KCRW’s Press Play with Madeleine Brand met with Andrew Wirth, President and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, to talk about how the California drought is affecting ski resorts.
Madeleine began by asking “How was your Winter?”
Mr. Wirth acknowledged that this was a tough year. The resorts did not see the weather ideal for providing skiers with the snow necessary for the perfect Winter. There was a lot less snow. Both visitors and profits were down as a result. Nonetheless, Wirth said he was able to keep most of the resort open for skiing, which can still provide people with good skiing and a good time. “Our results in December and January were quite favorable even though we were operating with substantially below average snow.”
When asked how long he thought the resorts could stay open with this weather, Writh said “We could survive an infinite number of Winters.” He pointed to the ability to create artificial snow, as well as advances in snow management, to help the snow last longer. Further, Wirth believes the El Nino starting this year means this Winter is “more likely to be a cold Winter.” He also points to what he calls “an increased volatility of weather.” With this, he says he can produce a business model to thrive through this.
But as the weather ultimately remains uncertain, Wirth is also looking to book the resort during warm weather months. Resorts attract business meetings, weddings, and other events outside of skiing due to their scenic locations. Wirth looks to these sort of bookings to help sustain the business in case the Winter season does continue to shorten.
Furthermore, Wirth is invested in protecting and managing the health of the 6,000 acres of land his resorts hold. He sees how they manage their natural environment as a part of the legacy of the business. He is even working with power companies to move the energy for the resorts entirely to renewable sources. Wirth hopes not only to survive changing weather patterns, but also to do his part of prevent more volatility or even to reverse what damage has already been done.
Andrew Wirth received a bachelor’s of science degree from Colorado State University, and furthered studies from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He has over 24 years of sales and marketing experience with ski resorts between Colorado and California. Currently, Mr. Wirth is the Chief Executive Officer and President of both Alpine Meadows of Tahoe, Inc. as well as Squaw Valley Ski Corporation. He is also Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing of Steamboat Ski & Resort Corporation. He serves as the President of Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club Board of Directors.