of weather volatility by both managing the snow in a very proactive manner and by seeking to understand the science of climate change.
Innovations in technology have allowed the larger resorts to make artificial snow in vast quantities.
There is also a greater emphasis on strategically managing the snow pack with Snowcats and other heavy equipment. Well versed on the subject of climate change, Wirth sites Stanford University’s research linking California’s drought with climate change and the “ridiculously resilient ridge” of high pressure that prevents low pressure storm systems from entering the mountains.
Wirth’s understanding of science is no surprise as he has a Bachelor of Science from the University of Colorado. His career in the resort industry also seems unsurprising as he has fostered a relationship with nature and the outdoors his entire life.
Wirth spent time as a back country ranger for Rocky Mountain National Park and was one of an elite team of Hotshot Wildland Firefighters in New Mexico.
He has been in the mountain resort and hotel industry for 25 years, but still finds time for community service. Wirth has organized Iron Man teams to raise money for the Navy Seal Foundation and is a volunteer firefighter.
Wirth’s love of nature also leads him to view his role as CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings as one of stewardship. His resource management approach seeks to not just profit from the land, but to reduce or eliminate the business practices that are contributing to climate change.
The legacy Andy Wirth would like to leave is a ski industry that relies on renewable energy and one that has a much smaller carbon footprint.