Friday, May 04, 2018
MARCO ISLAND, Fla., May 4, 2018—The National Ski Areas Association (NSAA) has presented the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award to Onno Wieringa, the legendary former general manager and president of Alta Ski Area, Utah. Wieringa received the honor today at NSAA’s Annual National Convention and Tradeshow, which is being held this week in Marco Island, Fla.
Wieringa recently retired after a 45-year career at Alta—with the last 29 years as the resort’s general manager. He has long been known as an innovator, environmental steward, and tireless contributor to the ski industry and the sport he loves.
Wieringa’s father was in the 10th Mountain Division winter warfare unit in World War II, and upon returning to Conrad, Mont., he set out to raise a family and make skiing a family sport. Onno started skiing around age 5, and his home ski areas were King’s Hill (now Showdown Ski Area) and Big Mountain (now Whitefish Mountain Resort). He was a ski instructor at Marshall Ski Area in Missoula during college and a ski patroller at Rainy Mountain (now Maverick Mountain) and Bridger Bowl.
In 1972 he arrived at Alta, working as a bartender at the Rustler Lodge and as a ski patroller. After six years of patrolling, he was head of Alta’s snow safety department from 1978 to 1988, serving under Chic Morton, the area’s second general manager. When Morton was ready to retire in 1988, he tapped Wieringa to fill the role and serve as the resort’s third GM. The passion for improvement and connection with people that earned Wieringa the job guided him over the next 29 years for the benefit of Alta and the ski industry at large.
Throughout his career, Wieringa was a true innovator. He embraced technology and implemented groundbreaking changes at Alta with an eye toward always making the guest experience better. He proudly worked with Yan Kunczynski to develop a one-of-a-kind skier mover. He was responsible for putting a “bend” in the Collins lift and installing a Magic Carpet at Supreme lift—never afraid to take on challenges to meet the unique needs of the ski area. He spearheaded the design of Alta’s bars on chairlifts, ensuring they were designed specifically to keep kids in the chairs. He also made Alta an early adopter of RFID technology.
Wieringa applied his creativity to growing the sport as well. In 2005 he established Alta’s Ski Free at 3 program, attracting local youth to try the sport, later changing the program to Ski at 3 for $5 to teach skiers how to buy a pass and use it. He managed to make all of these changes while preserving the culture and feel of Alta.
Wieringa’s expertise and leadership in the snow safety arena are legendary. In his own words, “a lot of snow fell” in the four decades he spent in Little Cottonwood Canyon, providing him the opportunity to gain unmatched expertise and be a pioneer in avalanche control and the use of military weapons and explosives. His unwavering discipline and calm demeanor positioned him well for the task. He was an artillery gunner from the 1970s all the way through 2017, applying his expertise on behalf of the ski area, the Forest Service, and the Utah Department of Transportation. With Wieringa at the helm, Alta set the bar high for advancements in snow safety, and is greatly respected in the broader community as a result. He served as president of the National Avalanche Foundation for more than a decade.
The creation of the Alta Environmental Center is certainly one of Wieringa’s lasting legacies. In recognition of Alta’s heritage of conservation—and drawing inspiration from Aspen’s Pat O’Donnell—he created the center in 2008. The facility coordinates all of Alta’s environmental efforts, and is instrumental in developing and implementing new sustainability initiatives and regularly reporting on them in a transparent fashion. Alta, one of the founding members of NSAA’s Climate Challenge under Wieringa’s leadership, set a target of reducing carbon 20 percent by 2020. In 2012 Alta received LEED Silver Certification for its Skier Services Building. Alta and Wieringa have received a number of environmental awards including the SKI Magazine Golden Eagle Award and Hero of Sustainability Award as well as Utah Business Magazine’s Sustainability Leadership Award.
Wieringa has also made significant contributions to lift safety, serving on the Utah passenger Ropeway Safety Committee and the ANSI B-77 Committee for two decades, and also on the National Tramway Safety Board. In fact, he is still a volunteer member of ANSI B-77 as he continues in a consulting role to support chairlift safety. In addition, Wieringa is the epitome of a good neighbor. He was instrumental in forming the “Altabird” partnership with neighboring Snowbird, a testament to both his and Bob Bonar’s willingness to put collaboration ahead of competition. He maintained an exemplary relationship with Forest Service personnel during his career, and he volunteered his time to NSAA through his service on the Board of Directors, Public Lands Committee, and Environmental Committee. His respect for the mountain, the environment, but perhaps most importantly, people, sets him apart as a ski industry leader. That respect was given back to him over the span of his career by those who had the pleasure of working with him or knowing him.
Wieringa and his wife of 30 years, Tana, raised two wonderful children, Siri Anna and Onno Shay, in Alta and Glacier Park, thanks to the efforts of great friends and community support.
For his significant and meaningful contributions to the Utah ski industry and the US ski industry, NSAA is proud to present Onno Wieringa with the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award.