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Director of Development Finance, Alterra Mountain Company
(Title at the time of nomination: Senior Manager of Strategy and Development, Snowshoe Mountain, W.Va.)
Hometown: New York, N.Y.
Words to live by: Work hard, play hard.
Andrew Lang didn’t want a reputation as “the snow guy.” But when you build a snowmaking model as comprehensive as the one he developed for Snowshoe, that reputation is hard to avoid. Andrew now understands snowmaking on the atomic level, but his background is in finance. A city boy, Andrew fell in love with Virginia and West Virginia when he headed south to university. The ski industry wasn’t on his radar until he took a job at Snowshoe after growing tired of working at a Fortune 500 company. A recent promotion has taken him west to Colorado.
How did you get into the snowsports industry?
I had never actually skied before I worked at Snowshoe. Within months of taking that job, though, I had fallen in love with industry. A lot of people think the industry is very narrow, but the more you get into the more you realize how broad it is. It really opened my eyes to a lot of different lines of business. I got better finance experience at a ski resort than I would have at any financial company.
What do you think is the biggest issue facing the industry?
There is no doubt in my mind that it is the climate; it is always going to be a threat to the industry. This is one of the most weather-dependent industries that I am aware of. One way for the industry to keep up with climate change is paying attention to the political atmosphere and trying to affect change and use our influence in legislation. But that can only take us so far. As an industry, we have to adapt technologically. Snowmaking is huge.
Tell me about the snowmaking model you built while you were at Snowshoe.
My goal was to make a model and a research paper that would become the snowmaking bible for the company. I put all my data together in an Excel model that could take into account every variable you could think of. I tested it across 10 years for a bunch of different snow gun setups for different systems with different strategies, and finally came to what the best setup would be. One of the deeper achievements of that project at Snowshoe is the cost efficiency we are going to be achieving. And, as a result of this project, we are cutting our coal-generated kilowatt-hours at least in half, reducing our carbon footprint.
In your new role at Alterra, what are the opportunities?
The opportunity is there for us to bring efficiency. We have a very savvy background in the company in financial management, real estate development, and hospitality management. There is also the operator skill set of snowmaking and lift strategy. You mesh these together, and you have huge potential for these resorts that are being limited right now to capitalize on these development opportunities. I know a lot of people are saying consolidations are bad for the industry—and there are pros and cons—but I think it is going to grow the industry as a whole.
What is your favorite job perk?
I get to travel to every resort. That is probably my favorite new perk. My favorite perk is still skiing for free, though.