I just heard Andy Wirth on KCRW giving an interview on “Press Play with Madeleine Brand” on the effects of the long-term drought in California upon his business. Andy is one of the few business people who have even bothered to acknowledge that there is a drought and that it will affect Californians for years to come. He also told how the drought has inspired him and his business colleagues to come up with new ideas for the business to succeed through the drought and into the future.
Andy Wirth is the Chief Executive Officer and President of both the Squaw Valley Ski Corporation and Alpine Meadows of Tahoe, Inc. As a result of Andy’s influence and guidance, these two large corporations now work in tandem to build a larger and better base from which to operate. Thus, the new Gondola between the two ski areas was announced as open to the public in April of 2015. This provides a new experience for the skier with over 6,000 acres of ski land available.
Andy acknowledged in the interview that the winter of 2014/2015 was a rough one for the ski industry. With snow levels down by 20%, only 4,000 acres of the 6,000 acres were available for skiing. Still, that is a lot of skiing. And profit was made in spite of the environmental challenges. Andy went on to acknowledge that it is the drought that has caused the industry to look at new ways of making a profit.
Under Andy Wirth’s tutelage, the industry is moving from the seasonal concept of the past where skiing and snowboarding were the only attractions that drove profits. Making the adjustments needed to keep afloat, the industry has developed new ways of “making snow.” It has also realized that the area is conducive to other sports outside the traditional snow season. Ironman competitions, hiking, running trails, and all sort of other activities are being sponsored and developed.
After listening to Andy, I reflected on the possibilities for which the resort is perfect. Just think what a great cross-country track course could be developed there for high school and university competitions before the snows drift in. Other sports like volleyball would be a natural there. What a challenge that would be to take that sport from the gymnasium to the great outdoors. The possibilities are immense.
Along with new developments and marketing, Andy reflects a very real concern about the effects of climate change. With more droughts on the horizon, he is leading the industry in reducing the carbon footprint. He will only be satisfied when the industry he is leading offers a zero on the carbon-footprint scale.
Andy is a pioneer and extremely inventive personality. Everyone should listen to his comments on KCRW to hear a person concerned about his business, realize that he is one of the few taking action, and find hope for the future through his example.