Between beech and fir forests, the subalpine meadows welcome us to a valley full of glamor and authenticity, the Val d’Aran. From its peaks, on the banks of the Maladeta or the imposing Aneto, we interviewed Xavi Ubeira, the Commercial Director of the Baqueira Beret ski resort.
I Love Ski: Tell us. Who is Xavi Ubeira?
Xavi Ubeira: I have been the CCO (chief commercial officer) of the Baqueira Beret ski resort for the last 6 years, but I have been working in the company for 20 years. As commercial director, I am in charge of unifying and coordinating both the sales section (director of the Baqueira Beret Travel Agency) and the marketing section (promotion, press, social networks, advertising and promotion of the resort).
I am a native of the Aran Valley, I was born and raised here. Since I was little, I have always had some relationship with the resort and to this wonderful valley. In some way thanks to my father Aquilino Ubeira, who was deputy to the general manager of the center. In fact, my father was the first worker at the resort and in 1964, he rode the first chairlift.
He was working here until 2000, the year I joined the company and he retired. I started here as a ski patroller, and later went through the different departments of the company such as the control tower, the quality and environment department, the technical control department (taking on all the issues of projects, permits and graphic designs, etc…). Until now, the only branch that I had left to try was the commercial and marketing department, so here I am.
I Love Ski: Xavi, what is your link with the world of snow and how has your evolution been in the world of professional skiing?
Xavi Ubeira: my day to day has always been closely related to snow. When I was little, we lived at the foot of the slopes and my mother always saw me reach lift from her window.
So, I started skiing and at the age of 9 or 10. I joined the national team of the Juan March school (formerly in Spain there was what was known as the National Team of Promise), a special national team made for those who were at an outstanding level.
Little by little, I progressed through all the levels within the national team, and at the age of 16 I moved to the junior category.
It was then that I started doing international races and European Cups. I also entered the national ski team and was able to compete in several World Cups and go to the 1992 Olympics (Albertville) and the 1994 winter Olympics (Lillehammer).
I joined the national team at the age of 18 (in 1988) and I was competing until 1995, at which point I stopped competitive skiing to take advantage of a great opportunity that came to me to go to study in the United States.
Experience in the United States of America
At the age of 25 I applied to Sierra Nevada University in Lake Tahoe (right on the border of Nevada with California) with the great luck of receiving a scholarship, thanks to skiing, to study a specific program of Business Administration focused on ski resorts.
For American universities, sport is very important, and this university had a ski team with which I was able to ski every day and continue competing. In addition, I managed to start studying what I wanted to dedicate myself to and I was able to acquire all the knowledge that I would later take home with me.
In 1999 I graduated and stayed one more year in Lake Tahoe, working at the Heavenly Valley Resort, CA as head coach of the Heavenly Valley Resort, CA Club Ski Foundation with the children who would later go on to the national team or race for the college. For me it was a spectacular year, I worked in a beautiful place and it was a unique opportunity to get to know the American side of competition.
Beginnings at Baqueira Beret Resort in Spain
After my year working in the United States, in 2000, I returned home and started working at the Baqueira Beret station. I went through all the positions that I have previously mentioned, from ski patroller, through to more technical departments, until I reached the more commercial part where I am now.
I am currently delighted with the work we are doing. There have been spectacular years with great projection, even internationally since we are working in the Swedish, English, American, Japanese markets, etc. This international projection was what we lacked and, now as it’s up and running, we are doing a very, very good job. As a comment on last year, we managed to break numerous records and we had a great year even with one less month of exploitation. However, this year we have had to adapt to the difficult times that we live in and ensure that everything returns to its place so that it can work again.
I Love Ski: what is it that encourages you during the day to day that makes you get up in the morning? What are your motivations?
For many years, sport and my work were my main motivation. I am currently 50 years old, married and have two daughters: a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old, and in fact, they both ski. They are my strength, my wife and my daughters. They keep me alive and make me want to continue every day, amazing in every way.
I am also very motivated by the goal of putting Baqueira Beret station in a place it deserves. That is my big goal. The truth is that I have been to many parts of the world. I have traveled through spectacular regions and I have been to many, many ski areas in the world (such as the USA, Japan, South America, the Alps, etc.). However, the combination that Baqueira Beret and the Arán Valley create is not easy to find. This is a spectacular place. When people come from outside, such as international journalists, they are shocked to see the beauty we have here. This ski resort is probably among the best in the world.
Taking all that into account, our goal is to be able to put Baqueira Beret and the Arán Valley on the map and, stop being the “unknown destination”, so that people know more about this place, come and become passionate about it. Fight to overcome the limit of one million skiers and stop being internationally unknown.
I Love Ski: on a personal or professional level, what are you most proud of today?
Xavi Ubeira: On a personal level I would tell you, without a doubt, about my wife and my daughters. On a professional level, being an Olympian represents a lot to me. Experiences of this type are unique and stay with you forever.
I also have to thank how easy everything has been for me, with especial thanks to my parents. They have given everything to me and have always allowed me to ski, both here in Spain and when I went to the US (I was able to ski there thanks to the scholarship, but without their help it would have been impossible). My father has always been my mentor and the one who has transmitted to me his passion for mountains and skiing from a very young age. He is now very proud that I am who I am and that I work at the resort. But without him, it wouldn’t have been possible.
I Love Ski: You have talked about trying to reach the million skiers, but do you have any other goals that you would like to achieve before your race is over?
Xavi Ubeira: The truth is that I am currently at a point where I love my job, I can earn a living doing what I like and live where I want (for me, one of the best places in the world). I don’t have much bigger ambitions beyond the professional ones internally. I am delighted with what I have and do every day, and if the company allows me, I would love to retire here in a few years.
What is true is that I always had an itch to work in a ski resort in the United States, but working there is more complicated due to visa issues and when you get older and have a family, something so unstable is more complicated. You never know where the next step is and any opportunity is good, but I couldn’t ask for a better place to work and live, and for my future and that of my family to be here.
I Love Ski: Xavi, we know that you are passionate about skiing, but do you have other passions?
Xavi Ubeira: besides skiing and winter sports, I love golf, going to music concerts and enjoying my daughters. Due to the current Covid situation, everything is quite locked down and therefore, these hobbies too. But this does not prevent me from doing sports, cycling or running, enjoying the mountains and the valley, and being able to disconnect with the girls and enjoy them.
I Love Ski: another question about the snow industry in Spain. If you had a list of three wishes for the snow industry in Spain, what would they be?
The first thing we have to do is work hard with schools and beginners, children. I believe that this is the main goal, that all children and people can have access to skiing. This will guarantee that in the future we can continue to work as a snow industry.
It seems that skiing is something elitist or of a certain class, but I would like skiing to be more accessible and affordable for everyone, especially for people who live in big cities. In addition, we’ll see what will happen with climate change, we will see where it takes us and what we can do. To transmit all this to the big cities and large centers so that skiing is seen as a sport to enjoy with family in nature. That is what we have to achieve as an industry.
I Love Ski: Since we are talking about climate change and how the mountains are going to be affected. How do you see the snow industry in 20 or 30 years?
Xavi Ubiera: I honestly don’t know how climate change will affect the mountains. What I do know is that technology is better every day. We have been adapting to new needs that are created by climate change with new electrical machinery, which consume very little electricity and, which adapt much better to the conditions.
Of course, climate change will affect the mountains, but technologies will allow climate change to be less noticeable and for skiing to continue to function. What is clear is that the environment is our treasure and we have to do everything possible to take care of it, especially in terms of waste. Also, the important thing is to continue offering a service, to take good care of the mountain and that people continue to climb and enjoy it while they can.
I Love Ski: you still have many working years ahead, where do you see yourself? How do you see the end of your career?
Xavi Ubiera: in line with previous questions, at this point and with my age and my family, it is difficult to take the suitcases and go somewhere else. Where I live is where I want to be. I enjoy every day that I go to work, I have my parents and my friends here, basically all of my life is here with me. The truth is that I do not see myself changing places. It is true that you never know what the future holds, but I do see myself here until the end of my career transmitting my passion and bringing my knowledge to the resort and the valleys so that they can be a reference destination. As this is what I want, I don’t think of anything else. To this day, I see myself here until I retire. Then I’ll keep skiing while my legs support me.
I Love Ski: Thank you very much Xavi for your words. Is there anything else you want to add?
Xavi Ubiera: I would like to add that I hope we are able to find solutions so that people who are having such bad time these days can come here to disconnect from this nightmare that we are going through. This summer, for me, it was very special to be able to enjoy the mountains and the outdoors.
This is what I would like to convey right now. We will do everything possible to ensure that the mountains form an important part of the solution to all of this stress that we carrying over from 2020 and to transmit to our skiers the incredible sensations of freedom, tranquility and nature available here.