Palisades Tahoe has one of the most impressive ski & snowboard team programs in the world. Our teams, collectively known as Team Palisades Tahoe, support thousands of athletes ages 3 to 20 not just in the winter, but all year round. With dozens of events throughout each season, strict requirements for venue surfaces, and a lot of people to fit on the hill, it is no small feat to plan and execute for the needs of Team Palisades Tahoe. Here’s a closer look at how we make it happen.
It Starts With Each Team
Each week, coaches for the individual teams fill out a spreadsheet with their hill space requests for the coming 7-day period. For example, the Development teams might request Exhibition or Kangaroo, while the Freeride teams might be more interested in somewhere like Enchanted Forest. This information is compiled, simplified, and brought to our weekly Hill Space Planning Meeting. These requests don’t imply exclusive Team use; instead, they serve as a heads-up to management about team locations and potential private spaces for events without necessarily closing areas to the public.
Each week, we host a Hill Space Planning meeting that encompasses both Alpine and Palisades. All the key players are in attendance:
- Both the Alpine and Palisades Mountain Managers
- The Director of Snow Surfaces
- Both the Alpine and Palisade Grooming Managers
- The Director of Skier Services
- The Director of Team Palisades Tahoe
- The Event & Brand Partnership Manager
- The Competition Services Manager
In this meeting, we start by reviewing the on-hill events calendar for the incoming ten-day period. Then, we discuss any major needs, such as early chairlift access or grooming requirements for the upcoming weekend.
Weather can play a huge factor in our decisions, as does expected participation. If we see that it’s going to be a beautiful, sunny Saturday with most of our Team Palisades Tahoe athletes showing up, we will try to create a plan to spread our participants across the mountains and stagger what times they use certain areas. For example, we may require Team Palisades Tahoe athletes to stay off of Mountain Run, a high-traffic main artery, during peak times. Similarly, we sometimes allow early chairlift access for our Team Palisades Tahoe athletes so that they can start their training pre-public.
On storm days when we expect that chairlifts will be impacted, we have to get even more creative. To avoid cancellation, we do indoor training where we can, or sometimes we will dedicate an entire run or chairlift to Team Palisades Tahoe only. (You may have noticed us doing this with areas off of Exhibition more often this season).
There are a lot of other logistics we have to discuss, too: things like setting up nets for race/training boundaries (or removal in the case of a storm), placement of snowmobiles and race baskets, areas of runs that need to be widened, or the timing of watering courses (an important step in racecourse surface prep. More on this below).
A Closer Look: Grooming
Depending on the type of event, Team Palisades Tahoe often has special requests from our Grooming department. They may need start bumps built or finish areas widened. In some cases, racecourses need special surface preparation. If snow conditions aren’t cooperating, these can be big asks.
In a lower-snowfall year (like the start of this year), it can be very difficult to find the right venues for Team Palisades Tahoe to use. One of the best tools we have at our disposal to make decisions regarding venue viability and placement is SNOWsat grooming technology, which all of our PistenBully snowcats come equipped with.
SNOWsat is a revolutionary technology that uses satellite data and GPS radar to accurately measure snow depth and density. It allows our snowcat fleet to measure snow depth more than 160 feet away from the vehicle. With this information, our Grooming management team can look at snow depth in any area on the mountain that a snowcat has driven on or past.
For example, here is a SNOWsat image of the upper mountain on February 1st. Light and dark yellow mean that there is more than 48 inches of snow (4 feet) in that area. The brightly colored spots are thinner “problem” areas that will require some work. Using this technology we can zoom in on specific runs and start/finish areas to see what’s possible. Is there enough snow to host an event? Will we need to push snow from another area to create a start? SNOWsat is invaluable in determining our next move.
Racecourse Prep In Context: Preparing for The Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup
Our largest event of the season is coming up from February 23rd-25th: The Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup, a stop on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup tour that will take place on the legendary Red Dog racecourse. It’s no secret that Team Palisades Tahoe athletes have the amazing benefit of getting to train on some of the most famous world-class terrain that there is. Prepartion for the Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup takes months of planning and weeks of on-hill work, but it is really just a magnified version of what we do each weekend for our ski & snowboard teams. Here’s a look at what goes into racecourse preparation:
Our end goal for the surface of a ski race course is to have an extremely firm surface that goes at least 18 inches down. In the time leading up to the race, we “process” the snow to create that surface. Here is how we do it:
Step One: Windrowing
We begin by “windrowing” the hills – Just like you might see a farmer do to the dirt in their fields. This is done using a snowcat, pushing snow into vertical rows going up and down the hill. This allows cold air to reach deeper into the existing snowpack.
Step Two: Watering
After the rows have been built, we water them. Adding all of this moisture to the snowpack helps it solidify even more. We want this processed snow to be icy to help create that firm surface.
Step Three: Till
Once windrowing and watering are complete, and cold air has had time to penetrate the snow, we put a snowcat back on the run and get an even till on the surface.
Photos: Blake Kessler Media
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