Squaw outlines makeover
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. – Squaw Valley USA needs a master plan, expanded and remodeled beginner and intermediate terrain, convenient transportation and more lodging, according to CEO Andy Wirth.
During a presentation to the Tuesday Morning Breakfast Club, Wirth, who has been at the helm of Squaw for five months, outlined initiatives the resort will undertake in both the short-term and the long-term.
A master plan is a priority for Wirth, as the resort does not have one.
“There are no sacred cows,” he said. “We will take a close look at everything.”
The resort will hire an outside mountain planning agency, Wirth said. Expanding and revamping the beginner and intermediate terrain across the mountain with an emphasis on the runs adjacent to High Camp will be a priority in the plan, Wirth said.
“It will help Squaw broaden the experience for our customers and retain customers,” he said.
Some in the audience balked at the initiative, noting that Squaw is known for its extreme big-mountain terrain. However the KT-22 runs and Palisades section will not undergo alternations aside from the institution of more robust avalanche safety regulations, Wirth said.
The resort will address transportation after the Squaw Valley parking lot looked like “the last scene in the Field of Dreams,” during a massive traffic jam throughout the North Shore on Dec. 30, according to Wirth.
“We find a lot of customers base their choices on how easy/difficult it is to get to a place and what you get once you’re there,” he said.
Squaw is considering open-air transportation in the parking lots for easy conveyance to the lifts, a regular snow removal on the bike path adjacent to Squaw Valley Road to keep pedestrians and vehicles separate and a more comprehensive intra-valley parking system, Wirth said.
Squaw would also advocate for a ski train that runs from San Francisco through Sacramento and on to Truckee, Wirth said.
Increasing the number of flights arriving at the Reno-Tahoe Airport from the eastern seaboard of the United States would also benefit the resort, Wirth said.
“This area is demonstrably low in visits from the Eastern U.S.,” he said.
Wirth said he has preliminary identified 100 acres of developable land at the base of the mountain.
“There’s 86 acres that is prime for development,” he said. “We just have determine what it’s going to look like.”
Wirth conceded that the development environment is difficult at Squaw, but said providing more hospitality is key for business in the region.
“We want to put more quality pillows at the base of Squaw Valley,” he said.
The holidays, which delivered record snows, also delivered a fair share of weather-related problems, including high-velocity winds, electrical outages that left skiers stranded on ski-lifts and a parking morass that Wirth called “unacceptable.”
“These are substantial challenges,” he said. “But they also afforded us an opportunity to troubleshoot these problems to ensure they don’t happen again.”
Wirth said he is committed to continuing to offer competitive and affordable pricing packages and noted that during his nearly 30-year stint in the ski industry he has never come across a customer base as passionate.
“There is a dedication to Squaw’s brand unlike any I’ve ever seen,” he said. “This is obviously an incredible benefit; but frankly, it offers a challenge as well because we hear it when things go wrong.”
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