You really don’t have to be a genius to figure out that today was going to be the beginning of a 4 day Martin Luther King Holiday. Check out your friend’s Facebook posts and Tweets and you will discover that many were heading to Tahoe early to avoid the crowds. All of the major media outlets in Sacramento and the Bay Area were delivering a message with a double meaning. One part of the message was that roads are a mess, the power is still out and maybe you should reconsider a trip to Tahoe for the weekend. The other message highlighted the 13+ feet of new snow in the Tahoe Basin from the last storm series. It probably even showed paid pros making beautiful powder turns in closed terrain. It’s not just SquAlpine that is guilty. They all do it. Which message do visitors hear? You know the answer.
So the lines were definitely long, as predicted, today. Certain runs got just a bit scary crowded, but not all of them. The coffers were filled at local resorts and businesses and that is an important part of living in a resort community.
Truth be told, a lot of people had a great time today. There were smiles all over the place and happy stories of the “best powder day ever” being told in the lodge today and in AirBnB homes tonight. So as a local, theres a couple of things you can do, and that would be to ignore the Twitter feed, as that will drive the crowds, and just do the opposite of everyone else. While the masses were amassing at Scott and Lakeview, I made quick laps on Roundhouse as soon as the line subsided around 9:30. There were very few rallying Dance Floor and Charity today, and with a little bit of line magic, you could move through pretty quickly.
Meanwhile, everyone else was fighting for the last shreds of powder on Scott and Lakeview. The snow there quickly turned into soft winter moguls, where many people were having the time of their lives, and that’s okay too.
There’s a lot of different strategies for staying out of the crowds on a big weekend, but we cannot share them directly with you, or those would not work any more. Today we noticed a lot of people pushing limits with patrol and hiking uphill to gain access to terrain before other people. It was the longest line I have ever seen hiking from Tiegel to Scott at 8:45. We saw a similar rush to get to Sherwood before it opened, with many hikers heading up Reilly’s Run. We don’t condone those behaviors. We were happy to see patrol make some of those people hike back out. The “real time communication” via the app or Twitter failed to communicate about the delay. The closure was not posted until 1 PM, an hour after the scheduled opening. There were repeated announcements from patrollers saying there was a mechanical delay, but unless you were right there, you missed it.
There were a couple of things contributing to lines today, besides the fact that the main lots basically filled by 9AM today. Summit never opened. A few days ago, a friend mentioned a Tonopah Low was setting up in Nevada, which can bring snow to the east slopes, as well as east winds that strip snow and close lifts. East winds ran around 80 mph at Summit today. The maximum east wind for Summit operations is generally less than 50 mph. That east wind also brought very poor visibility due to fog. All of the Tahoe mountains struggled with the east wind today. This is totally out of management’s control.
Sherwood did not open today as well. Management did have something to do with this issue. I’m not blaming lift mechanics at all…they just need more of them and more time allotted sooner for making sure the entire mountain is ready for the season. There is definitely a growing sentiment that there are far more maintenance holds on lifts than before Squaw Valley took over. I am not a lift mechanic and don’t pretend to be, but the problem with chair syncing that was described to me today was something that plagued Sherwood consistently last season. Hopefully tomorrow it will be available to take some of the load off other areas.
The second issue to bring up is that although lines appear really long, and some are too long, the problem has been made worse by the new line management strategy. The current diamond and funnel configuration leads to wasted space, lines that look longer and more people that end up exceeding the corral capacity. We’ve said it before, change for the sake of change is not always a good idea. The old system works just fine when Mountain Hosts are managing the queues. Most of them have gotten to be very good at it. Kate would be proud.
The ex-Science teacher in me wanted to do a simple analysis of what is going on. Here’s roughly what the new diamond and funnel looks like at Roundhouse:
Here’s the old system, which has worked for years and years:
The new system wastes a lot of space in the diamond and funnel zone. Fewer people can be contained within the corral. That means that the corals have to be made longer, and people have to walk farther to get in the corral. It’s very difficult to return to Roundhouse from the Tiegel area without coming in hot across the traffic. Most of the people in the queue today were forced to hold themselves in place because that hill is getting bigger. I rode Roundhouse a lot of times over the last two days, and I find that people behind me are constantly skiing up onto my tails. I really don’t care that much about my skis, but the people that I was riding up on seemed to get testy.
The older system allows for more space within the corral, and each queue is shorter. That keep guests from needing a “hill holder” feature, and makes the walk to get into queues shorter. It’s just better. I have mentioned that to multiple hosts and lifties and they have shared ideas with management, to no avail.
Sorry for the “bitch” but when SquAlpine wants to call themselves a world class resort, they should accept feedback from guests and employees. There is also the customer contact element of mountain hosts being very active with line control. Done respectfully, line control builds relationships with guests, and relationships are everything.
So…be the contrarian tomorrow and maybe shut off your Twitter feed. Look for opportunities to avoid the masses and your day should be a good one.