As a regular listener of KCRW, I was excited to hear that Andy Wirth would be a guest on Press Play with Madeleine Brand. Andy Wirth is the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, the parent company of two ski resorts that are based in Olympic Valley, California. Learn more about Andy Wirth: http://squawalpine.com/explore/blog/andy-wirth-elected-chairman-reno-tahoe-regional-air-service-corporation
California is experiencing a severe drought, and it has lowered the number of visitors to California ski resorts by 20%. The drought is caused by a the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge, a high pressure system just off the coast of California that blocks winter storms and causes warmer temperatures on land.
California typically receives 75% of its precipitation during the winter and the recent changes in winter weather patterns are concerning. The ski industry in California is worth $1.3 billion, but last winter was the worse yet in terms of snowfall for the state.
Madeleine Brand interviewed Andy Wirth to ask him about the future of skiing in the state of California in the face of the current drought.
Andy Wirth is no stranger to weather concerns. He has worked as a backcountry ranger, and has worked on a crew that battles wild fires. He also has 24 years of sales and marketing experience in the resort industry, and he was able to confidently answer Madeleine Brand’s questions.
Andy sees no reason to be worried about the future of the resort business in California. His plan is to diversify and adapt with Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, and he spoke about using his resorts for summer activities and events, such as weddings, meetings, and the Ironman triathlon that is held in nearby Lake Tahoe.
The Ironman competition is an event that has special meaning for Andy. He nearly lost his arm in a skydiving incident, and training for the Ironman has been vital to his rehabilitation.
Andy Wirth agreed that snowfall has been less than ideal for ski resorts, but brought up the use of snow machines as a possible solution. He also says research shows that El Nino may help drive the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge away, and lead to colder weather for this year’s winter season.
Mr. Wirth also spoke about his company’s legacy and contribution to climate change. During his interview, he spoke about Squaw Valley Ski Holdings’ plan of resource management for the beautiful mountains that are home to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows ski resorts.
He said that his company is working to reduce their carbon footprint, and that they are moving their energy companies towards using solely renewable resources.