A Winter Weather Advisory is forecast for the Sierra on Christmas afternoon through Saturday morning. Storm impacts are expected to include strong winds up to 85mph and up to a foot or more of snow to the upper mountains Friday night and into Saturday morning. While we can’t wait for more snow to fall, mountain operations will likely be impacted from Friday afternoon through the day Saturday. Significant post-storm mountain operations, including avalanche hazard mitigation, will likely be necessary to open both Squaw and Alpine on Saturday. We want to be absolutely clear: we anticipate delayed and potentially limited openings at both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows on Saturday.
Avalanche Hazard Mitigation and lift De-Icing will take longer this year due to Covid-19 protocols
In a typical season there are a lot of moving parts to our post-storm mountain operations processes, and this winter Covid-19 protocols add an additional challenge to how our teams must proceed as safely as possible to open the mountains. Heavily impacted mountain operations departments include: ski patrol, lift maintenance, on-mountain transport, and snow removal. Examples of impacts include splitting teams up in ways that require more troop carrier missions than ever before, fewer people in equipment assembly rooms, staggered use of locker rooms, fewer people in lift terminals to carry out de-icing and reduced capacity of transport equipment. All of these impacts will increase the amount of time necessary to carry out the required work. We cannot guarantee what time any specific lift/terrain will be able to be opened. Scheduled lift opening times should be taken as rough estimates subject to change at any time.
Check our app for updates
With the possibility of hazardous road conditions, delayed and limited mountain operations, and no indoor capacity to shelter from the weather on Saturday, we urge you to frequently check our app or website for updates before coming to visit us. Please download the Squaw Alpine app and enable notifications for ongoing updates.
The storm is also expected to impact travel: check the CalTrans app or website for updates.
Be prepared for cold weather and delays
In addition, we advise you not to come to Squaw Alpine if you are unprepared to wait outside for an undetermined amount of time while exposed to every kind of inclement weather. You must be prepared to spend an extended amount of time in cold, windy, and wet conditions and you must be willing to follow Covid-19 protocols at all times: physical distancing and mask-wearing will be strictly enforced. Guests queuing in lift lines prior to opening may be asked to move so that lift operators can set up the lift mazes. Check out our tips for staying warm on a storm day.
Storm days and post-storm days are going to be very different this season. We hope we will have many storm days this season, and these impacts will continue with each new storm. Our ability to keep skiing and riding through this pandemic requires all of you to do your part. Thank you for being flexible, prepared, and understanding.
More Details on Why Operations Will Move Slower this season
Reduced Capacity in Troop Carriers
Troop Carriers are snowcats that transport Ski Patrol and other staff from the base area to key locations on the mountain, in order for our staff to perform avalanche control and other duties to open the mountains. We have reduced troop carrier capacity by 75% to provide for physical distancing. Carriers frequently make round trips of 20 minutes or more. This means that avalanche control could take up to three times as long as it typically does. You can read more about avalanche control at Palisades Tahoe here.
Mountain Access Roads
Mountain operations crews frequently need to build or rebuild access roads after storms. Much of this work cannot be initiated until avalanche hazard mitigation has been concluded.
Detachable Lifts and De-Icing Lifts
If you are wondering why a lift is running but not loading skiers, it’s important to know that our detachable lifts, particularly our ridgetop lifts (including Summit, Siberia, Headwall, KT-22, and Shirley) frequently become heavily iced during Pacific storms. Rime ice formations can be a foot thick. As we remove the ice and begin putting chairs back on the line, hundreds of small sensors are constantly reading whether the chairs are attached to the rope in the right locations. Ice on the equipment can cause spacing issues, and we can’t load the lift until the chairs are correctly spaced. Every time a chair is re-spaced, we need to run another full rotation. This takes time, but it is required.
Lift de-icing operations within enclosed motor rooms will take longer due to physical distancing.
Under normal circumstances, we would be anticipating delays to getting the mountain open on Saturday in addition to possible wind holds. With Covid-modified operations, we anticipate that these delays will be significantly exacerbated.
High winds are expected to impact lift operations. Squaw One and Big Blue, two key upper mountain access lifts at Squaw, and Summit at Alpine, are particularly susceptible to storm winds. With maximum 25% loading limitations in the Funitel and Tram, the inability to run Squaw One and/or Big Blue may remove key parts of the upper mountain lift network at Squaw Valley.
With potentially limited lifts and necessary Covid-19 distancing, guests must be prepared for extended periods of time outside. Use the Squaw Alpine app to check lift wait times before you go.
Limited access to locker rooms, Alpine Breezeway, and indoor space
Throughout the storm (as any day this season), locker room protocols must stay in place – locker use only, no lingering, and limited capacity.
We will not be able to accommodate lingering in the Alpine Meadows breezeway. During storm conditions, we will be treating this area as indoor space. You should not count on being able to take shelter.
Other than limited locker room access and bathrooms, there will be no available indoor areas. Shelter from inclement weather will be limited to guest vehicles.