Andy Wirth: Keeping Tahoe Skiing Alive

Squaw Valley, one of the greatest ski resorts in the United States, enjoyed enormous success after hosting the 1960 Olympics. Having opened in 1949, this ski area was the brainchild of Wayne Poulsen, a star skier from the University of Nevada, who purchased 2000 acres from the Southern Pacific Railroad. This would mark the beginning of the development of Squaw Valley. Poulsen would eventually meet Alex Cushing, a Harvard-educated lawyer who brought gravitas to this project.

Eventually Cushing would take control of the project, and would remain its chairman for many years, until his death. Cushing modeled Squaw after European resorts, and put a swimming pool, ice rink, roller disco and restaurants on the mountain instead of at the base. He would also install the latest in lift technology to accommodate this design, with what was widely regarded as the longest chairlift in the world, when they opened.

Lake Tahoe, located on the border between Nevada and California, is home to the 2nd deepest lake in the country, and to 18 ski resorts, Squaw being one of them. Today Andy Wirth is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of this world-class resort. Mr. Wirth has made a career of working in mountain resorts and in the hotel industry. He has in recent years been the recipient of many community service awards, and not the least of which was the Chairman’s Outstanding Service Award from the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority Board of Trustees. Earlier this month, Andy Wirth has now become the new chairman of that very airport.

Andy Wirth replaced Alex Cushing’s wife as CEO of Squaw Valley in 2010. He near immediately started a massive, and much-needed, upgrade project, spending $70 million on design, infrastructure, renovations and lodging. This put Squaw back on the map, earning it a spot in the top 20% of ski resorts in the country, a level of customer satisfaction this ski resort has not been able to claim for quite some time. Wirth also drafted the plan to acquire nearby Alpine Meadows, which he subsequently did, and is now President and CEO of that resort as well. These 2 resorts, and the Tahoe region, will soon be connected by a gondola, as dreamed by the original owners and locals alike.

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