Apr 22 2014

A Great Letter About The Spirit Of Alpine Meadows

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As I sit here on vacation overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the thought of one inch of new snow at Squaw and skiing today is far from my mind. But this morning, a friend sent me a link to the latest guest column at the Tahoe Daily Tribune. It was enough to make me get out my iPad for a quick post. Well done Paul.

Here’s a great sample from the letter:

As a skier and marketing professional with expertise in tourism, retail and real estate, I felt compelled to offer this perspective. Living in the East, I offer some distance and objectivity, too.

Mountain Dew and Diet Pepsi are two very different products targeting two very different audiences, yet they are both owned by Pepsico (NYSE: PEP) and their profits end up on the same bottom line. It would be a strange disconnect to see Diet Pepsi ads lining the halfpipe at the X-Games and just as disconcerting to see Shaun White pushing Mountain Dew on Lifetime TV.

It doesn’t take much to understand that Pepsico can make more money building two, different brands that appeal to different types of people rather than push a single brand onto everyone. Selling both through the same distribution network behind the scenes creates the efficiencies that control costs. This branding approach has helped Pepsico record impressive results year after year.

Read the entire column at the Tahoe Daily Tribune

Apr 19 2014

Spring Fever Sets In At Alpine

First, let’s start this post with a huge thank you. Sometime this morning, shortly after taking a stream of photos of Mr. Alpine, I realized my phone was missing. It’s the phone that has provided countless stoke pictures over the last 2 years. Some awesome person found it and immediately turned it over to Special Tickets. Thanks also for the super service at Special Tickets today.

Second, this is our last report for about a week. Back in the days when we had almost no snow, we made a back up plan for a non-skiing spring break. With Alpine Meadows closed midweek next week, we’re going to see if we can cover our goggle tans. I know, some of you are addicted to reading Unofficial Alpine with your morning coffee, you’ll have to page back through the archives to see what you missed.

Spring fever did spring like crazy today. There were costumes galore of every sort. Alpine Meadows had a “you choose” theme for the weekend. Apparently people were supposed to vote for their favorite style on Facebook. Instead, people just showed up in just about anything. The winner, dubbed Mr. Alpine, was seen early on stretching in the lot, climbing to the very top of the false peak near Summit Chair, and later claiming his line at the base area. Well done Z. Your stoke for life is so contagious!

The skiing and riding was nearly identical to yesterday. North and west facing groomers did the best for the bulk of the day. Another solid performer was Yellow, at least until the return via Tiegel Flats became unbearable. Tomorrow should be similar to today. Arrive early for best results, and avoid the sun.

Alpine Meadows will also be taking a break this week. By the time they reopen next Friday, there is significant snow in the forecast. Tonight the GFS is looking crazy again, showing the potential for more than two feet of snow by next Sunday. There’s a couple of cautionary notes. BA at OpenSnow.com is always reminding us that the models are pretty unreliable early and late in the season. However he does seem bullish on this storm and the NOAA long range is already showing a 100% chance of rain and snow that weekend. The teleconnections do not really support the idea yet. The PNA Index still trends positive and the MJO stays in the drier phases of 7 and 8. We suggest you keep tracking BA at OpenSnow.com this week.

See ya in about 6 days!

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Apr 19 2014

Andy Wertheim: One More Powder Day Coming?

Hello skiers and riders,

Get out your powder boards. Rumors are flying that snow is on the way. Perhaps some on Tuesday and more over the next weekend. The Aspens, Alder, and Willows that are sprouting leaves may not be happy to see cold weather and snow, but we need water and a clean white slate might be nice before the season ends.

This morning the spring skiing was pretty good. The groomed areas were smooth early in the morning. It was a little cooler Friday night so the snow set up a little allowing it to last longer today. Most people I spoke with seemed to enjoy the morning, although a few thought it was too soft or too sticky. Personally, I had a very nice morning. After a few quick runs on the groom, I ventured off piste. It was getting soft and a little rotten in spots, but not as bad as I thought it might have been. My poles did not disappear when planted, and my skies turned without much effort. However, it had the uncertain feeling of wanting to suck my skis deep down into a rotted pack, it just did not do so. Under Alpine Bowl Chair was a little more firm than the areas near Sunspot. Sunspot had been skied, not groomed, and was also not as rotten as some of the less skied off piste. We took a run down the Face which looked like the Himalayas with all the huge moguls sticking up on the slope. Ladies Slalom, that was also not groomed, proved to be smooth as silk around ten o’clock.

The warm spring weather we are having has people stroking golf balls on the local courses (Tahoe City, Brockway, and Truckee), riding on the Truckee River Bike Trail, and hiking up to Five Lakes. The seasons are changing.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Apr 18 2014

It Was A Great Friday, Not Just A Good Friday

It was a fantastic day at Alpine Meadows again. I’ve been spending a lot of time at work lately, so getting back on skis was just what I needed. It was my first time back at Alpine Meadows since Monday night’s Passholder Party. The rate of snow melt is actually quite alarming. It’s been a warm week, with overnight temperatures barely reaching freezing. That required a slightly different set of rules today.

Normally, the spring rule is to follow the sun. Today’s rule was to hide from the sun. Slopes with sun were rapidly turned into a mashed potato mess this morning. Fortunately those clouds that threatened to bring thunderstorms kept things a bit cooler on large parts of the mountain.

What was good? North and west facing groomers seemed to fare best today. We had fantastic laps on Wolverine, D8, Werners and Charity. Today’s snow was more of a refrozen slush rather than true corn. It tended to get a bit lumpy once the sun softened it too much. You just have to keep an eye on each run to see when they lose that icy sheen.

We struggled to find off piste snow that was skiing well today. In general, most of the off piste snow on the upper mountain was pretty rotten. We did some experimental runs near Palisades, D7 and Waterfall, and none of them really offered more fun that the smooth slushy groomers. That’s not to say all of them were not good. Finding that perfect north facing slope would be the key, and lower on the mountain was also better. It makes sense that Paul sent us this picture of Peter’s Peril today, with the caption “A very good Friday.”

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Here’s a few more pictures from the day…not many though. It seems like I finally had a day off and Valleygirl finally had to go to work instead of playing!

The weather for the weekend should be fantastic. It will be a good weekend for spring skiing in the morning and hiking or biking in the afternoon. Summit, Roundhouse and Hot Wheels are on the schedule from 9 am til 2 pm this weekend. Saturday afternoon, Stung, a Police tribute band will be playing on the Sun Deck. Sunday is Easter, and there will be the traditional Easter Egg Hunt, with a 2014-15 pass as the prize. The event page says eggs will only be hidden off of Roundhouse, which will change the nature of the usually whole mountain hunt. You probably want to be queued up at Roundhouse early for that hunt! There’s not a Beacon & Eggs hunt this year.

There’s a radical change in the weather for next week, that’s looking more likely as time goes on. As Alpine Meadows won’t be open mid-week, it will be affecting mid-week skiers and riders at Alpine North. A much larger storm is forecast for later in the week. We hope to get a more full forecast in tomorrow.

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That weather change will do a lot to preserve the snow pack. Alpine Meadows mountain ops has been very proactive in farming snow to keep things going. We have heard that there is going to be a very concerted effort to stay open into May, even if it means very marginal conditions. We’ve already seen that happen with Lakeview, Sherwood and Scott this season. We think it’s awesome that Alpine Meadows managers believe in upholding the tradition of last resort open in Tahoe.

Apr 17 2014

SOV: Squashing Our Voices

We love the irony that developed this week in the emerging cat fight over the incorporation of Olympic Valley. There’s now two different organizations involved. One that seeks to encourage sustainable growth, through local control, oddly named “Incorporate Olympic Valley”. This week, a second group appeared, seeking to maintain the status quo, keeping control of the valley largely in control of real estate developers. Oddly, this group has adopted the name “Save Olympic Valley.” At least it brings a bit of whimsy to an otherwise tense situation. Suggestions have been made that they exchange names ;)

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Why the tension? It’s simple. Squaw Valley Ski Holdings has begun a pretty serious attack on the town incorporation proponents. It’s becoming more and more clear that SVSH, and its parent, KSL Capital Partners, are not in Squaw Valley to run a mountain. They’re in Squaw Valley to develop some real estate. They already have made a substantial investment in Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, and we’re sure that they must be feeling quite threatened by the possibility of the incorporation of Olympic Valley. The pressure from investors must be tremendous after three lackluster seasons.

The counter campaign started quietly,  A letter from some athletes and other Squaw Valley notables lauding Andy Wirth’s leadership was submitted to the Tahoe Daily Tribune. It seemed innocent on the surface, honest people expressing their own opinion. Ultimately the letter was widely criticized when word got out that most of the people that signed had some sort of business relationship or employment with Squaw.

Things have taken a turn for the worse lately, and it’s becoming more clear that SVSH and it’s leadership team are not the community minded people that they would like us to think. Here’s some examples:

• Andy Wirth submitted a letter to the Placer County Local Agency Formation Commission questioning the incorporation effort, and attacking the intentions of the local community and their desire for local control. This creation of polarization between the corporation and the community is not representative of a community-minded individual.

• Mr. Wirth submitted a guest column to the Tahoe Daily Tribune titled “A Blinding Flash Of The Obvious.” While the letter attempts to support the athletes that signed that first letter, it instead turned into an ugly attack on David Brew, a Squaw Valley homeowner that simply chose to speak up. We agree that Wirth and the various parts that make up KSL Capital’s presence in Squaw Valley have been listening and offering some changes, at least up until now. Their actions tell us that they seem to be done listening.  Similar personal attacks were made this week on IOV Chair Fred Ilfeld in the CapRadio interview. Personal attacks on citizens in the local community? Something is wrong here.

10177251_509531695835525_2693451398022288090_n• The Save Olympic Valley campaign was launched, complete with a slick website. The website serves no purpose other than to spread disinformation about the incorporation of Olympic Valley, and question the motives of those that are involved in the  Incorporate Olympic Valley campaign. Who are these people? Here’s the statement from the site: “Save Olympic Valley is a local coalition of concerned residents, business owners, property owners, workers and others who have come together with Squaw Valley to ask the tough questions that deserve to be answered.” The only actual entity named on the site is the disclosure  statement “Paid for by Save Olympic Valley, with major funding by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC”  The IOV website clearly lists a Board Of Directors and states their connection to IOV. IOV holds public monthly meetings, that are well advertised, and open to anybody. What is SOV trying to hide?

• Save Olympic Valley has recently run full page ads in the Sierra Sun/Tahoe Daily Tribune, with the same rhetoric attacking the incorporation effort by IOV. Once again, these ads are “Paid for by Save Olympic Valley, with major funding by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC.” We think KSL may be afraid that an incorporation effort may actually be successful.

• Employees have been encouraged to attend an “All Employee Town Hall Meeting” next week to find out the latest plans for Squaw Valley. A couple of employees noted that those employees that were unable to attend have been directed to visit the the Contact Us tab at saveolympicvalley.org. Our question is whether or not Koolaid will be served at the meeting.

• In the March minutes of the Squaw Valley CAC meeting, Mr. Wirth states that KSL owned commercial tenants in the Village will be closed from April 28th until May 22nd for “May Away.” Merchants that are not KSL owned are encouraged to also close during this time. How are employees supposed to pay their rent and grocery bills that month? What sort of community support is KSL providing with this sort of leadership, which is clearly focused on protecting this season’s bottom line for KSL? Local business owners and their employees do not have a couple of billion dollars in the bank to survive what is a essentially a work furlough.

These are not the sort of actions that one would expect from a corporation that is truly trying to work with the community. We’re not alone in that assertion. Unbeknownst to us, the Tahoe Daily Tribune published a new interview with Dr. Robb Gaffney today. Gaffney recently announced his resignation as an ambassador to Squaw Valley. The TDT article has a fantastic quote from Gaffney. It says exactly what we’ve been feeling, and I had no idea Gaffney would say this:

“There’s been a really strong campaign by Squaw Valley Ski Holdings against the incorporation effort, and so for me, it’s one of those red flags when you see the developer actually fighting the community,” – Dr. Robb Gaffney

There’s one giant thing to remember in all of this. The private equity fund that KSL Capital is using to support Squaw Valley is reported to be somewhere between $1 to $2 billion dollars. Incorporate Olympic Valley is working hard to raise $115,000 to fund the incorporation process. Yes, it’s a David and Goliath battle. Our voices are being squashed, and fear is being used to scare people into supporting SVSH and KSL Capital. We suggest you look at information very closely and see who’s really being completely honest and open.

You can start with a great article posted today. MtnAdvisor.com posted the article “Behind The Incorporate Olympic Valley Movement.” The article provides a great Q & A format with IOV Board Member Jamie Schectman. It dispels a lot of the misinformation being spread by SOV. It does so by providing actual facts and expresses a tone that says that IOV would like to work with SVSH and KSL to arrive at a solution. We appreciate that IOV is fully committed to the community of Olympic Valley, a community which includes Squaw Valley, the mountain.

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We’re not anti-development at Unofficial Alpine. We have very clearly supported Troy Caldwell’s development at White Wolf, and also the proposed Alpine Sierra subdivision at Alpine Meadows. Squaw Valley is absolutely ripe for some new development and redevelopment, both on the mountain and in the Village. We support smart sustainable growth that is based on a healthy relationship between the corporate owners and the local community. We have no particular stake in Squaw Valley, and in fact, turned down advertising revenue from supporters of IOV. We believe in building strong communities that protect the future of sliding on snow for everyone.

Apr 17 2014

Andy Wertheim: Changing Seasons

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Hello Skiers and Riders,

Our seasons are changing.  Snow fields are receding from the hillsides (unfortunately very early this year), and yellow flowers are popping their heads up out of the ground.  Although ski season is not over yet, it is time to lift the paddle boards off their racks, clean the dust off the kayaks, inspect the soles of hiking shoes for tread, oil the mountain bike chain, and head for the driving range to tune up the swing.  The air is warm.  My heater is not cycling at night, and the sky is blue each morning.  Spring is in the air, the lake is low, but flat and begging to be ridden. 

At the ski area, morning runs have been good.  The groomers are smoothing out some runs at night making spring corn for the morning crowd.  I have not gotten out much this week, so I cannot give you accurate reports, but Tuesday morning we had a good time turning on some delicious corn.  However, off piste the snow was still decayed in many location.  Off piste had not transitioned from the last powder storm to smooth corn.  It was bottomless and pitted.  Temperatures have been hiking into the upper fifties during the day which makes for good sun bathing on the deck at lunch.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Lake++Tahoe

Apr 16 2014

Corn Harvest In Progress & A Schedule Update

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If we made any real money with this site, we would have to pay Valleygirl as an employee. Fortunately, like me, she is just really excited about keeping Alpine Meadows and sliding on snow alive. There’s more great pictures from Valleygirl today, as well as a couple of new scheduling notes. Here’s the pictures first:

Schedule Update

Beginning today, the lift schedule for Alpine and Squaw is 9 am til 2 pm daily. This may have caught some people off guard as it wasn’t really announced. It sure makes sense though, as not many people have been skiing or riding past the 2 o’clock hour. That said, the schedule is possibly going to be changing again, to the 8 am to 1 pm time frame. If things get warm over the next few weeks, the earlier schedule makes more sense. Given the frequent changes, it makes sense to pay attention to updates from Alpine Meadows via Twitter or Facebook.

Weather Update

The potential for rain in the short term forecast has been minimized. There’s now just a 20% chance of thunderstorms Friday. The low temperatures will be very near freezing. Let that corn cycle continue! It should be a great weekend ahead.

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Apr 15 2014

The Guys From The Alpine Meadows Big Mountain Team Share Their Spring Break Video

How did the guys from the Alpine Meadows Big Mountain Team spend their spring break? While some were bringing home medals at Nationals, some of the others were at home enjoying some powder days…and some goofy fun. Team member Eric Bourke describes it like this: “A fun edit made over spring break featuring Bennett Drummond, Turner Drummond, Jacques Fix, and myself. Full of pow, flips, crashes, and snowblading!!”

We have to warn you, it will make you laugh, a lot. But it will also make you dream of powder skiing again. Nice job Eric. Hopefully you’ll inspire a few more people to come on out and enjoy Alpine Meadows before it’s all over.

Not motivated to see the video yet? Idiots on snowlerblades? Yeah, it happened.

Apr 15 2014

Another Great Day At Alpine Meadows…We All Should Have Been There

While I had to go to work today, Valleygirl and friends made sure that someone was there to ski and ride at Alpine Meadows. There’s only 5 more midweek days to catch some of Tahoe’s best corn. We’ll fill you in on the latest Spring Schedule in a bit. Conditions were perfect today and Valleygirl’s pictures show it.

We’ve now seen or heard about three different spring operating schedules at SquAlpine. I loved the comment I saw over at EpicSki today, “Another possible Alpine schedule; best to have as many as possible, just in case.” Here’s what was posted today at the Spring Operations page.

 

  • Sunday, April 20, 2014 - 9:00am to 2:00pm
  • Friday, April 25, 2014 - 9:00am to 2:00pm
  • Saturday, April 26, 2014 - 9:00am to 2:00pm
  • Sunday, April 27, 2014 - 9:00am to 2:00pm
  • Friday, May 2, 2014 - 9:00am to 2:00pm
  • Saturday, May 3, 2014 - 9:00am to 2:00pm
  • Sunday, May 4, 2014 - 9:00am to 2:00pm

*All operations are weather and conditions permitting

Earlier this week, the operations into May were looking impossible. The PNA is trending negative and the GFS puts some light showers into the forecast through next week. Around 10 days out, we start seeing the potential for more significant snowfall. It doesn’t look like a huge dump yet, but it certainly would curtail the rapid melt off period we are currently seeing. Ideally we would want the cooler temperatures and not necessarily the new snow. Unless it was a huge powder dump, it really interferes with the awesome corn conditions. New snow rapidly gets sticky in the spring. We’ll be keeping an eye on the weather situation…

 

 

Apr 14 2014

The Best Season Passholder Party At Alpine Meadows In A Long Time

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We have to admit, we were a little bit apprehensive about how this thing was going to turn out. But tonight there was no doubt that there was plenty of soul left at Alpine Meadows. That soul lives in the mountain, in the people that have spent their lives on that mountain, and in the employees that worked tirelessly to make it all work. It totally worked at every possible level for the 2014 Season Passholder Party.

The registration process was fast and efficient, and registration continued right on up to 6:30. Somehow, between Facebook, our posts, Snowbrains,com and a last minute push message from the Alpine Meadows app, a solid crowd of Alpine Meadows faithful poured through the breezeways and loaded onto the Summit Chair. I heard one person guess 500 people were in attendance, but I think it’s probably quite a bit higher. It was tough to estimate, as the crowd spread all over the top of Summit.

The mountain top festivities included a fire pit (maybe more than 1?), some music, some hot chocolate, and a whole lot of smiles. My favorite of the evening was watching the smile of Alpine Meadows GM Scott Swietanski, looking out over the happy crowds atop the mountain. Plenty of people seemed to have smuggled some other beverages to the top, and that just seemed to add to the joviality of the evening.

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Moonrise to the east, sunset to the west

The sun and the moon were stunning, doing their thing right on schedule, around 7:25. While the sun set in the west over the Granite Chief Wilderness, the full moon rose in the east over Lake Tahoe. The photo opportunities were endless. Shortly after, patrol opened the fence, allowing people to do the twilight ski or board on the freshly groomed surface of Alpine Bowl back to the lodge. Others lingered near the top and found more creative lines down the hill. One group of friends staged a derby through Hot Wheels Gully, while another explored some different routes down Gunner’s Knob.

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The twilight descent begins in Alpine Bowl

The BBQ offered it’s typical menu, as did the Last Chair Bar. Plenty of people seemed happy with that offering, while others were content to sit around the fire on the Sun Deck and enjoy a beer or two. It was a lot of pure awesomeness.

We saw many people sporting the Alpine Meadows love tonight. There was logo wear all over the place. We loved that the registration table was offering awesome Alpine Meadows die cut stickers for everyone. Alpine Meadows has one of the most recognizable logos in the industry and we hope it never goes away!

Thanks to all of the Alpine Meadows employees that pulled together to make this event a reality. We know it required a huge effort from everyone. Seeing all of the smiles and that old Alpine Meadows vibe meant your efforts were totally worthwhile.

You can click on any of the pictures below to enter the gallery mode and see larger versions with captions.

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