The ‘Face to Face’ interview with Andy Varallo, President of Dolomiti Superski, reveals the distinctive traits of a man deeply attached to his land and his family. Andy talks about his studies and his career, which began in Alta Badia and has developed with dedication and respect for his grandfather’s legacy. Thanks to his passion for his work and his great sense of duty, Andy Varallo has been able to perpetuate the family business, overcoming challenges and embracing technological innovation.

His vision of the future of the mountain, which is at the heart of every season, reflects a commitment to sustainable development and a focus on tradition, with the aim of ensuring a prosperous future for generations to come. In this interview, Andy Varallo tells us not only about his achievements, but also about the personal and professional challenges that have shaped him as a leader and as a person.

Andy VARALLO, can you tell us about your background, what has been your education, your personal journey to get to where you are today, at the head of the world’s largest ski resort?

My education started here in Alta Badia, where I still live. I went to primary and secondary school in my region, then to the institute of sciences in German in Bolzano, before graduating in business management in Bologna. At the end of this academic career, the situation required my intervention due to my grandfather’s advanced age. At that time, he was not only president, but also owned a significant and/or majority stake in the ski lift companies we managed in Alta Badia, covering the villages of La Villa, Corvara and San Cassiano, with 28 ski lifts. Consequently, I did not have the opportunity to gain experience abroad because I had to join the company, as my grandfather was already 84 years old.

Andy VARALLO

I joined the company in September 2004 and, in 2006, my grandfather passed the baton to me, giving me full responsibility for the tasks and competencies within the company. Since then, I have been involved in various aspects of the tourism sector in Alta Badia. I was a member of the World Cup Committee and of the Alta Badia Cable Car Consortium as Vice President.

In 2008, I became Vice President of Dolomiti Superski, a position I held until 2020. In July of the same year, I was elected President of Dolomiti Superski, a position I now hold for my second term. In the meantime, I have also become President of the Alta Badia World Cup Organising Committee, which hosts two technical men’s World Cup races in the Big Laugh, and President of the Alta Badia Cable Car Consortium. This year we are organising a giant slalom and a special slalom on 22 and 23 December.

What are your passions?

Family comes first: I have a beautiful family with two children aged 9 and 4 and a half. I play several sports, including tennis, skiing and cycling, and I love to read. I am not attached to any particular author; I like to read books on economics, business psychology and economics in general, as well as anything that can enrich my personal education. I think it is important to always question and criticise yourself, because with age you change and you always have to adapt to new challenges.

Andy Varallo e famiglia

Andy VARALLO, what are your main motivations, why do you get up in the morning?

I love the work I do and I have always had a deep admiration for my grandfather. Succeeding him in this business has been a great honour for me. It is as if I have been one of the Knights of the Round Table for so many years and then succeeded the King. The greatest honour and pride for me is to be able to carry on the business with the same results and in the same way as my grandfather. So far, his teachings have given me great satisfaction.

I see an increasingly dynamic company. I have already made an important generational transition, from my grandfather’s old team to the new team that I have been able to form myself. It is a mixed group, made up of young recruits and veterans, who work together and coexist, managing to give the company the energy it can undoubtedly boast of today in ski lift management.

What is your greatest achievement?

I think so, and that was definitely the goal: to succeed in my grandfather’s business.

Coincidentally, when he handed over the baton to me in 2006, we were celebrating our 60th lift. It was built where it all started, where we had built the first lift, the first chairlift in Italy, registered as number one at the National Transport Office. The 60th lift was built as a sign of gratitude to my grandfather, because building 60 lifts in 60 years is, after all, a difficult number to reproduce in our market.

But it was also my first installation, because at the time my grandfather had entrusted me with the complete management of the project. We were both the same age the year we made our first implant, which led to a number of significant coincidences.

The greatest satisfaction came when, unbeknownst to me, my grandfather decided to hand me the keys to the company and said: ‘Now it’s your turn’. I had prepared the whole speech on the computer, while he had written it by hand. But that day, he took out the speech, put it in his pocket and said to me: ‘Now it’s your turn, come and speak’. That’s how the scenario unfolded on the day of the plant’s inauguration.

Andy VARALLO, do you have any regrets?

No, I don’t regret anything because I have a good family and a good job. It’s clear that if you demand so much of yourself, you don’t have much time for yourself, because the sense of duty to your family and to the company takes up a lot of your time. Perhaps my only regret is that I have had to take on all these roles and that I have devoted little time to myself and less and less to my friends. However, the real friends have stayed. Now that I am maturing and stabilising the company, I will no doubt be able to compensate for that too.

How do you see the mountains of tomorrow?

I still see the mountains of tomorrow as the protagonists of both seasons. The summer season can still bring a lot of satisfaction, especially thanks to developments in the outdoor sector. Equipment, textiles, clothing, sports shoes and electric bikes have given a big boost to mountain visits in summer as well, because they eliminate fatigue and, together with ski lifts, make the experience more accessible.

In winter, our industry has always been very resilient. In collaboration with the lift and snowmaking companies, we have managed to continuously improve the product. These companies need the input of lift operators to know how to improve, and today we have increasingly technological, environmentally friendly and high-performance systems. Snowmaking systems, in particular, have come a long way in producing snow at temperatures ever closer to zero.

Andy VARALLO

The technological evolution of the last twenty years has been remarkable. In 1988 we installed the first snow cannons, which were mainly used to cover the end of the season. At that time, the season was much shorter; we started at Christmas and finished at Easter, if there were no problems. Thanks to snow cover, the season has been extended to about 130 days. Today we can produce artificial snow at temperatures of two and a half degrees below zero, whereas before we needed eight degrees below zero.

This technological development is the real answer to climate change. Without it, we would not be able to guarantee greater efficiency or offer security to those who want to invest in the mountains and meet the needs of tourists. If we cannot guarantee the days of the season, it will be difficult for hotels, traders, restaurateurs and other services at the bottom of the valley to develop and invest in their activities; on the contrary, they run the risk of seeking their fortune elsewhere.

Snow cover guarantees the days of the season and has been faster than global warming. I work with the intention of being able to pass on a stable business to my children, so that they can continue this activity if they wish. I see a prosperous future in the next 30 years, even if we still have to adapt to climate change. Everyone has to do their part: us on the plateau, the reception facilities at the bottom of the valley, and so on. There is a growing awareness of the need to adapt to climate change.

There is a growing awareness of the importance of contributing to reducing global warming. Tomorrow we will hand over this land to our children, and we cannot lie to them.


Winning strategies at Dolomiti Superski