Andy Wirth on skiing through a drought

In an segment I caught on KRCW’s “Press Play with Madeleine Brand”, Andy Wirth gave an excellent interview about the future of skiing in California, and what Squaw Valley will be like the the near future. He made some great points throughout and gave a very positive outlook, given the current state of the environment and the drought situation plaguing much of California.

Andy Wirth is the president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings in Olympic Valley, California, located near Lake Tahoe. He has been in this position since 2010, and during his time in the area he has worked to improve the quality of skiing in the valley, as well as maintain the natural beauty of the mountain and the forests.

One example of the improvements made is the base-to-base gondola that now connects Alpine Meadows with Squaw Valley, improving mobility for skiers and improving the overall experience.

In the interview, Andy Wirth comments on the drought the state has been facing and the effects it has had on the industry, as well as Squaw Valley in particular. He notes that in this season in particular, there was a ‘ridiculously resilient ridge’, as coined by Stanford meteorologists.

This prevented many low pressure systems from entering the mountains and bringing much needed precipitation. Andy goes on to say that this produced 20 percent fewer skier visits compared to the previous year, but it was manageable.  Read more: How Will the Drought Affect California Ski Resorts?

The Squaw Valley skiing is resilient, according to Andy Wirth, and they can withstand less than ideal winters indefinitely. Proper business models and utilizing what nature provides will allow the industry to continue on and thrive.

While there may be less snow than in previous years, there is still plenty of good skiing to be had. Advances in the use of artificial snow, as well as intelligent snow management allow much of the mountain to remain open for skiing given the reduced snowfall.

Moving forward, Andy Wirth sees an optimistic future. Given the current weather patterns, this coming winter could be colder than the last, making for excellent skiing. The future of changes to the climate are not just warming, but more variability and uncertainty. Andy is confident in his ability to build a business model around this and handle any changes with intelligent design and managements.  Learn more about Andy Wirth:

In the long term, the possibility of the decline of skiing in the area looms uncertain. However, through hedging the business and focusing more on Summer events, they can adapt. Furthermore, as a sort of resource manager for the land maintained for recreation, Andy and Squaw Valley are connected to the changes happening and are actively working to reduce emissions and the overall carbon footprint. They are a business committed to environmental preservation and sustainability.

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