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My Scrap With Squaw
BY ERIK HURST
In late January, I wrote a direct and incisive letter to Andy Wirth, describing my perceptions and convictions about his leadership skills, honesty, and comportment as CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. I had had an emotional reaction to news of an email he sent to a local business man and snowboarder, in which he insulted and threatened him (economically), while directing his compatriots to bring their grievances directly to him. I found this to be my last straw.
It was a letter of dissent — a well thought argument for my point of view — sent as an email on the Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows website, I felt compelled to share my opinion. Andy Wirth had issued a challenge, I chose to accept. After some consideration, I posted the letter to my personal Facebook page. This would be public, no hiding the truth of the altercation. This was on a Sunday night.
The letter began, “I have been a staunch adherent to my first impression of your ability to run this mountain from our primary encounter at the bottom of KT during your first year in charge. In the intervening years you have not managed to provide a single act to dissuade me from that impression.”
The answer came Wednesday morning as I was sliding up to Summit Chair; my pass had been hot-listed. Returning home, I found an email revoking my season pass privileges for the indefinite future. “We are sorry you feel that way. Your pass has been fully refunded,” it said.
“Moving forward you will not be allowed to purchase a season pass with Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows. Your email has also been removed from our mailing list and you can no longer email us and we will cease to communicate with you.”
On Thursday, Squaw posted an “open letter to our small corner of the internet …” — a Facebook post initiating a break-up policy. “When you choose to visit our home, you don’t have to agree with everything you see and you can choose how you interact with it, but if you rant, spew hatred or bully our family and friends in our home, we will break up with you. This behavior will no longer be tolerated,” the letter read.
Now scrubbed clean, liberated from trolls, bereft of haters, we give you the “stoke express.” Another public forum, for the dissemination of opinion, positive and negative, has been neutered.
I know we are never going to be able to choose our corporate overlords, but we can attempt to hold them accountable for their words and actions. This is my home. I have an opinion.
I am not a hater by nature, I am not a troll. I speak up when thresholds are crossed. I hope that what I’ve had to say strikes a cord for you as well. This is our home, our community our lives.
We need to regain control of the dialogue. Apathy can be contagious. Among a large group, many voices may overcome the one. We are the group, KSL the one.
Many thoughts and all my support to the daily operations crews at Squaw and Alpine, especially ski patrol. A tragedy was overshadowed by a public spat. I am truly at a loss for words.
Editors Note: See Hurst's original email to Squaw Valley below.
~ Erik Hurst has been a Tahoe City resident since 1990. He worked for Squaw 1990 to 1998 full
time then part time (holidays) sporadically until 2005/2006.
From: Erik Hurst
Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2017 9:47 PM
To: Squaw | Alpine General Guest Inquiry
Subject: The poorest excuse for everything
To whom ever screens these, Please forward this directly to Mr. Wirthless, sorry Wirth.
I have been a staunch adherent to my first impression of your ability to run this mountain from our primary encounter at the bottom of KT during your first year in charge. In the intervening years you have not managed to provide a single act to dissuade me from that impression. You lied to me with a smile on your face when I asked you two direct questions, to which I already knew the answers, and you showed no concern for the truth or who you might be talking to. It was a great first impression.
A year later you made the decision not to open Silverado in the middle of March as you felt it was unnecessary being so close to the end of the season. After a backlash of gargantuan proportion you relented and apologized for the oversight. You felt it was a great thing to be an Under cover boss as it would be a great advertisement for the Corp., though in reality it’s an ego trip filled with lies and bullshit that should not be part of any well run company.
You have pushed this new development at the base area as a wonderful, job creating, community benefitting, non-environmentally damaging, godsend, that is in fact fiscally and environmentally irresponsible. You can’t even fill the beds you now have available. You don’t have the demographics to fill new ones and yet you tout this as a can’t miss, and Must have. You have ingratiated yourself into the community in outreaches, supporting Organizations like the High Fives, in an effort to win approval for this non-sense. Your unstated goal, to increase the eventual sale value of the resort, not to become a part of this community for the long haul.
The on mountain experience, the "soul of skiing” as you’ve marketed it and paraded around is hypocrisy walking. You think that selling 70,000 season passes, then opening as little terrain as possible, is providing any soul at all? We’ve lived through budget closures long before you ran this mountain, and no amount of obfuscation will change the truths we find self evident. Now I find that you have a new committee for safety that makes the decisions on whether or not to run lifts, whether to cover an injured worker or release him/her form their position after an accident, and who knows what else.
You have shown such poor judgement, inflamed by a headstrong attitude of self inflated importance in so many of your interactions with both the public and with the employees, I am amazed that you have retained your position. Your diatribe to Ryland Bell being the latest and most egregious example of poor corporate leadership I have yet witnessed. We, as pass holders, have the right to hold you accountable for your decisions as they affect our enjoyment of the mountain we have payed to access. Your responsibility is provide that mountain in a way consistent with the conditions, safety and weather. Those considerations come form the front line people who actually have experience and knowledge of those, ski patrol, lift maintenance, the mountain manager, etc. not form a bean counting bunch of executives sitting the tram building offices, or wherever those offices are now.
I went skiing today in the afternoon, wind was calm, snow was falling. KT had not even been on the schedule as it was deemed a “hazard” to open by your committee, Red Dog was running at 60% speed in no wind, Far East at about 75%, I was afraid to even go down to Squaw Creek as the ride out would have caused my legs to die in the interminable time the chair ride would have taken.
I have been a Squaw employee, I am friends with many people still working there, though I fear for their longevity, I am and have been a pass holder for years, I have skied at ski areas all over the world. I have watched the disintegration of a once proud heritage, an Olympic host, fall so far from it’s auspices, I am saddened deeply by the loss. Change is supposed to be for the better, but you have wrought change only for the sake of Change. You have invested not in the enjoyment of the mountain experience, but in the depth of your pocketbook. It is truly a shame that so many people new to the experience of skiing will only know this farcical, wanna-be disney land you are trying to create, so soon to be sold to the highest bidder. I hope you sleep very well at night. For Karma when it comes is truly a bitch!
I would be interested to hear your rebuttal of these comments, in a rational exposition, not the rage filled rant you threw out at Ryland and Jeremy Jones. You want to be a “leader” of the largest employer in the area, lets hear something substantive and truthful. If not, I would suggest going back to golf course management and leave the ski business behind.
Sincerely, Erik Hurst
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