Saturday, April 18, 2009

skiing: Squaw Valley lies about ski lifts

Here's Squaw Valley USA's lift map. Looks great, dozens of lifts. But if you visit Squaw Valley on a weekday, I guarantee many of those lifts will not be running. I never saw Olympic Lady, Cornice II, Newport, or Mainline run, and Searchlight/Exhibition only ran when the upper mountain was closed. Squaw One Express never ran. You could argue that all this terrain is reachable from other lifts, but as I wrote that stiffs intermediates who can't ski the black diamond runs down to Newport and Squaw One's terrain.

Squaw Valley Ski Corp only ran Solitude once when they thought Shirley Lake Express was broken, which is absolutely shameful; it's a big chunk of terrain that you can't reach from other lifts. Some weekdays they didn't run Far East Express, also cutting you off from skiing huge areas.

Squaw's cop-out "All operations are subject to weather conditions" is a lie. All the lifts I mention above were on "money hold" on weekdays throughout the 2008-2009 season, I paid $850 for a mid-week pass, run the damn lifts you cheap bastards.

To complete the list, Broken Arrow and Silverado rarely run but that terrain does get patchy coverage and ski patrol does have to close the lifts.

Squaw Valley USA is an amazing ski area, six peaks and long ridge lines crammed into one valley, but it's doing worse and worse in ski area ratings.

Labels: ,

skiing: Squaw stiffs intermediates

Squaw Valley Ski Corp are tight-fisted jerks who don't run many of their ski lifts, putting them on "money hold". Their excuse seems to be that if the terrain is reachable, why run a second lift. So lifts like Cornice II and Olympic Lady never run except on a packed holiday weekend, because you can reach the terrain from KT22 or Headwall.

But those are expert lifts to the top of steep peaks! Just because an advanced skier can ski over to the terrain doesn't help an intermediate. Here's a poor photo of Newport on a powder day.
the rollers under Newport - intermediate paradise, but unreachable
The terrain under the Newport chair should be intermediate paradise. Wide, lovely, undulating; a nice break from endlessly lapping the Gold Coast six-pack (from which I took this photo). But the only way to get to it is to ski the face of Siberia (the chairlift visible above it that crosses over it, a hard black diamond run.

It's really sad on a powder day with fresh snow such as when I took this photo. This is perfect terrain to get the experience of surfing the white gravity wave, and experts leave it alone as it isn't very steep. But intermediates can't get to it. So they ski around the overtracked Gold Coast intermediate terrain, and (unless they have a local like Alberto Spagetti to take them into the trees and hidden powder stashes), they wonder what the fuss over "virgin pow!" is all about.

Squaw One Express is another lift from which advanced intermediates can access a nice chunk of terrain. It's also great on powder days, a convex dome above the Mountain Run. It too rarely runs. Bastards.

Labels: , ,

Saturday, March 22, 2008

skiing: Advanced Ski Clinic

I took the Squaw Valley Ski School's recent three-day Advanced Ski Clinic, with Dan Ray, Tim Reeve (the two top instructors with whom we had private lessons last year), and Jim Moore. I kept a lid on the pernicious rumors that I'm a former ski instructor myself; skiing isn't a sport you master, it's a sport in which you progress, and like most skiers expert tuition accelerates my progress. My group of 3-5 skied with Dan Ray. Ahh I remember back when he was a kid hucking technical lines between ski lessons.

Here are the instructors scoping out a steep firm icy chute under Olympic Lady chair (off KT-22) for our video capture.
looking down into a chute under Olympic Lady off KT-22
A big part of the clinic is daily video recording, with review at lunch and further review in the evening. At advanced levels this is incredibly useful, because all skiers need to be more forward yet most skiers think they are pretty forward, until they see incontrovertible video evidence of themselves in the back seat/on the toilet/riding the backs of their skis. At expert level video review is less useful because the focus is on moving your hips and upper body down the hill/into the new turn/across your skis; you don't need video to know you haven't got that subtle complex motion right and you would need an overhead tracking camera to best capture the movement. The video showed my hands rising way up away from the snow instead of a tight reach downhill, I had no idea I was doing this.

Here's Dan on Dead Tree, also off KT-22. Also pretty steep.
Dan Ray on Dead Tree run off KT-22
I would have liked to ski even harder terrain, such as the entrance to Dead Tree or hike somewhere, but that's a lot of pressure on the instructor—one participant falls and the day is over. Once we reached easier terrain Dan skied ridiculously fast. I could keep up with him for one flat-out run but then the little speedometer in my brain would flash red and I'd scrub off speed. Skiing fast recalibrates your skiing.

Three days with a great skier full of technical expertise who loves to ski, what's not to like?

Even though I didn't master the hip move downhill into the new turn, I improved. My goal was not to shred my skis and while working on other things that problem cleared up.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Squaw Valley: Northern Lights chili

There aren't many deals in Squaw Valley U.S.A., home of the $9 sandwich. But the $6 chili from Northern Lights in the Olympic House is one of them.
Alan serving his chili at Northern Lights in Olympic House at Squaw Valley U.S.A.
Proprietor Alan serving his delicious concoction.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

snow: lots

There was a lot of snow in January and February.
big iciclesThis is a second floor window, those icicles are over 5 meters long!
dog in snowTall snow banks, they got even taller.

Labels: ,

Saturday, January 28, 2006

snow: shockingly pleasurable

Cold and snowing. Down Red Dog, hard left under the top of Far East Express lift, take a line down into the trees next to the dog leg. I make three and a half proficient turns in deep, nearly unskied powder that gets steeper. The slough from my first turn races down the hill, I turn back into it and through a mini explosion of snow, before I outrun it, balancing muscle and g-force to surf gravity.

Stop. Silence. I'm chilled, but not from the cold. My blood has left my extremities to pool in the pleasure center of my body, somewhere between the heart and head.

Not as purely pleasurable as 1999's "I need a tissue and a cigarette now" six turns down Cornice II (by far the most pleasurable experience of my life, beyond orgasmic), but I'll take it!

Head left onto Christmas Tree run for more powder turns between the trees that were merely awesome fun.

Categories: , , , ,

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, February 5, 2005

snow: New Boots not Panties

(Old Ian Dury and the Blockheads album title)

After 6 years I got new ski boots. Back in 1998 after a disastrous experience with Lange in another store, Christian and Rob at Elite Feet put me in the yellow Head M102 boots with custom foam liners and custom footbeds , and I couldn't imagine anything better. But the boots were getting worn.

I was confident I'd get another pair of Heads, but they convinced me to go for the "hot" boot du jour, the Nordica Doberman. This thing is so low-tech and old-skool it's a wonder you don't lace it up. But it has a great lining and straight from of the box felt suspiciously comfortable in all my trouble spots. I would much rather be in an uncool boot like the Nordica Bichon Frise or Nordia Chihuahua, but what can you do.

Of course I found a new trouble spot: the boots are trying to crush the top of my instep to dust.

Christian and Rob are awesome, the best boot fitters in Lake Tahoe. (Well, maybe "Gunnar" of Granite Chief is great, but with multiple stores to run he's not always around.)

Categories: , ,

Labels: , ,