Last weekend, against all odds, the Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup (a stop on the Audi FIS Ski World Cup tour) took place in Olympic Valley. It was a nail-biter as record-breaking snow pummeled the region. Like magic, there was a 36-hour break in extreme winter weather in which the race was able to occur. The break in the weather wasn’t the only thing that made this event possible, though. The real story here is the incredible work of our operations teams, who were on the hill around-the-clock slipping and clearing the racecourse until the final moments before the Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup kicked off. Let’s look back at their heroic work, as well as the weekend’s events.
Teams working in the early morning or late at night to “slip” the racecourse. Photos courtesy of Bill Hudson, Kyle Crezee, and Craig Patterson.
RACECOURSE PREPARATION + MAINTENANCE
So many departments were involved in developing the firm racecourse surface needed for an event like the Stifel Palisades Tahoe Cup. From race services to grooming, and snowmaking to our ski teams, it truly was an all-hands-on-deck effort. Plus, we enlisted hundreds of volunteers to make it all possible. Here are some neat statistics that add some color to the behind-the-scenes work:
- Our Snowmaking Department spent over 650 hours watering the racecourse and an additional 1,500 hours hauling gear such as baskets of netting, hoses, and other equipment.
- In the week leading up to the event, our Ski Teams had anywhere from 30-60 staff working up to 18 hours a day. Their duties included setting up nets and fences, shoveling, raking, slipping, pushing/removing snow, watering/injecting the course, setting up closures, wrenching, packing, carrying, and more!
- Our Grooming Department brought in 4 racecourse specialists to work on the course. Their work out on the hill started the first week of February and the team put in over 1,500 hours of grooming time.
If you’re curious about how we prepared the racecourse, you can read more in our Operations Blog, or check out the story of two of the grooming leaders managing the course.
Friday: The Kick-Off
Despite very snowy weather that led to the unfortunate cancellation of one of our musical guests, Friday’s Kick-Off Parade and Public Bib Draw drew quite a crowd. Athletes, employees, families, media outlets, and more gathered to parade through The Village at Palisades Tahoe with swiss cowbells in hand. Then, the top-ranked 15 athletes from around the world selected their bib numbers for the weekend’s Giant Slalom race.
Photos: Kate Abraham
Saturday: Giant Slalom + Concerts from Noah Kahan and 311
At 2 in the morning, our crews started loading up Red Dog and preparing for the day. 12 inches of snow fell in the 24 hours preceding the event’s start. Giant Slalom racing requires a firm, almost icy racecourse surface. That meant we had to clear any fresh powder off of the course. The Red Dog racecourse is not a tiny area; this is a huge run that is known for how steep and challenging it is. But despite all the cards being stacked against our ability to hold a World Cup race on a wintery weekend, we were out there, making it happen.
The biggest impact the snow had on Saturday was a one-hour delay to the race’s start time. The Opening Ceremonies kicked off, featuring an electric guitar, Jimi Hendrix-style rendition of the National Anthem. One of the most exciting moments of the weekend came immediately afterward: Two fighter jets did a flyover of the racecourse, the grandstands, and the mountain!
Video credit: Oliviah Gemperle
Huge crowds gathered alongside the grandstands to watch both runs of the Giant Slalom event, with 60 athletes competing in the first heat and the qualifying 30 moving onto the second. American racer and crowd favorite River Radimus qualified for the second run and was met with tons of excitement from spectators. In the end, though, none of Team USA took the top 3 spots. Those went to Marco Schwarz of Austria, Marco Odermatt of Switzerland, and Rasmus Windingstad of Norway.
Photos: Emily Tidwell
With the first day of racing over, the Village teemed with excitement for the two free concerts that took place on the KT Deck. Noah Kahan performed as snow cascaded down in front of the stage. Not long after, the weather cleared as 311 began their energetic set. It was all topped off with a memorable fireworks display.
Thankfully, Saturday night’s snow accumulation wasn’t nearly as high as Friday night’s, so while our teams still got an early start on slipping the course, there were no schedule delays. Visibility deteriorated throughout the morning, making for an intense and nerve-wracking series of races. Once again, Team USA athletes did not podium, but skier George Steffey was still stoked on the Red Dog racecourse and how our resort was able to pull this event off. 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place went to Alexander Steen Olsen of Norway, Timon Haugan of Norway, and a tie for third to Albert Popov of Bulgaria and Clement Noel of France.
Photos: Peter Day