On a recent episode of KCRW’s Press Play With Madeline Brand, Squaw Valley Holdings CEO and President Andy Wirth discussed “How the Drought Will Affect California Resorts.”
Recent history hasn’t been good to the California ski community. Drought conditions hit the area hard and a number of businesses have yet to bounce back.
When asked about the recent drought and how his resort fared, Wirth made it clear that that last couple of years have been no picnic by any means. “We were hit with what Stanford scientists call the ridiculously resilient ridge.” This freak weather system deprived the entire mountain region of its normal snowfall by stalling moist air. Learn more about Andy Wirth: https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfSquawValley/posts/10152191670133708 and www.kcrw.com/people/andy-wirth
Wirth told Brand that although the last ski seasons were bumpy, his resort was still able to hold on. The drought caused a 20 percent drop in visitation, and the ski area shrank about 25%. Wirth did, however, admit that his resort could withstand a number of drought seasons if forced to do so.
“We have a business model that will allow us to survive,” said Andy Wirth. He went on to say that Squaw Valley has a number of options such as making more snow if needed and opening the season up for the summer activities.
The good news is that meteorologist have also predicted that El Nino conditions will drive more snow to the area. “Anything absent the ridiculously resilient ridge will be welcome,” said Andy Wirth.
Wirth has been CEO and President of Squaw Valley Resort Holdings since Nov. 2010. He took over after the departure of former president Nancy Cushing. Wirth jumped in head first by authorizing a series of upgrades to bring Squaw Valley out of the doldrums. The resort is now one of the top ski locales in the world.
Wirth is an avid sportsman that has both loves to skydive and compete in triathlons. A serious skydiving accident a couple of years ago almost cost Wirth his life.
A miscalculation caused him to land in a vineyard with sharp poles. His arm was ripped off and he nearly bled to death before paramedics could arrive. Thankfully, after two years of intense physical therapy has made a full recovery.
Andy Wirth sits on a number of local boards including the Lake Tahoe International Airport. He is constantly working to bring revenue to the ski community.
He lives in California with his wife and three children.