California ski resorts lost millions of dollars in 2015 thanks to the drought that has been hanging around the state for the last four years. The National Weather Service is always making fairly accurate predictions about rainfall and snowfall, but 2015 was one of those years that even surprised them.
California ski resorts like Badger Pass, Dodge Ridge, Donner Ski Ranch, Mountain High, Soda Springs, China Peak, Mount Shasta, Mt. Baldy and Tahoe Donner closed early in 2015 because the slopes were snowless. Even Squaw Valley, one of the 20 best ski resorts in the world, felt the pain of no snow in 2015.
CEO Andy Wirth has been in the ski resort business for more than 20 years, and he told Madeline Brand during a recent interview that 2015 was one of the worst years on record for the ski industry.
Andy Wirth was a guest on Brand’s KCRW radio show, Press Play with Madeline Brand. Andy had a lot to say about the ski resort industry and the impact of the four-year California drought. Wirth told Brand that Squaw Valley is large enough to survive several more drought years, but he’s not excited about that possibility.
Thanks to 70 years of excellent management by the Cushing family, Squaw Valley is financially sound and has the technology in place to ride out the drought. Wirth said his resort had more than 4,000 acres of snow in 2015. The resort kept snow on the slopes using their man-made version when they had to use it.
The interesting fact about the ski industry is most skiers like to travel to different slopes every year, so they always find a resort that has enough snow for them to enjoy.
Thanks to Squaw Valley’s reputation and the $70 million renovations that took place in 2010, people from all over the world come to the resort for a variety of reason during the season. The Lake Tahoe area is one of the most popular areas of California, so visitors have a lot to do if they don’t ski.
But as Andy Wirth points out, the resort is profitable when the slopes are full, and 2015 wasn’t a year for full slopes. Revenues were down by 20 percent, and the board of directors of the resort doesn’t like to hear numbers like that. But Wirth is a seasoned ski resort manager, and he knows how to be profitable. He spent 20 years with Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation.
He is a graduate of Colorado State University and Edinburgh University in Scotland. He knows how to run a ski resort in good times and in bad. He also knows how to donate his time and money to several non-profit organizations in the Lake Tahoe Area.
Learn more about Andy Wirth: