While listening to “Press Play with Madeleine Brand” on KCRW, I heard an interview with Andy Wirth about how the drought in California will affect California ski resorts. Andy Wirth graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Colorado State University and also attended Edinburgh University in Scotland. He has served in sales and marketing positions for over twenty-four years and is currently the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. This includes the Tahoe ski resorts Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. Not only is he an accomplished business man, but Julia Mancuso of Olympic Valley has said of him, “Andy is a super authentic, friendly, and talented person. […] I know that he will continue to be a force of good for Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and our community.” He is an excellent source of information on this topic and provided some great insights.
According to the interviewer, Madeleine Brand, Californians are more concerned about the drought than any other issue. The drought has obviously affected California ski resorts, and Wirth was able to shed some light on how much of an impact was actually made on business and the ski season in general. He reported that the winter was tough, but that his resorts remained profitable and could stay in business were the winters to continue like this indefinitely. Though he did mention that they were not where they would like to have been profit-wise this year, his resorts did well given the circumstances.
The ways in which he did and would continue to remain profitable in dry winters is by taking advantage of when there is snow, making more snow, and employing effective snow management. While they usually have 6,000 acres of skiiable land, this year, they cut down to 4,000 acres, which is still a lot of room to ski and allowed for them to still turn a good profit.
They went on to discuss El Nino and it’s projected affect this year. The meteorologists from Colorado State University have come to the conclusion, and Wirth agrees, that this winter will be a colder one. Looking to the future, Wirth sees an increased volatility of weather and a need to invest in snow making for successful seasons. He also sees that as ski resorts are preparing for the possible eventuality of shorter seasons or no ski seasons at all, it is important to focus on hedging his business by building more around summer events.
Ultimately, Wirth sees him and his company as natural-resource managers. He emphasizes that they are “fiercely focused on reducing their [carbon] footprint” at every turn. And he happily reported that the ski resorts are planned to open the Wednesday before Thanksgiving this year.