For some reason, the weather people call it a change in El Nino, the ski slopes in California were filled with snow in 2016. Ski resorts were pleasantly surprised with the amount of snowfall after coming off four years of light snowfall and weak skier traffic.
Most of the ski resorts in California are still licking their wounds. Ski resorts like Mount Shasta, Dodge Ridge, China Peak, Donner Ski Ranch, Mountain High, Badger Pass, Soda Springs, Tahoe Donner and Mt. Baldy all closed early in 2015 because the slopes were snowless.
Even Squaw Valley had a tough ski year in 2015, and that is big news. Squaw Valley has been around for more than 70 years and is owned by one family, the Cushing Family. Nancy Cushing was the CEO of the world-class ski resort until the family decided to hire Andy Wirth, the former executive Vice-president of Marketing for the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corporation. Wirth spent 20 years with the Steamboat Ski Resort, and he built a solid reputation in the ski industry.
Andy Wirth was interviewed on the Press Play with Madeline Brand KCRW radio show, and he was asked about the 2015 ski season. Wirth was honest and told Brand that his resort’s revenue was down at least 20 percent from the previous year, so it wasn’t a great year. Read more: How Will the Drought Affect California Ski Resorts?
Brand asked him how long Squaw Valley could survive drought conditions like the 2015 conditions, and Andy Wirth said Squaw Valley was in excellent financial shape and could survive many more snowless seasons thanks to the technology the resort developed during the 2010 renovation project he managed.
But Wirth also said making fake snow isn’t the same as real snow. Most skiers want to ski on snow, and that does present a challenge going forward. But Wirth was confident that the weather would change, and he was right. The 2016 ski season was a boom year for the California ski industry.
But the threat of a drought is still on the minds of ski executives like Andy Wirth. Even though Squaw Valley has all the latest technology, and they can produce snow and control expenses during drought years, droughts are not good for business.
Many skiers book their ski plans months in advance, and if there is a threat that snow will be scarce in a certain ski area, skiers go to other areas to ski. In other words, skiers aren’t the most loyal group.
They tend to move from resort to resort depending on availability and the amount of snow. Wirth said Squaw Valley’s skiers are loyal and come back every year because of the service and the quality of the overall ski experience.
Learn more about Andy Wirth: