Wirth Thinks of Squaw Valley Future Beyond El Niño

“How was your winter?” Madeleine Brand got to the point with Andy Wirth on “Press Play with Madeleine Brand.” Hosted on KCRW, Brand was interested in talking about the state of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings in Olympic Valley.

AnWirth conceded that it was “certainly a tough season”. What Stanford meteorologists called the “ridiculously resilient ridge” prevented low-pressure systems from coming into the mountains. This winter, Squaw Valley had an over 20% decline in ski resort attendance from last year.

Wirth was thinking beyond the next ski season, however. How many more winters will Squaw Valley last? Wirth implied that survival is not dependent on weather, but managing resources, solidifying finances, and predicting opportunities.

Resources: “We have become extremely good in the science in making snow”, he said, citing snow management with snowcat operators and work with meteorologists from Colorado State University. Wirth said the 6000 acres in the holdings are enough to have a ‘good time’. If it comes down to “4000 skiable acres, that’s pretty darn good”, he added.

Squaw Valley is not just considering changing weather, but how to reduce effect on the overall climate. Wirth pointed to moving from coal energy to renewable energy as one measure to reduce carbon footprint.

Finances: “Our capital structure is solid, we remain profitable . . . certainly we are not achieving the kind of results we know that we can, but we have the ability to withstand changes.” Nevertheless, he said that the key is to position the company to take advantage when volatile winter weather has increased snow and increased cold.

Opportunities: Wirth was optimistic because of summer events and weather predictions. Despite the threat of El Niño, the “ridiculously resilient ridge” blocks the warm winds from entering the mountain area. From that, Wirth predicted that Squaw Valley may have a colder winter than the past four years.

The ski resorts are “virtually sold out” for summer events like Iron Man, weddings, and meetings. He stated that the packed schedule is “all summer long”. On April 15, 2015, Wirth announced plans to build a base-to-base gondola for Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley. Skiers and snowboarders welcomed the move, since it will be easier to travel between the two resorts. Skiers were not as supportive of plans to expand the base-area village.

Andy Wirth has been CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings since 2010. Before then, he has been a student at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland; a Bachelors of Science graduate of Colorado State University; a back country ranger fighting wild-land fires in New Mexico; and a sales and marketing specialist in ski resorts for 24 years.