Andy Wirth

Water, Water, Nowhere: Andy Wirth’s Take on Skiing During a Drought

Last year, California experienced one of the driest winters in recent history, forcing ski resorts and ski goers to end their ski seasons early. Recently, KCRW’s Madeleine Brand, host of Press Play, sat down with Squaw Valley Ski Holdings CEO, Andy Wirth. Wirth weighed in on the effect California’s persistent drought may have on California’s ski resorts.  Read more: How Will the Drought Affect California Ski Resorts?

California’s winter weather woes are due to what Stanford meteorologists have coined as the “ridiculously resilient ridge,” which prevent low-pressure systems from moving into the western US. The result? Skier visits were down 20%.

Andy Wirth is confident his resorts could survive an infinite number of unfavorable winters, and rightly so. Despite the less-than-favorable weather, Squaw Valley remained profitable. Wirth credits a solid capital structure that can withstand the changes in variability of weather.

If snow levels stay low, Andy Wirth is convinced that the availability of 4,000 skiable acres, rather than the typical 6,000, is still “quite a bit of great skiing.” Scientific advances have made it possible to both make and manage snow.

Further, taking advantage of opportunities outside of the winter season is a must. Increased volatility of weather is likely, so Wirth thinks it is essential to build more around summer events and activities, as well as taking full advantage of winters with increased snow and cold.

Andy With the big picture in mind, Wirth cautioned it is not enough just to change their business model. They must reduce their carbon footprint – change their contribution to the climate. They must take managing this natural resource very seriously.

Andy Wirth is the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, which includes California’s popular Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows Ski Resorts. Wirth is no stranger to the outdoors. Long before holding his top position at Squaw Valley, Wirth was a ranger in the San Pedro Parks wilderness area.

Wirth officially began his love affair with the ski industry as an intern with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation and has never looked back. Wirth is also known for his commitment to philanthropy.  Learn more about Andy Wirth:

After nearly losing his life in a skydiving accident, Wirth forged a friendship with a group of Navy SEALS training in Squaw Valley. This led him to create an IRONMAN Lake Tahoe team to compete and generate financial support for the Navy Seal Foundation. Wirth also remains active in his community, contributing to local environmental and community service organizations.