Recently Andy Wirth President and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holding, talked with Madeline Brand of KCRW Radio. The topic discussed was how ski resort are handling the lack of snow due to the drought and warming temperatures. What is being done to keep business flowing?
Andy Wirth said that the past winter was tough. Business was down 20 percent down, but they managed to still make a profit. We have the capability to make snow and manage it well on about 4,000 acres, he said. Despite the driest seasons in about 1,200 years, the resort has increased season passes about 37 percent.
Squaw Valley offers passes to customers for other resorts that have more snow. It has retail shops, restaurants, and a winter park that offers tubing to children and adults. They have even found ways to use the warmer season to generate business. The company invested $50 million in upgrades which means that they cam make plenty of snow not relying on mother nature.
Mr. Wirth says making the resorts into a year round business offsets the lack of snow too. In the warmer weather they offer opportunities for weddings and special events for clubs and associations. Some resorts have rope climbing courses, mountain bike trails, hiking and tours given by staff. Plans to have zip lines and disc golf courses are underway.
Wirth is considering building a water park with pools, slides, and a training center for athletes to increase business in the summer months. He plans to build a gondola to connect two Lake Tahoe slopes. It will link the Alpine Meadow and Squaw Valley resorts. This reduces vehicle traffic between the two resorts say Mr. Wirth.
He thinks this connection will make it one of the best ski resorts in North America.
When it is easy to get back and forth between ski two resorts this creates more opportunity for increased traffic. With the changing climate he has to think of innovative ways to attract visitors to the resort in warmer weather.
All his life Andy Wirth has worked for the hotel and hospitality industry. His interest in the career began when he attended Colorado State University and later Edinburgh University in Scotland. He served as back county ranger for Rocky Mountain National Parks and as a forest ranger for San Pedro Parks Wilderness Area. He started as an intern with Steamboat Steamboat and Resort Corporation. He quickly was promoted to vice president of sales and marketing. He worked there 10 years. In 2010, he became CEO of Squaw Valley.