Andy Wirth used Just Breathe, the song by Pearl Jam, as a mantra that quite possibly saved his life. Wirth was skydiving, a sport he had recently taken up and became passionate about when a series of circumstances caused him to experience a near-fatal accident.
The winds had kicked up that afternoon and the pilot overshot the landing zone. While freefalling Wirth had to chose between trying to put down around a set of high-tension power lines or in a vineyard. Choosing the vineyard, another gust of wind pushed Wirth into a metal pole holding up the wires the vines anchored on. The pole tore nearly all of his right bicep off and severed the brachial artery. Wirth, who had at one time been a backcountry guide and medic, understood that the loss of blood could kill him. Tearing off a piece of cloth, he was able to slow the flow until help arrived. He kept himself calm and coherent by singing the words of Just Breathe. After forty surgeries and fifty days in the hospital, doctors were able to save Wirth’s arm.
Wirth is currently the president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. The resort is one of the top ski destinations in the world hosting some 600,000 guest a year. Wirth took over from the Cushing family that had owned and managed the resort since its inception in the 1940’s. Wirth was able to reinvest $70 million in the resort rebuilding and improving the facilities reestablishing it as a top resort. Wirth was also instrumental in the merger of the neighboring Alpine Meadows resort.
Starting out as a graduate of Colorado State Univeristy, Wirth began his career working as an intern for Steamboat Springs Resort. Over his twenty year career with Steamboat and their buyout from Intrawest, Wirth left as the chief marketing officer when offered the position at Squaw Valley.
In addition to his work at Squaw Valley, Wirth serves as the chairperson of the Reno-Tahoe Regional Airport Authority and Lake Tahoe Winter Olympics Committee. Recently Wirth published an op-ed piece in the Reno News-Gazette coming out in strong support of the Reno City Council’s resolution encouraging the green power initiative.
While undergoing rehab for his arm, Wirth meant a group of Navy SEALs also in rehab for injuries suffered in combat. He started a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for their medical expenses and to enable them to field a team for the Tahoe Ironman.