My view: The most impactful person you have never heard of (opinion) |

My view: The most impactful person you have never heard of (opinion)

Carl Ribaudo
Tribune Opinion Columnist


Last Friday in a spring snowstorm I had the pleasure of attending a retirement party at Heavenly Mountain Resort’s California Lodge. If you are a skier, road cyclist or water skier you may know John Wagnon, though chances are most of you do not. John has been in the ski industry, both at Kirkwood and Heavenly, for 40 years. He is the most impactful person in the region you may not have ever heard of, and after a long and successful career he is retiring.

I first met John almost 30 years ago. I was a snot-nosed kid working at Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority and someone tipped me off that John was a guy I should get to know. One call and several meetings later I was able to get John on the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority marketing committee; I didn’t know he would stay on it for 28 years.

John is one of those guys that doesn’t seek the spotlight. I doubt I have seen his name in the paper a dozen times since I met him, yet his impact throughout the Reno-Lake Tahoe tourism circles has been significant. New air service in Reno? John had a hand in it. Amgen Tour of California here on the South Shore? John was instrumental in bringing it here. The list goes on and on.

In addition to his involvement in Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, John was the president of Ski Lake Tahoe (where I worked with him for 18 years). He was on the board of Visit California, an airport commissioner at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport and a board member at Visit Nevada. All the while he was directing marketing efforts for Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood.

The real impact of his involvement in this region was on the people working with him. John was always focused on quality — of writing, photos or video. Good enough wasn’t in his vocabulary and those who worked with him learned his uncompromising approach — and we are all better off for it. Rarely do you work with someone who makes you better at what you do. But where John really shined was his strategic thinking. In my opinion he is one of the best strategic thinkers I have ever been around. Period. He was always able to see far down the road and understand the implications of the decisions in a way few were able. There is no question that John’s knowledge and insight will be missed. It will take half a dozen people to fill the gap.

The Reno-Lake Tahoe region, the South Shore and the ski industry will surely miss him. I was lucky to not only work and learn from him for almost three decades; I also got to call him a friend.


Last week, the Virginia governor restored voting rights to convicted felons. While some will see this purely as a way to get more voters registered, I agree with the policy. The thought of punishing someone for life and disenfranchising something so fundamental as their vote forever, even after they paid their debt and have followed the rules, seems mighty draconian to me.


It’s springtime and the snow is melting. Don’t miss checking out all the rivers in the Sierra. It’s great to see what were just trickles of water last year again raging like they should be.


It’s so sad to hear about Prince’s death. I read a great quote the other day that sums it up nicely. A reporter asked the legendary guitar player Eric Clapton what it was like to be the best guitar player in the world.

“I don’t know, you will have to ask Prince,” he responded.

Rest in peace, purple one.

Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at

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