Global Warming Bears Its Teeth, Tahoe Skiers Take the Heat

Extreme risks and extreme weather are nothing new for those passionate about winter sports. Certainly neither is the thirst for snow. As mother nature swings her fists, however, California is taking the blow. And with drought in full swing, skiers are parched.

Like many Californians being forced to cut down on water consumption, the fickle climate, for many California ski resorts, has also become one of fiscal concern.

Many mountain locals are forecasting frowns on the perilous future. And while yes, you could say that the entire region is in a bit of a pickle…sour is not the adjective I would use to describe the guy I heard interviewed recently on KCRWs Press Play With Madeleine Brand.

In fact, this meteorologically competent, carbon footprint cognizant, ex-ranger, extreme sportster and all around thrill seeker, who also happens to be the CEO of Squaw Valley Ski holdings near Lake Tahoe, goes by the name of Andy Wirth. And on the contrary, he is quite optimistic and not unlike the weather, definitely extreme. From business to fundraising to losing one of his own extremities, recuperating and continuing to thrive, Wirth is a living example of what it means to take calculated risks, face the heat, and beat the odds.

While the interview touches on general concerns regarding drought, global warming and Californias future, principally the water shortage, its primary focus shifts more specifically to the winter sports community and how ski resorts such as Squaw Valley could be negatively impacted.

Brand poses questions such as, How [does one] ski without snow? to which Wirth gleefully responds by elaborating on the hard science of snow-making.

As Brand continues to question the economic feasibility of operating a ski resort with the impending weather conditions, Wirth maintains his optimism and delivers a well-reasoned and rather articulate argument backed in research and personal experience in the business.

Wirth explains that despite a 20% decrease in ski visits this past year, the resort was able to survive and profit even, with 4,000 of Squaw Valleys 6,000 acres still accessible to skiers which he exclaims, is pretty darn good. His confidence in Squaw Valleys potential for self-sustenance in even the dryest of circumstances is made evident throughout the interview as he obliges Brand by expounding upon his evolving business model which includes snow making, improved snow management, an increase in summer events and so forth.

What he continues to reiterate throughout the interview, though occasionally derailed by economic inquiries, are the impacts of global warming and conserving the environment–for example, by reducing our carbon footprint and transitioning to renewable energy. Wirth says, Its not just about the business side of things, its about reducing our contribution to climate.

To some, Wirths views may seem extreme, but he says its about ignoring the hype
and focusing on hard data; its about volatility, or, taking the heat and bringing the rain; its about conscious consumerism, community, legacy. Changing with the seasons, if you will.

Plus, in Wirths words,Theres [still] quite a bit of skiing to be had!

Squaw Valley resorts are scheduled to open for the upcoming ski season on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.