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Peak Performance: David Hidalgo Vila

No mountain is too high for David Hidalgo Vila, CEO of Grandvalira-Soldeu Ski Resort, who has ambitions to make history in Andorra by hosting the Alpine World Ski Championships in 2029.

Grandvalira Resorts in the Pyrenees has just celebrated its 20th anniversary, marking the merger of Soldeu and Pas de la Casa resorts in 2003, but its history dates back to the 1950s. In the tiny principality of Andorra, nestled between France and Spain, a few local pioneers laid the foundations for what is now one of Europe’s largest and finest skiing destinations.

“From our humble beginnings we have become one of the top 15 ski destinations in the world,” CEO David Hidalgo Vila tells The CEO Magazine. “We have almost two million visitors per year.”

Having reached one milestone, Hidalgo Vila immediately set himself a new goal, and in 2012, Soldeu hosted the FIS Alpine Ski World Cup and has been hosting competitions ever since. It has all been a warm-up to what he hopes will be the resort’s biggest feat – hosting the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in 2029.

“We’ll be making history in Andorra if we pull this off.”

“It’s a dream that was born 20 years ago when the former president of the Andorran Ski Federation said, ‘We should be able to organize World Championships.’ At the time people responded ‘OK, OK, calm down, we’ll see’.”

But the idea had taken hold, and Hidalgo Vila has worked hard to make it a reality, investing many millions of euros in improving the resort to ensure all its events are world-class. Joining the ‘Club 5’, the association of World Cup organizers, has been a huge contributor to raising Grandvalira’s profile internationally.

“It has been a phenomenal return on investment,” he says.

On 4 June 2024, he will find out if his efforts have paid off, when the 2029 Alpine World Ski Championships host country is revealed.

“Everybody in the country is behind us. We’ll be making history in Andorra if we pull this off,” he adds.

A Passion for Snow

Hidalgo Vila’s own history within the skiing sector goes back a number of decades. He took on the CEO role at Grandvalira in 2017, having first joined the company as CFO in 2000. The move to Andorra was quite a switch from working in finance in cosmopolitan cities like Toronto and Barcelona, where he originally hails from.

“I’ve been a skier since I was a kid, and skiing is my passion. But I studied finance and that became my profession. I’m a numbers guy, I enjoy efficiency analysis,” he reveals.

“Grandvalira is an important ski resort, a center of economic activity in Andorra, whose main focus is mountain and snow tourism. The professionalism of all its employees and its hopes and efforts to realize important projects make our professional relationship.” – Diego Parigi, CEO, Liski Sport Equipment


But after six years working for a global insurance company, one day Hidalgo Vila spotted a job opening for the role of CFO at Grandvalira.

“I thought, finance and skiing, my profession and my passion. If I can combine these, this could be the dream job,” he recalls.

And he’s never regretted swapping the corporate world for hospitality.

“It’s a business where every decision you make, you see the results,” he explains. “This is not the experience I had working for a multinational.”

Hearing Hidalgo Vila speak, it’s clear that he is driven by passion and credits his colleagues with the same.

“I think in our industry there’s one essential component, and that is passion,” he says. “We are very lucky that we work and live in a place where people come to enjoy themselves. I always tell my people, ‘We share a passion for snow’. My reflection every morning is that if after a snowfall I am no longer eager to hit the slopes, it’s time to move on.”

A Team Sport

Clearly he is enjoying himself far too much, and busying himself with moving things forward, to be thinking of moving on anytime soon. The secret behind successfully leading a team of thousands of people, he reveals, is leading by example.

“We, my team and I, have to be coherent with our values. I’m surrounded by a fantastic team, people who are really empowered, because my leadership style is sharing the decisions with all the team.”

Equally paramount to growing the business is innovation.

“From the outside, our industry is perhaps not seen as very tech-driven,” he reflects. “But when you start digging a little bit, you realize it’s much more tech-based than you’d expect, in areas such as radio frequency identification, avalanche safety, mobile ski passes and snowmaking.”

“My leadership style is sharing the decisions with all the team.”

Strategic partnerships are another essential aspect of any business. At Grandvalira, Hidalgo Vila oversees everything from gastronomy and entertainment to the sports and wellbeing facilities. Key to getting it right is working with the best suppliers, such as Liski Sport Equipment, which supplies the resort with hire equipment and ski school accessories.

It is this attention to detail that underpins every aspect of the resort, and means Grandvalira and Hidalgo Vila’s team will potentially be awarded the honor of hosting the Alpine World Ski Championships in 2029. He’ll soon find out.

“I joke with my team that, if we are announced as the winning resort in June, it will be a one-day celebration followed by five years of, ‘Oh my God, what have we got ourselves into?’”

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