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Andy Wertheim: Great Weather & Excellent Skiing

One more shot from the weekend from Unpossible

Hello Skiers and Riders,

It is a fantastic blue bird afternoon at Lake Tahoe.  The morning began a little chilly with east winds blowing briskly over the ridge top forcing the closure of Summit Six.  Most north facing slopes remain soft winter pack with some south facing slopes having softened in the sun the last couple of days turning firm.  Skiing remains excellent in my view.  Trees branches remain filled with snow making for pictures of a true winter wonderland.

The fog we have experienced the past couple of days has dissipated leaving views of the deep blue waters of Lake Tahoe something to behold.  Today the crowd was smaller than over the weekend which is a blessing to locals. Both Squaw and Alpine will have awesome skiing for the next couple of days.

Click the link to read about a new listing in Alpine Meadows…

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The Weekend Storm Is Coming To An End

There’s no doubt that this holiday weekend may be one of the busiest weekends ever all across Tahoe. It’s just about over. From my perspective, with a second day of the flu, I’m quite jealous of my friends that are out there getting after it. The jammed parking lots are demanding earlier arrival times at the mountain. The longer lift lines are encouraging people to do a bit more adventuring. High Traverse did open today to facilitate that exploring. There’s not many other details for today’s report, but we did get a lot of nice photos from Unpossible.

Andy Wertheim: One Good Run And Lots Of People

Photo by Andy Wertheim

Hello Skiers and Riders,

Welcome to the great Sierra.  Bring you wallet and your snow riding equipment and a good book to read or listen to as you crawl toward a full ski area parking lot.  Yes, the parking lots are full.  We cannot handle anymore people with or without their cars.  This morning the shuttle from Squaw took over an hour to reach the lodge at Alpine Meadows.  Traffic was backed up to somewhere far from the lifts.  Long lines at the ticket booth, long lines at the base lift areas, and a long line to get a cup of coffee.

Yesterday, lines were long because lifts were not open.  Summit Six was on wind hold, ABC was buried, and Sherwood was not operating.  Yes, we have had a lot of snow, and yes roads are in terrible condition in many places and homes are buried in snow.  Of course, digging out a ski area is a huge job which is why the area was not prepared for the crowd that showed on Friday.  It was a full house.  No parking was available at Squaw or Alpine.  This created huge lines on all lifts.  Perhaps the worst was the line at Lakeview where everyone flocked to get first tracks to be followed by more good skiing at Sherwood.  Sherwood was on the schedule but never made it to operation.  Some people were stuck at the base of Sherwood for an extended time as they had skied over anticipating the noon opening only to find it was closed for the day.

Although the number of runs was limited yesterday do to lift closures and over crowding, the skiing was delightful.  Nice cold snow a few inches deep put smiles on most faces.  We missed the really good snow at the upper mountain because high winds whipped it around and stiffened it up.  It was not as easy to ski this morning as it was yesterday at least in most upper elevation areas of Summit Six.  Even the great skier pack that existed yesterday was more firm today.  Today the crowds came and the ski area packed them in, but all lifts were not running.

ABC is still buried.  Sherwood was not running in the morning and Lakeview broke down for an extended time in the late morning.  The good news was that the main lifts opened at 8:30 and we were there.  We skied around looking for soft snow.  High Yellow and below the Sherwood Cliffs provided some softer conditions.  The far north side of Wolverine offered a few reasonably soft fresh tracks early.  I guess I sound like I am complaining, but I am not really unhappy with the conditions.  There is a lot of snow and skiing is better than good.

I scratched my head around 11 in the morning giving thought to a run through Field of Dreams.  This is an “out of bounds” run from…location details redacted…. immediately found ourselves in another world.  Far from the crowd surrounded by bundles of snow stuck to tree limbs, sparkling fields of untracked snow, and light undisturbed powder.  We hiked to our starting point, took a minute to admire our surroundings, and then dropped into the trees leaving squiggles behind.  Darting between tree trunks, holding back smiles in open fields and ending with High Fives.  One run made the day. Photo attached.

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim

Editors notes: I redacted any details regarding the location of Field of Dreams. If you are considering going to some of Alpine’s side country, you must understand the risks involved. You should absolutely go with someone that knows the terrain and understand that a rescue from mountain staff will likely not be happening. We also encourage you and your squad to carry beacons, probes and shovels – and know how to use them.

Myself, I did not get out on the hill today due to a flu bug. It’s probably not a bad time to just hunker down at home and catch the next wave of storms later next week. – Mark

Friday Is The New Saturday

Another giant line at Roundhouse at 9 AM this morning

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.

The wait at Ray’s Rut…

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.

A-L-L-T-I-M-E!!!

Magical times in Gentian Gully this afternoon

I’m not the guy to throw that term around loosely. I know it seems like another ski blog uses that term at least once a week, but today was really “all-time” at Alpine Meadows. You ask, “How could it be an “all-time” day when it was only Roundhouse with a delayed opening?” Well, let us review the facts:

• Roundhouse and other lower mountain lifts opened right on schedule at 9 AM.

• When Roundhouse opened this morning, 12 people were standing in line. Yes, we said 12.

• Scott Chair, which was not even scheduled, opened at 1:20.

• When the Scott Chair opened, less that 40 people were in line. I counted. It was the only line I stood in all day. After that you basically could ski right through the RFID gate and wait just a few chairs.

The snow was definitely hero snow. Obviously ridiculous amounts of snow has fallen during the last storm cycle. The mountain is very filled in. You have to actively look for rocks and small tree tops. Most everything is now a blank wide open palette. Yesterday’s snow was totally base builder cement. The new light snow ranged from boot tops to knees, depending on location. That snow was just right. Another 8-10 inches fell over the course of the day, based on what was on my truck at 4:15.

Much of today’s traffic focused their early efforts on Sympathy Face, The Face and Waterfall. I did four laps through Yellow and saw a few other tracks but never once saw another skier or rider. I did entire runs through Gentian Gully in the afternoon without seeing another person between Broccoli Tree and the Subway Lift.

It’s going to be one of those days that many of us will continue to dream about, probably for years to come. Whatever mixture of elements in the universe came together to create this perfect day – I am all about that. Even though the trip home took 90 minutes in traffic due to spin outs and stuck vehicles on Highway 89, I still arrived home with a big perma-grin.

The amount of work required to get the mountain open after a four day closure was just amazing. Patrollers, lifties, mountain hosts, managers and hired extra help were digging out everywhere. The upper lift terminals were just buried, as were the Sun Deck and Chalet. Patrollers spent hours resetting ribbons and digging out and raising tower pads. A small group of people really appreciated everyones efforts to get as much mountain as possible open today! Many more people will appreciate your efforts over the next few days.

For those that are worried that we may have spoiled some secret and that we could have enjoyed another quiet day tomorrow…that won’t be happening. Truckee was jammed this evening and the early arrivals are definitely here already. Squaw will have major amounts of their mountain open tomorrow and most other resorts will be also getting back into gear. Curiously, the status of Alpine Meadows is completely unknown for tomorrow morning. I think I will find my “I believe” button, and just show up and hope for the best again.

Andy Wertheim: One Excellent Morning At Alpine

This is the first of two reports today…it was that good today…and Andy left too early.

Hello Skiers and Riders,

It is deep, very deep, along the roads, on the roofs of homes, and on the mountain.  It is still snowing rather hard at this time.  Wet snow that followed the heavy rains caused both natural and manmade avalanches in both Squaw and Alpine.  Both areas were closed for a number of days.  This morning they began to dig out and opened a few lifts at the base of Squaw and Roundhouse, Hot Wheels, and Meadow at Alpine.  The overnight snowfall that added another few inches to the pack was somewhat lighter.  It was not dry, but not soaking wet which is very difficult to move, plow, or shovel.  It is just heavy.  All of the heavy wet snow seems to have compacted and settled (this does not mean there is less of an avalanche danger).  It does mean skiing this morning was wonderful.  Powder turns in what I estimate to have been 6 inches to a foot of easy skiing snow were available all over the mountain.  Yes, there are cliffs to leap off, but early skiing obstacles are gone (this does not mean there are no obstacles poking out of the snow because there always are and always will be).

Roundhouse opened at 9. I arrived about a half hour later.  The place was basically empty.

I mentioned to one of the mountain hosts that I was late.  His response was that I should not worry as there were only 20 people ahead of me.  As it turns out there was not line at Roundhouse, even at noon.  Skiing was excellent.  I found fresh lines all morning including on Yellow Trail, Chicken Leg or Fred’s or whatever you call it, God’s Knob, Gunner’s Knob, Fall Line, Deer Camp, and High Yellow.  There is nothing like skiing in a storm with no wind in fresh powder with nobody pushing you from behind.  I enjoyed many good powder lines this morning, but the best line was at the base of Roundhouse.

A friend that I met at lunch mentioned he heard that the face of Red Dog and Exhibition slid naturally the other day.  This was a rather unusual occurrence and shows the danger from the existing snow pack.

 

Enjoy your day,

Andy Wertheim