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.

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.

Apr 13 2014

Sssshhhh! There’s A Passholder Party, But SVSH Really Would Prefer That Nobody Came

First off we’re super stoked that someone within the KSL organization thought it was a good idea to throw a real passholder appreciation event this year. It’s nice to see that some thought went into something that offers a bit more than a chance for people to buy one more overpriced resort meal and beverage. Kudos to the concept.

We can’t help but notice that it seems as if SVSH doesn’t really care about the event. We only accidentally ran across the event while trolling the Alpine Meadows website for information on closing dates and a spring operations schedule. That resulted in our posting the article titled “Stoke Meter At 11″ article last week.

When I had not heard anything more about the party by Friday, I asked about the status on Alpine Meadows Facebook page, which resulted in this minimal post by some SquAlpine employee:

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There have been no further details posted on the event page, nor an email blast letting people know about the event.

So today, we took a little side trip to the Special Tickets office at Alpine Meadows to sign up for the event and ask some questions. The lack of customer service displayed by the Squalpine person was exceeded only by my last trip to Special Tickets, where the same person was equally unhelpful and surly. When we asked about signing up for the event, she reported curtly that registration for the event was only available from 9:30 until 5:30 tomorrow. When I pointed out that many of us do have to work during those hours, she stated that “it was the rule” and remained completely non-apologetic about it. She offered no explanation other than “the policy” and she had to stick to it. When I asked to talk to the manager, she was reported to be “on the phone.” I said I would wait, and she blindly stated “She might be on for 30 minutes or more”, without even checking. So instead I asked to talk to the Mountain GM, Scott Swietanski. The response? “He doesn’t manage this office.” Therein lies the problem. Customer service has never been a high point at Squaw Valley, has it?

So the event is limited to 2000 attendees…and maybe 300 of them will actually be at the mountain tomorrow. Wouldn’t it be great to see a line of 1,500+ people, all trying to register for the event at 5:20 pm tomorrow, after rushing to Alpine Meadows, after leaving work early. I know I am feeling totally appreciated this afternoon!

The rumors have been confirmed. KSL is killing off the Alpine Meadows logo and identity, starting now. We encourage you to let them know you are not happy with the Squalification of the mountain. We saw plenty of people that sported their Alpine logo wear this weekend. I got compliments from many employees today. You had better figure out who those employees are and fire them Andy! In the meantime…you should proudly display your love for the Alpine Meadows brand tomorrow…if you can find a way to register for the event that they want nobody to attend.

The official eat crow statement: Yes, it all turned out just fine. The event was fantastic. Check out our post from after the event. Clearly, many Alpine Meadows people worked really hard to make it all work. In particular, the registration effort was fast and efficient. People were allowed to register in the breezeway right up until 6:30 pm.  Could communications have been better before the event? Well that is still a resounding yes. Thanks to everyone at Alpine for making it right.

Apr 13 2014

A Slow Sunday

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Dance Floor at 1 pm today. Not very crowded. A $99 spring pass would change that!

As predicted, this Sunday turned out to be pretty slow. The snow itself was only slow after 1 pm. Things started off firm and slick, with a hard freeze last night for the first time in several days. While this left things pretty chattery initially, it really improved the off piste skiing situation today once things started to soften.

We started to see some significant reductions in terrain today:

• Sherwood never opened today, and therefore, neither did High Traverse. It’s a actually quite a miracle that they opened it yesterday. Sorry if you missed your chance.

• Scott was on the schedule today but closed pretty early on. Sleds and signs were once again removed. It made sense, as there just wasn’t much there.

• Grooming was quite a bit more limited. After first, we just attributed it to staffing and operations reductions, but a closer look revealed that some runs are starting to have some significant obstacles to grooming. This seemed to be the case for Sunspot, Ladies Slalom and Yellow. Once these runs softened up, they were still good. Corn slush bumps on Sunspot may be just as fun as high speed arcs down a groomed Sunspot.

The real slow part was the lack of people on the hill. This was the first weekend after the end of seasonal teams. Having been a team parent, many of them were probably ready for a break, especially those that have been doing the weekend commute since December. But we also heard some people complaining about day ticket prices. Squalpine is no where near full operations, yet they are still charging a full $114 for day tickets. We’re pretty sure that SVSH (as well as Vail) is trying to push people into buying passes for next year.

The thing is that spring time is a great time to attract some new people to the sport. Corn snow and warm temperatures do a lot toward keeping families happy. Previous owners of Alpine Meadows did a great job of attracting people in the spring with cheaper day tickets or a cheap spring pass. This year, it almost seems as if Squalpine is using expensive tickets to minimize spring skier days, justifying a shorter spring season.

Conditions are deteriorating rapidly on the lower mountain. We’re starting to see skid marks and puddles near the base area today. As we already reported, rocks are appearing on lower mountain, both on the groomers and off piste. Even the off piste areas up top are starting to show some teeth. Although Alpine currently states operations are currently planned as far as May 4th, we think that the “weather and conditions” permitting clause may be enacted. The forecast does not hold any hope for snow, rain, or significantly cooler temperatures over the next two weeks. Get it while you can!

Unpossible takes some final turns in Tiegel Chutes.

Unpossible takes some final turns in Tiegel Chutes.

Apr 12 2014

Soft, Silky, Soupy

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Those are all words that describe the conditions at Alpine Meadows today. With no freeze on the upper mountain last night, things started off smooth and silky right away. By 10 am, many areas of the mountain were already soupy.

We did one warm up lap and headed immediately to High Traverse. CB’s offered perfect snow at 9:20. We traversed through the trees over to SP Bowl and found snow that was already super soft. Staying out in the open, where the snow had a chance to consolidate, offered the best conditions. The return to Sherwood is rough at best, and you have to get creative to find a continuous path to the lift. There is pretty much no doubt that Sherwood will be done tomorrow. We took a bonus lap on South Face, where we found a smooth continuous line west of West Gully. The turns were smooth but super slow and sloppy.

We kept experimenting with some different places today, but kept returning to the groomers, where the compacted surfaces slushed up pretty nicely. Off piste turns were best in Palisades, Peters Peril and The Face. Weasel, Charity and D8 offered the smoothest groomed surfaces.

The Sherwood & Scott spring switch took place today. It seemed pretty pointless. Sherwood closed around noon, and Scott was opened. We took some afternoon laps on Scott and saw maybe four other people doing the same. The Ridge run barely goes. Sneaker lines on Bobby’s were like glue. The Promised Land and Scott’s Chute barely go. There just wasn’t much of a point of running Scott today. It would have made far more sense to open ABC in the afternoon. That allows skiers and riders to stay on the upper mountain and avoid the sticky conditions at he base. With the nice park built below Palisades, park laps would also be a lot easier…we keep saying it. Maybe some day it will happen.

Snow golf was busy. Sadly, we skipped it today. We were intent on getting as much skiing in as possible and planned to play a bit later when it got sticky. We were too late to join the fun. This year’s course broke from tradition and was mostly located on Terry’s Return. There were plenty of players, many costumes and many smiles. Will the tradition last another year?

Sambada…yeah, we missed that too. The music hadn’t really got going, that we heard, when we left at 2. When we left the parking lot was half empty. It never was really full but there was a pretty big exodus to check out the Cushing Crossing.

There’s still some wind in the forecast tomorrow, but the highs have been bumped up to 51. We’re guessing that it’s going to be pretty empty around Alpine Meadows tomorrow…probably the last call for Sherwood and Scott.

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