It’s no easy feat turning a career into a legacy. As Andy Wirth announces his retirement as COO and President of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, he leaves behind a contribution akin to none.
His story at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows begins some eight years ago. In August 2010, having left a chief marketing position at Steamboat Springs Resort, Wirth joined Squaw Valley Holdings, taking over the reins from Nancy Cushing, the former CEO.
During his time at the helm of Squaw Valley Resort, the company would see a financial boost in the region of $70 million. A large contributor to this success would be the acquisition of the neighboring ski resort, Alpine Meadows, located between Tahoe City and Truckee. Wirth oversaw the merging of Aspen Skiing Company with KSL Capital Partners, resulting in the eventual acquisition of Intrawest Resort Holdings at a fee of approximately $1.5 billion.
This business arrangement would be monumental in not only the workings of the resort but also in the overall customer experience of his newly formed joint enterprises. In September 2011, for example, one single combined ticket pass would allow visitors to enter the entire consortium of resorts.
On the formation of the merger, Wirth hit the ground running, making large-scale changes to the establishment: an upgrade in infrastructure and mountain design as well as refurbishments of all base area facilities, common areas, culinary and lodgings. In his own words: “Squaw Valley moved from the bottom 20 percent of ski resorts into the top 20 percent over the year”.
Andy Wirth would further lead the Squaw Valley community in realizing a long-held dream of several generations – the creation of the California Express Gondola, an expansive base-to-base link between the two mountains. Under the innovation and hands-on dedication of Wirth, a sum of close to $100 million was procured towards furthering the progress of the connecting facility, which is expected to open just ahead of the upcoming 2019-20 winter season. Wirth leaves behind a dedicated and inspired mountain community that he was integral in forming.
If the Squaw Valley resort sounds at all familiar, it might be due to its ardent support of the US ski and snowboarding team. Squaw Valley Alpine Resort has a five-year agreement with the national Olympic team to serve as one of their official training grounds. This, of course, follows on a previous Olympic honor – the Squaw Valley region served as the host site of the Winter Olympics in 1960.
While it may have taken place long before Wirth’s tenure at the resort, the former COO holds a feat similar to an Olympic achievement of his own. A near-fatal skydiving accident in 2013 saw Wirth’s right arm being ripped off, needing to be surgically reattached again. More than 23 surgeries on his arm later and a short recovery time of only 50 days in the hospital, Wirth returned to his post at work.
The life-altering experience led to him founding his own Ironman team entitled “Wounded Warrior Support” in honor of Navy Seals as well as their families. In 2014, Wirth would be named Disabled Sports USA’s Citizen of the Year in addition to being honored with the Community Five Award. Wirth further serves as President and Chairman on the Board of Directors of the Lake Tahoe Winter Olympics Committee. He has also been honored with the Chairman’s Outstanding Service Award from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority Board of Trustees.
With an eye to the future, Wirth announced a commitment by Squaw Valley to obtain renewable energy from carbon-free sources. In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, two of Squaw Valley’s resorts began making use of renewable energy, even establishing a storage facility alongside the mountain to house Tesla Inc. batteries.
“My retirement will allow me to not only spend more time with my family, but focus on some of my passions, including the active support of wounded warriors and environmental causes – advocacy and action, ” said Wirth on his retirement. “Above all and most importantly, I’ve enjoyed the time spent with our team at these truly remarkable and legendary mountains.” Fitting parting words from a man whose contribution to the legacy and lifeblood of his beloved mountains will last a lifetime.