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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.

Andy Wertheim: Today Was A 9

Hello Skiers and Riders,

The powder has all been chewed up (at least most of it), but excellent cold skier packed powder exists on much of the mountain.  Soft skier packed bumps, a few untracked patches of nice left over powder, and sunny skies made the skiing today wonderful.  All major lifts at Alpine were open which made traveling around the mountain fun, especially with so many prior days when no much was available.

We skied D6, Pigmy Forest (under Alpine Bowl Chair), High Yellow, Chute That Seldom Slides, Gentian Gully, Sympathy, and a few runs off Lakeview.  With the visibility being very good, surface conditions like a good day in Utah, and the entire mountain open, plus a small crowd, I would give skiing today a 9.  If it had been a foot or so of light powder with the same size crowd, it would have been a 10.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Powder. He Gone.

It was another beautiful day at Alpine Meadows, as long as you were not still expecting to get much in the way of powder turns. Much of the mountain was groomed and that is where 95% of the people were skiing and riding today. For me, it was a day to enjoy a quiet, non-crowded day, relearning how to tele after a month of pure alpine turns.

Photo by Patty

Sure, there were some isolated places to get off piste. I noted some people had hiked to the summit of Ward Peak to catch those last few pow turns above the ABC lift shack. Another friend mentioned that they found good winter snow in Counterweight Gully, while another claimed he found sick powder by hiking out well past Grouse Rock.

We’re hoping with all of the lift ramps built and roads put in, that we see “grooming maximus” for the upcoming weekend, as that is where the true fun will be for the weekend. We also see that Alpine Bowl Chair is about dug out and we hope it also joins the weekend schedule. If we learned one thing this year, all weekends are crowded…

A Quiet Mid-Week Day At Alpine Meadows

After a busy day of double duty yesterday, it was abnormally quiet around Alpine Meadows this morning. With Squaw reopening today, we’re guessing that many people headed in that direction to find powder that remained untouched after yesterday’s closure. The atmosphere around Alpine was a little bit more dreary with a gray cloud deck and a chilly north wind that hung out through the day.

Just about everyone that was at Alpine today headed right to Sherwood, which hasn’t been open for a while. The pictures that Jim B. sent us yesterday certainly made me anxious to get out there. With just a little bit of sun exposure yesterday, the pure powder conditions suffered just a bit. On some exposures, that led to the powder getting a bit heavy with a little bit of crust from the overnight cold. That did not stop people from ripping big turns down South Face. Speed was an asset in the heavy pow, but that often lead to some entertaining tumbles.

Not all areas of the Sherwood side suffered from sun exposure. Changing your aspect or location just a bit could lead to nice soft powder turns. It was enough to keep me at Sherwood making hot laps all day. Sometime around 10:30, patrol opened access to High Traverse and reports from that direction were a lot of whooping and hollering. By noon, it was deserted all around the mountain.

Looking ahead…for tomorrow the clouds will return along with a chance of light snow flurries. An east wind is expected to strengthen Thursday night, with ridge winds expected to reach 40-50 miles per hour. That means it is quite possible that Summit will be starting the day on wind hold for Friday. Winds are expected to taper by the afternoon.

For the weekend, a strong inversion will develop, which should bring sunny and warm temperatures to the mountains while the valleys sit in the cold fog. Expect north facing slopes to be chalky winter snow. Exposures with more sun that are ungroomed will likely remain like a coral reef. If anyone tries to convince you that there’s still a lot of powder turns left for the weekend crowds, consider it “alternative facts.”

While most locals are enjoying this break from constant shoveling and snowblowing, there is another storm on the horizon. The models are beginning to come together with bringing a storm in next Wednesday, Feb. 1st through Friday, Feb 3rd. The models indicate that as much as 3-5 feet is possible, but those amounts are still a WAG this far out. There has been some discussion that this will be the start of another series of AR events, for now things still look cold enough to keep it all snow.

Both Howard at Mammoth and BA at Open Snow have discussed the possibility that February may set up just like January. A rex block could set up in the Gulf of Alaska, blocking storms initially…until the jet stream undercuts and the parade of storms returns. We’ll be keeping an eye on that situation…

Andy Wertheim: Close To Perfect

Hello Skiers and Riders,

On such a beautiful sunny day with trees laden with snow and mountains covered in a thick white blanket of deep light snow, an unfortunate incident occurred at Squaw Valley.  A ski patrolman died during avalanche operations.  Squaw Valley closed for the day which sent skiers to Alpine Meadows, which remained open.  The details of the death of the patrolman appear to have been from an explosives accident and not an avalanche.

Lines at Summit and Scott were long at times in the morning, but became minimal later in the afternoon.  Yesterday’s powder appeared to be lighter this morning as the cold overnight temperatures apparently dried the pack out.  All of the upper mountain was untouched and ready for the throng of skiers and riders waiting to deface it.  It did not take long for all the normal runs off Summit and Scott to turn from a smooth white face to a picture that looked more like a wrinkled hillside.

All of the mountain was open with the exception of Sherwood which did not turn today.  However, Lakeview opened for awhile sporting long lines, but broke down around noon.  This forced some people to walk out.  Many hiked up Reily’s Run for a powder run and to return via the road from Sherwood.  Evidently the lift started up again and then ended up shutting down causing some skiers to hike out twice.

What about the snow?  It was perfect.  Real light powder where we could find it.  Nice chop after it was skied out in many areas, and excellent skier pack when it was fully packed out.

We skied Scott Chute, Gentian Gully, Promised Land and Standard Run (see attached photos), as well as the trees between Lakeview Runs.  Palisades was filled with plenty of snow that was excellent soft pack created from slides that occurred during the week.  Although I did not get out to the further reaches, I did watch skiers and riders coming down Keyhole, High Yellow Face, Beaver, Estelle, Bernie’s Bowl and the Buttress.  It all looked great.  Skiing was awesome today.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Our photo selection tonight highlights the beauty of skiing. Thank you to the people that make it happen…

Our thoughts are with the Squaw Valley community tonight…

Contributions to the Patroller Joe Zuiches Memorial Fund can be made here.

Andy Wertheim: Epic

Hello Skiers and Riders,

There was another 2 feet of snow last night.  This time it was lighter and easier to handle.  The storm finally seems to be abating, as some blue sky is visible this afternoon.  A slide across Hwy. 89 between Alpine Meadows and Tahoe City closed the road for a time this morning.  You may have heard that two locals were stuck in the natural slide.  They were fine, but the road department feared additional natural slides so they closed the road until avalanche control could be completed.  Avalanche work also closed the main Alpine Meadows Road again this morning.

These two delays, plus the normal delays at the mountain created a perfect situation for those that were able to get to the mountain and wait for a lift to open.  It was after 11 before Roundhouse opened, but there was not much of a line, which made the wait worthwhile.  Roundhouse was again the top of the mountain.  Snow showers fells off and on during the morning and into the afternoon.

Given the amount of snow the ski area has had to deal with over the past week and the constant avalanche control that has been required I am amazed that any lift opened this morning.

The wait was worth it.  There were ew people and two feet of light powder.  Face shots all morning…yelping, thumbs up, yahoooo’s, and smiles were pervasive.  It was an epic morning as we were cutting fresh tracks until 2 in the afternoon.  Gunner’s Knob, Sympathy, God’s Knob, Fall Line, Yellow Trail, Tigel Chutes, and all areas between the top of Roundhouse and the Sister’s were exceptional.  It does not get much better.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Editor’s Notes: It would have been far easier for area managers to just say the resort was closed today due to the avalanche concerns, especially after the Highway 89 avalanche took many resources away from the mountain. They didn’t and we totally appreciated that. Andy did not note in his report that they also made a huge effort to get more terrain open today. They started setting up Scott around 1 pm…and unbelievably, they started setting up the Summit corral around 2 pm. There was some furious bombing going on through the early afternoon, and unfortunately the decision was made to not open those lifts. This gives the snow another chance to settle overnight, and also gives patrollers another round of bombing.

Given the demonstrated slide potential today, it was totally the right call. Right around 3:15 today, there was an inbounds slide below the Three Sisters that left a crown of about 4 feet and carried 3 skiers downslope. All were okay but it’s a big eyeopener to those that wonder why more terrain did not open today! The patrol response was reported to be ultra quick and efficient…after what has to be some of the longest days of their careers. Total. Heroes.

We also wanted to note that for the two guys that were trapped in last night’s avalanche, while their health is fine, their wallets are not. Their Subaru was left during the removal of avalanche debris. After being towed, they now owe a $55o impound fee to reclaim the vehicle. A GoFundMe page has been established here.

For tomorrow…more of the mountain should be open, especially over at Squaw. It was very crowded over there today so the skiing must have been excellent. Note to Andy…it’s “world class”, not “epic”. All photos are by Andy Wertheim