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Lazy Laps As We Wait For New Snow This Week

What a difference a day makes. I left my house 2.5 hours later than yesterday and was still able to park in the very first part of Lot 3. I feel blessed to now be a part of the crowd that can make it happen mid-week. There was no rush to get out there onto a lift and when I did, it was a day of lazy laps and corduroy.

The weekend warm up definitely did a number on off piste runs, with the exception of pure north facing terrain that never sees the sun. So the groomers were “the thing” today and it was my game to find those last little bits of untracked corduroy. For the afternoon, I even ran a few laps on the Chair To Nowhere. Usually it’s a cold 13 minute ride. But today, the temperatures were in the high 40’s and that big ball of fire in the sky made it tempting to nap on the chair for each lap rather than catching up on email.

There’s one more day of spring-like conditions for Tuesday, which is not quite going to be enough time to get any good mid-winter corn development, Wednesday will bring some increasing clouds, cooler temperatures and a chance of dust on crust.

There’s a classic winter storm out there…just not real cold…

The real storm action is slated to move in overnight Wednesday and remain in place through late Friday. Here’s the Winter Storm Watch that was released today:

...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING THROUGH
FRIDAY EVENING ABOVE 7000 FEET...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN RENO HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM
WATCH ABOVE 7000 FEET, WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY EVENING
THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING.

* TIMING: SNOW WILL BEGIN TO MOVE INTO THE SIERRA LATE WEDNESDAY
  EVENING WITH PERIODS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW CONTINUING
  THROUGH FRIDAY EVENING.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS: 1 TO 2 FEET. LOCALLY HIGHER AMOUNTS ALONG
  THE SIERRA CREST.

* WINDS: SOUTH TO SOUTHWEST 15 TO 25 WITH GUSTS TO 45 MPH. SIERRA
  RIDGE GUSTS OF 80 TO 100 MPH.

* SNOW LEVELS: STARTING AROUND 6000 FEET WEDNESDAY EVENING, RISING
  TO 7500 FEET THURSDAY. SNOW LEVELS WILL FALL TO AROUND 6500 FEET
  FRIDAY.

* IMPACTS: TRAVEL WILL BECOME DIFFICULT DUE TO SNOW COVERED ROADS
  AND LOW VISIBILITY ACROSS SIERRA PASSES. AVALANCHE RISK IS
  LIKELY TO INCREASE AS WELL WITH DANGEROUS CONDITIONS FOR BACK
  COUNTRY ACTIVITIES.

You should definitely note the possibility for high winds on Thursday and Friday. In our ongoing mission of education, it would be reasonable to expect holds on the upper mountain if ridge winds are anywhere near 80-100 mph. You also may note the possibility of snow levels near 7500 feet for Thursday, which would lead to some very soggy ski conditions. You may want to consider that as a day to curl up with a good book in front of the fireplace. With snow levels at 6500 feet on Friday, it would be reasonable to guess that this will not be the light powder dump that will be advertised by TV media. It should do a good job at refreshing the base and covering moguls.

The GFS is looking a bit more optimistic over several runs today that the WSW would indicate. Image via TwisterData.com

The Plight Of The Weekend Skier

It was yet another über busy weekend. How many has it been in a row? I’m going to make a guess and say ever since mid-November. Have you looked at the forecast for this week? Snow is expected for Thursday and Friday, and a good amount of it. Then the weekend will be bluebird skies again. Can you guess what will happen next weekend? Then we drop into the February holiday season…oh boy.

We’ve mentioned several times through this season that Friday is the new Saturday, and that all weekends have become 3 day weekends. We discovered a new tool available from Google Maps that supports that idea. Similar to the way that Google crowdsources data to develop traffic maps, they apparently have been using that technology since 2015 to determine when popular attractions are most popular. Since that data has been collected, Friday appears to be just about as busy as Saturday at Alpine Meadows, even more busy than Sundays. For now, it only shows data during a business’ stated open times. We would expect that the bars start getting pretty tall around 7:30 am on weekends these days.

The most often proposed solution proposed is to just not ski on weekends. That might work out great if you have no job or have plenty of job flexibility. But for your typical family with kids, and parents with 9-5 jobs, it is not a real solution. Having just finished more than 30 years as a public school teacher, it is no picnic to miss a day of school – whether you’re sick or have powder fever, making lesson plans for a sub is more work than just going to school in the first place. While I am now free from that burden myself, my wife continues to teach. Since I enjoy skiing with her, I’ll continue coming to Alpine Meadows on weekends. Watching the interactions of families at Alpine Meadows for the different kids ski events this weekend was just awesome. The bringing together of families is what makes sliding on snow such an awesome sport.

Image via FastSkiers.com

Something has to change, because people are beginning to joke about just throwing weekend slumber parties in Locker Room #3. While that might be fun for the first night, it is not a long term solution.

We’re just throwing out some ideas that have been popping up around here:

• Pass sales must be limited to some reasonable number that is supported by available parking and transportation. That does mean that pass prices would likely increase, as with any commodity that is available in a limited supply. It’s the way resorts have operated for years. Interchangeable passes between resorts also leads to a lot of unpredictability in the system, which makes parking and traffic management a major headache.

• No new construction should be approved that does anything to increase traffic in the area, until appropriate solutions to transportation issues can be resolved. The problem is that every developer promises that somehow their proposal will reduce traffic. Most of the time, it won’t, because people don’t stay in one place. Tahoe is an amazing place, and people want to explore.

• Some sort of workable public transportation system is needed and everybody needs to work together to make it happen. It just seems ludicrous that a huge transportation center was constructed at 64 Acres in Tahoe City, meaning that visitors have to drive past nearly every major resort to park their car and ride a bus. Unfortunately, every major ski area in North Tahoe is located in Placer County or the State of Nevada, and most of the traffic problems begin along Highway 80 in Nevada County. Squaw Valley, during the approval process for the Village project disavowed responsibility for solving the areas transportation problems. We all need to work together for real solutions.

We would love to hear your thoughts…

Andy Wertheim: Beautiful Sunny Day

Quite the view from Alpine Bowl this morning…photo by Mark

Hello Skiers and Riders,

Parking lots appeared to be pretty full again today.  Commute times were again long.  People seem to be trying to get to every ski area earlier and earlier just to find a parking space. A friend mentioned that the parking area at Northstar was full at 8:30.

However, I found that the mountain was not overcrowded at Alpine this morning.  I arrived late (a friend dropped me off).  The lines were not excessive at any lift (perhaps there were fewer people at Alpine today).  I skied Lower Beaver, Peter’s Peril, Sun Bowl from the High Traverse, Expert Short Cut, and Gentian Gully.  I was basically alone on each of this slopes which was a bit of a surprise.  Sun Bowl was not really very good.  The terrain had been skied, but not enough to create skier pack.  It was made up of last weeks powder that had been sun soaked with multiple skier tracks crisscrossing the slope.  It was not firm, so it was not very difficult to ski, but it was not longer cold snow or chalky skier pack.  The rest of the slopes I skied remained filled with cold snow and chalky skier pack.

There were quite a few people on the lodge deck and sitting at the Ice Bar enjoying a lovely, warm January day.  I think we are in for a few warm days this week before the next storm rolls in on Wednesday and Thursday.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Editor’s Note: We had the same experience as Andy. It seems like everyone is now leaving much earlier just to make sure they get parking and don’t get told to go home. Today the lots were all full before 9:30 AM. So overall skier numbers may not be the biggest ever, it’s just that crunch to get there all at once. That crunch continued to be worsened today by the different comps still being held on the mountain, and all of those kids in competition needed to be “on time” for their events. 

The heat yesterday and today was beginning to take it’s toll. As an example, Gentian Gully was not very pleasant anymore and neither were the isolated powder patches we were finding yesterday. During today’s mid-afternoon sun, the snow got clumpy and grabby in spots with a lot of sun. There also appeared to be more skiers on the hill and in lift lines today. Small moguls appeared in several well traveled groomed runs today. We ended up just spending much of the afternoon enjoying the big mountain competition on High Yellow. 

Traffic out of Highway 89 was unpleasant this afternoon and Highway 80 is nearly at a standstill through the Yuba Gap this afternoon. Ouch.

Catching the sunniest part of the afternoon near the big mountain comp on High Yellow. Photo by Mark

Everybody, And Their Grandma, Went Skiing Today

West River Street in Truckee at 7:30am

When the main lots are filled by 8:30 AM on a non-holiday weekend, it’s going to be a busy day around Alpine Meadows. But we already knew that, as we ran into serious traffic along West River Street in Truckee at 7:30 AM. The lots were completely full at both Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley shortly after 10 AM. Did that stop people from coming? No, when we left around 1:00 PM today, the traffic coming into Squaw Valley was still backed up for several miles on Highway 89 toward Truckee. Roseville, we have a problem, if you know what I mean.

The traffic still trying to get to Squaw Valley around 1 PM this afternoon.

Just how many freakin’ passes did these guys sell this year?  –  Mark at UnofficialAlpine.com

Employees must have been directed to mention that there were several special events on the schedule at Alpine Meadows today, as they all mentioned it right away. Races were held on Kangaroo and Yellow, while the big mountain competition continued on High Yellow. You may have noticed where kids’ racing is involved, the whole family comes along, even the grandparents that might take one run and then hang out in the lodge the remainder of the day. Yeah, the lodge and food services were all a madhouse today. Somebody was raking in the dough today for sure.

Now all of that is off my chest, let’s talk about the skiing. With the mountain at 120% open (alternative facts), there was plenty of space to spread out today. If you knew where to look, it was easy to just avoid lift lines and people. Unfortunately, we won’t be sharing those locations with you. You have to get creative yourself. We did head right to Sherwood this morning and stayed only until Jim arrived to do line control, indicating it was time to move on. After that, we didn’t stand in a line the rest of the day, and had some runs completely to ourselves. You could completely forget it was a very busy day until you rounded the corner anywhere near the lodge or the Summit lift and said “Holy ^&*@”.

North facing pitches are still nice and chalky winter snow. We even managed to find some short patches of powder turns today with zero hiking. The groomers were also totally on point today and very fun for ripping big arcs, as long as you stayed away from the main runs. Some of those runs looked just as busy as Highway 80 will look tomorrow evening.

As some other people have pointed out, we have reached a tipping point in Tahoe. The carrying capacity is routinely being exceeded…not just on holiday weekends, but every weekend. Something needs to change. You can’t just keep selling a million season passes and then turning people away and telling them “Sorry, the park is closed.”

Andy Wertheim: Development In Alpine Meadows

The proposed White Wolf development (2015 rendering)

Hello Skiers and Riders,

It was another beautiful morning at Alpine Meadows.  Nice groomed runs and plenty of skier packed powder. Most of the snow is still cold and soft.  There were not many people at the area, so lines did not exist.

Another local development plan has been presented to Placer County.  Perhaps some of you will be excited by the proposed development of property known as White Wolf.  This is proposed to be a private 38 lot subdivision with lodge, clubhouse, tennis court, ice skating rink, and ski lift with access to KT22.  The property is located north of the Alpine Meadows Road.  Existing lift towers have been in place for a number of years, but the lift has never been completed.  The obvious idea of this development is to have direct access to both Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley with “ski in” and “ski out” homesites.  It all sounds exciting.

Unfortunately, as a long time resident of Alpine Meadows I must show my opposition to this proposed development.  One of the most beautiful and enchanting views available in Alpine Meadows is of the steep granite walls located on this property.  Views of these granite walls is most dramatic when hiking up the Five Lakes Trail.  In addition, they grow up out of a lovely valley (Catch Valley) also visible from the Five Lakes Trail which has become one of the most used trails in the Tahoe Area.  This development will impede views of a nearly pristine environment visible from an historical trail that has been in use since the 1800’s.

Roads and homes, no matter how inconspicuously they may be designed will destroy a major portion of the enjoyment currently available to hikers.  This is also an entry trail to the Granite Wilderness.  Walking along a trail that abuts a subdivision on the way to a beautiful wilderness is just not necessary.  When are we going to stop destroying our environment.

Must every mountainside, riverbank, and lakefront be developed?  In my opinion, this property should be public open space and not developed at all.  Oh, I forgot that much of this land is in avalanche paths.  You can engineer a building to withstand an avalanche, but you cannot stop the inevitable damage to property and human beings who drive up a road that has had deep natural slides cross its path or bury people out for a walk, snowshoe, or sledding down a hill in the back yard.  This development is located in a dangerous area of Alpine Meadows.  We should learn from past mistakes.

Placer County approved homesites along the main Alpine Meadows Road many years ago that should have been recognized as being in an avalanche prone location.  If it was not known when the original development was proposed, it is now.  Homes and cars have been hit and damaged many times by both natural and man induced snow slides in the past years.  These properties should not have been approved, but they were, and now we deal with it the best we can.  Someday someone will have a terrible end to their life while unloading groceries, walking their dog along the main road on a nice moonlit night, or just driving up the road.  I hope this never happens, but the danger exists.  We now have knowledge and should not build homes and develop property in or near avalanche prone areas.  Here’s a copy of the White Wolf proposal for any of you who are interested in reviewing it.

There are currently two proposed developments in Alpine Meadows both requesting permission for 38 homesites.  The second is the Alpine Sierra subdivision, which is just east of the Subway parking area and White Wolf.  Personally I would rather have 76 condominiums constructed in the existing Subway parking area which could be “ski in” and “ski out”.  They would be on existing destroyed land.  I do not want to see a village or commercial development at the base of Alpine Meadows Ski Area, but I rather see some development at the base of the ski area then see these developments constructed on such special and beautiful lands.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Editor’s note: We will likely be taking a closer look at the White Wolf proposal in the near future as it will tie in with the Base 2 Base Gondola proposal…

Editorial: Wow Squaw Valley. Just Wow.

Well, one thing is for sure. Squaw Valley knows how to divide a community. A controversial post appeared on the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Facebook page today titled “An Open Letter To Our Small Corner Of The Internet…” It’s a “love it or hate it” letter. The TL;DR is that they expect only stoke to be posted on their social media pages. Negativity and criticism will no longer be tolerated and may cause users to be banned. And, by the way, poor us.

Who’s likely to love it? (and there is no shortage of these people)

  • People who ski at Squaw Valley one week a year
  • People that have had their helmet signed by Jonny Moseley or once rode a chairlift with JT Holmes and are now starstruck
  • People that stop and take Instagram selfies at the Olympic flame on Highway 89
  • People that will continue to profit from over-growth at SquAlpine
  • Some employees at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Who’s likely to hate it?

  • People who ski at Squaw Valley or Alpine Meadows more than 7 days a year
  • People who have been around long enough to really notice the differences since KSL came to town in 2010
  • People who are pissed off about the hostile takeover of Alpine Meadows by Squaw Valley
  • People who are angry that Squaw Valley spent nearly a million dollars to stop the incorporation of Olympic Valley, taking control away from locals and keeping it in the hands of Placer County supervisors that live 100 miles away
  • People who have worked tirelessly to get meaningful reductions in the proposed Village At Squaw Valley project that is being rammed down our throats, against the will of the community, and who are also likely to oppose the proposed Base 2 Base gondola project
  • Some employees at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Are you intrigued now? Here’s a copy of the post:

 

 

 

 

Hey, it’s your Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows family.

When we first started hanging out on the internet together, things were fun. We had a great relationship. You share your good times with us and we share ours with you.

At some point that got lost. This little bubble of ours stopped being fun. All the sudden our social community became a black hole for negativity. It became a place for trolls and haters to hide behind a keyboard and bash our family. And that’s not cool with us anymore.

We want to remind you why WE’RE here in this funny little corner of the internet. Because the act of sliding down snow is fun. Skiing IS fun. Snowboarding IS fun. We want to share our favorite moments with our adoring fans just as we hope you want to share your good times with us: that season you worked here in ’71, your kickass turns down Chute 75, your kids first turns on Bailey’s Beach. Yeah, those times. We love you passionate skiers and riders. And above everything, we at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will continue creating moments and memories with you and your family. To this we are 100% dedicated.

So here’s where we stand. This social network we built is our home. And it was built for a place to share stoke. When you choose to visit our home, you don’t have to agree with everything you see and you can choose how you interact with it, but if you rant, spew hatred or bully our family and friends in our home we will break up with you. This behavior will no longer be tolerated.

Another friendly reminder (in case you forgot) is we are people who work here. Not robots. Not suits. Not invisible. We are community members that are passionate about sliding down snow. We are just like you! We come to work every single day giving 110%. Why? Because we have passion. Passion for our home, passion for skiing and snowboarding. Remember that all of those team members out on the mountain are human. Just like you. And it is those individuals, with collective knowledge of hundreds of years of combined experience, that open these magnificent mountains.

While the logistics of operations are tremendously complex, one thing is simple. If terrain can safely open, as deemed by Patrol, Lift Mechanics, Groomers and other mountain operation folks, it opens. Team members out on the mountain always are in the best position to use their professional discretion to assess lifts & terrain. Decisions about when to open, and what to open, do not originate in an office or a board room. They originate with the patrol leaders for terrain, and with the lift mechanics for lifts, based on the most up to date information, on the mountain. You would not want it any other way. Safety and readiness guide the actions of patrol and lift maintenance, not management directives about when to open terrain. There is simply no other narrative. There’s no such thing as money hold. There’s no such thing as holding terrain. If the hard-working and professional men and women out on the mountain call in and say terrain can open, we open. If they say it cannot open due to conditions or weather, or other factors, we don’t open. When we say that terrain is “scheduled” it is not a guarantee that the terrain will open; it is a promise that we have brought the staff and material that is necessary to open and operate that terrain, if it becomes safe and possible. Lifts are closed or taken off the schedule when we have assessed that operations won’t be safe or possible.

After this massive 23 foot storm, can we all take a step back from our keyboards and phones and remember why we’re all here? Why are YOU here? We only come back to one thing: the simple fact that skiing and snowboarding here is FUN. We hope you agree. We look forward to sharing the stoke with you here, and at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

As of this writing, that post has generated more than 220 comments, and hundreds of additional replies to the comments. In summary, it’s a war out there. In the words of Edwin Starr, it’s good for absolutely nothing.

Although Squaw Valley is quick to focus on negativity over the last month, during which 23 feet of snow has fallen and a patroller lost his life, there is much more to it. The reality is that people have been frustrated far longer than just during the month of January 2017. The bigger reality is, frustrations at Alpine Meadows go back to JMA ownership and even POWDR Corp. ownership.

There’s not any doubt that although pass prices are cheap, everything else has gotten much more expensive. Lines are longer, traffic is much worse, there’s essentially no Alpine Meadows specific activities any more (other than waiting for the Snow Golf Tourney in April)…the list goes on and on. We’ve been writing about it since 2008 (yes, three years before KSL was at Alpine). Personally, I would love it if all we ever had to do was present stoke and positivity here at Unofficial Alpine…if only every day was a powder day with no lines and 100% of lifts operating. It doesn’t happen that way. Not for any ski resort, much less for any business, of any type, anywhere.

The reality is that we live in a world where it is really easy to share information. It’s not just Facebook…it’s a world of Yelp, TripAdvisor, Tinder, RateMyTeacher…the list goes on and on and on. In this world of instant feedback, you have two choices: listen and learn, or get overly defensive and threaten your customers. Today, Squaw Valley chose the low road and started threatening customers with banning them from their social media pages if they post anything that is not positive stoke. They also went so far as just telling people to go ski a different mountain. I am sorry, that is not how you build a positive relationship within your community and customer base.

I wish I could say that this was just an isolated moment of bad judgement from Squaw Valley. It’s not. In the last couple of days, two other people have shared similarly disturbing e-mail communications from Squaw Valley.

I know I am truly appreciative for every bit of work done to keep SquAlpine open throughout every season. There are many employees that are doing everything that they can to make it work. There’s also plenty of employees willing to share that they’re sometimes forced to do it with a hand tied behind their backs. In publishing this post today, we intend no disrespect to anybody that is employed by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows in any capacity. We just hope they can treat all of their customers with the same respect. It’s a two way street.

I love Alpine Meadows. I don’t want to just go somewhere else….and neither do many other people. Thanks for listening Squaw Valley.