Q&A With Nancy Wendt Cushing

| December 2, 2010 | 0 Comments

Born in New York City, Nancy Wendt Cushing learned to ski in Vermont, and in Aspen and Vail while at the University of Colorado. A Harvard-trained lawyer, she succeeded her husband and Squaw Valley USA co-founder Alex Cushing at the helm of the legendary ski resort, retiring last summer after 16 years as its president and CEO. Following the sale of the resort to Denver-based KSL Capital Partners, Cushing remains a consultant to Squaw Valley Ski Corporation.

How does the sale of Squaw Valley USA secure the Cushing legacy?

The large pool of capital that KSL will be investing in Squaw Valley over the upcoming years will provide the necessary resources to help fulfill Alex’s dream of creating a world-class four-season resort destination in one of the most beautiful places in the world. On top of the $5 million we’ve spent this year improving the mountain, KSL has committed to investing $50 million in resort improvements. These investments will undoubtedly lead to others.

What were you feeling when the deal to sell Squaw closed?

Of course I am saddened to let go of the dream that I spent every waking moment on for close to 25 years. However, under the current circumstances I believe there is no better team to carry forth the legend that is Squaw Valley than the one in place now. New president and CEO Andy Wirth and the senior team are already hard at work implementing a new service performance initiative that boasts an unyielding focus on the guest experience. We’ve always had amazing skiing and riding, but with the addition of lodging and 40 new shops and restaurants, I think in the years to come, guests will really feel that they’ve arrived at a world-class resort, both on and off the ski hill.

How would you characterize your time at helm of Squaw Valley USA, the high and low points?

It’s been one of the most exciting times of my life. When I first came on board, we did not even own the land that our parking lot occupies. My first goal was to arrange for the purchase of that property, which included the main lot and Olympic Village. The years that followed were full of turmoil as we tried to finalize the purchase. Through these and other acquisitions, including the Far East Center, Papoose Discovery Area and finally the Village and Olympic House (just restored to its former glory), the company was able to piece together the successful base village that it is today. Squaw Valley USA can now ensure the ultimate guest experience from arrival to departure, put together extremely competitive lodging packages and provide for large groups and corporate gatherings. That’s a huge step forward. The most fun part of the job was being constantly involved with the “Squaw Valley Family” on a daily basis. This mountain has an amazing community full of big personalities, enthusiastic workers and loyal friends—I’ve loved being a part of that. Every place I go in Tahoe I meet people who are a part of that family. The low point was probably the flood of 1997, which destroyed my house. Alex built the house in 1949 as one of Squaw Valley’s first buildings, and it was devastating to see it flooded. I had to show strength and would not allow Alex back inside our home until it was rebuilt.

Do you think that during your tenure it became any easier for women to operate at ski resort top management?

The ski industry remains predominately a man’s world, but women are coming up through the ranks every day. Don’t forget our boss is ‘Mother Nature.’

There’s an effort underway to bring the Winter Olympics back to Tahoe. What would Alex have to say about that?

I am serving on the board of the Greater Lake Tahoe Regional Sports Commission, which is working diligently on the 2022 Reno-Tahoe Olympic bid. I know that Alex would be thrilled to welcome the Olympic athletes back to Squaw Valley and the greater Reno-Tahoe region. I will be too.

What’s your favorite Squaw run?

Anything off Headwall. My personal favorite is down Sun Bowl to the Enchanted Forest. I’m extremely excited to get in more than 50 days on the hill this year and truly enjoy everything that Squaw Valley has to offer. If you see me out there, please say “Hello!” By Susan D. Rock. TQ

Category: Current Issue, Winter 2010-2011

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