At Home, Winter 2009-10
This story appears in the Winter 2009-10 edition of At Home in Steamboat Springs magazine. Find the magazine in racks across Steamboat.
View the online edition of the magazine here.
Andy Wirth has a lot to be happy about. The vice president of sales and marketing for Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. is back in Steamboat Springs, the place he’s always considered home, after a stint at Intrawest in Vancouver, B.C. He’s leading marketing at a resort he can ski regularly with his children, Jace, Cody and Natalie.
And he’s engaged to be married to Karen deRidder in May. She’s a great skier, Wirth said, who showed him hidden spots at Whistler Blackcomb.
Wirth sat down with At Home’s Blythe Terrell in September to talk about the upcoming season and his favorite pastimes.
At Home: What’s your ideal day on the mountain?
Andy Wirth: Anything in the Priest Creek trees, right, is kind of the ultimate answer. A lot of times I’ve had some really great runs on lower mountain, Ted’s Ridge, Daze to Ted’s. If it’s knee-deep up in the trees, it’ll be boot-deep on Ted’s.
For me it’s more stories about who I’m skiing with than it is about the run. I’ve had these times when I’ve got to ski with John Fetcher, plenty of great times skiing with Billy Kidd; I’ve gotten to spend the day skiing with Bill Esrey and Bill Marolt, the CEO of Sprint and the CEO of U.S. Ski Team.
AH: Where did you grow up and how long have you been skiing?
AW: I grew up in the Air Force. I was born in West Germany when there was a West and an East. My father flew F-4s for the Air Force.
I moved to Colorado in 1980 and lived in Fort Collins till ’86, and I came up here three days after graduating (from Colorado State University).
The story was I was on my way to grad school in California to do my MBA, and I ended up doing an internship to finish up my undergrad degree with Colorado State, and I started working with Kent Meyers, who was the VP of marketing back then on the air program, and that was what, 23 years ago.
The first time I skied was in southern New Mexico. We lived on an Air Force base called Holloman Air Force Base. We lived in a ski area that used to be called Sierra Blanca (now Ski Apache).
That was when I was a young teenager. I learned to ski down there, and the interesting thing is talking to Ray Heid, who lives up in Clark, he was one of the two ski instructors at Sierra Blanca, so there’s a 50-50 chance that Ray Heid taught me how to ski.
AH: Why have you stayed in the ski industry so long?
AW: I would say it’s more that I’ve stayed in Steamboat because I genuinely love this place.
I lived in 13 different places growing up until I moved to Colorado, and living in Fort Collins, that felt a little bit like home. Summer of ’86 when I lived here, it felt like home. It’s more about Steamboat Springs and Northwest Colorado and Clark. ... I love North Routt County.
It’s very easy to have a passion for what we do. ... I still do, even 23 years later.
AH: Why is that? Why is it so easy?
AW: Our business development includes bringing vacations to people, mountain vacations to people who live in Atlanta and London. It’s easy to have passion about that, not only the place but also the actual experience.
AH: How do you spend your time in Steamboat in the offseason?
AW: Working 70 hours a week instead of 60 hours. You mean for fun? I am a victim of the, “I actually didn’t move here for the winter, but I’m employed here because of the winter, but I love it because of the summer.” … I do a lot of trail running; I love trail running in this valley. Ironically, I’ve been riding road bikes for over 30 years now but I’m just now getting into mountain biking.
Above all, just spending time with my kids. One of my favorite things to do is riding bikes with my little girl, Natalie; she’s 10 1/2. That’s above all, just riding bikes with Natalie down to Sweet Pea. I get as much enjoyment out of that as anything.
AH: What do you hope to be able to say at the end of the ski season in terms of how things went?
AW: I’d say there’s three things, the first of which are the business objectives of our company. I believe we have very reasonable, very rational goals for the business this year, and certainly to exceed those objectives, I would hope we can walk over that line this year. I think based on what we’re seeing in the marketplace and the economy, that’s within reach, but there’s an awful lot of work to be done between now and March.
Secondly, we have a cadre of Olympians going to Whistler Blackcomb, and I’m intending on playing a role in leading the community, putting together the community celebration, sending those athletes off to Vancouver and Whistler Blackcomb.
Thirdly, I hope at the end of the season I can say I skied a bunch with my two sons and my little girl, and I hope that my scan count on my season pass exceeds 50.
AH: What are you most proud of in your work with the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club?
AW: It’s less about results and more about what Rick DeVos and Sarah Floyd and the staff do for young women and young men that come through the organization. I ultimately think and believe that the young people come out better than they were when they came in. They learn discipline, they learn teamwork, they learn all of these great qualities; it’s not just about the competitive results.
From a business perspective, I would suggest that we’ve taken the Winter Sports Club from an organization that was five, six, seven years ago, make it to the next bake sale and has now got very solid financial footing, has got solid business discipline. It’s a solid organization, and it’s been around 90 years, and it’s been a really solid obligation that I’ve felt and that I think we’ve seen to that it makes it another 90 years.