Squaw Valley's Wirth says Alterra will maintain ski resorts' autonomy

Andy Wirth, president and COO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings (left) is interviewed by Bruce Rosard, forum producer for the Mountain Travel Symposium.
Andy Wirth, president and COO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings (left) is interviewed by Bruce Rosard, forum producer for the Mountain Travel Symposium. Photo Credit: TW photo by Michelle Baran

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. -- Squaw Valley Ski Holdings president and COO Andy Wirth says new parent Alterra Mountain Co. will manage its 12 North American ski properties similar to how Marriott International's Starwood Hotels Group operates its stable of lodging brands.

"When you're checking in to the St. Regis, you're checking in to the St. Regis. And that brand, that service, those standards and all of that is very important," said Wirth, who was being interviewed by Bruce Rosard, forum producer at the Mountain Travel Symposium, which is being held here this week. "People visit [the resort brand], they don't visit some large enigmatic holding company."

In addition to California's Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, which is owned by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, Alterra oversees Colorado's Steamboat and Winter Park; Mammoth Mountain, Big Bear Mountain Resort and June Mountain in California; Stratton in Vermont; Mont Tremblant in Quebec; Snowshoe in West Virginia; Blue Mountain in Pennsylvania; and Utah's Deer Valley. The group also owns British Columbia's CMH Heli-Skiing & Summer Adventures.

The roll-up puts Alterra in a similar league as its main competitor, Vail Resorts, which owns 10 mountain resorts, three urban ski areas, and a portfolio of luxury hotels under the RockResorts brand.

Wirth commended the pioneering role Vail has played in the mountain resort marketplace, but added that Alterra plans to take a different tack.

"Our friends at Vail Resorts have really gone through a lot and plowed the road and did a very fine job building what is arguably the single biggest success story in the ski industry's history. We think we will do well, too. We think we can do well with a slightly different approach, and maybe a little bit more autonomy at each resort," said Wirth.

According to the Wirth, the advantages to consumers of the consolidation in the ski industry are many. For one, the ability to offer multi-resort passes at a reasonable price. Additionally, he noted that back of house systems will likely be streamlined and that Alterra-owned properties will benefit from financial support that can help with things like investing in costly snowmaking technologies at a time when ski resorts are facing increasingly unpredictable weather patterns.

Wirth, whose mountain-resort experience dates back more than three decades, ended his presentation by announcing that he is retiring, but he did not say when.

(Mountain Travel Symposium is owned by Northstar Travel Group, parent of Travel Weekly.)
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