Determining Factors that Guide Operational Decisions
We are a unique ski resort in that many of our coveted chairlifts are situated on the Sierra Crest and can be greatly impacted by winds when storms roll through. This season has been, quite literally, like no other winter season in the sixty-plus years ski resorts have been operating in the Sierra. In a region known for big snow storms, this has been a record season on snowfall, year-to-date, and wind. While we seek to run all chairlifts at all times, we cannot compromise safety. And while the snowfall has presented the region and all ski resorts plenty of challenges, the wind has been prohibitively fierce and doesn’t allow us to run, at times, chairlifts safely.
Top 5 Factor Checklist to Open or Close Chairlifts
As told by Chris Woo, Director of Lift Maintenance at Squaw Valley
- Anemometer Readings & Physical Testing: “First, we look at anemometers. If it is reporting 120mph we’re not even going to try and move lifts, for obvious reasons. If it’s saying 20-50mph we’re going to to go up to the chairlift, run it and see what it looks like.”
- Wind speed & Direction: “We use wind direction and intensity to determine whether a lift can operate or not.” Check out our lift & wind “vulnerability” chart below.
- Chair Swing: “Majority of the decisions to operate is based on the chair swing. It’s actually the basis of our decision to run a chair. There is an approved “chair swing” by the manufacturer, meaning how much the chair can swing front to back and side to side to safely operate. We look at how the chair reacts in the wind.”
- Wind Frequency: “Gusty winds are bad because it pushes and creates more turbulence while increasing chair swing. Consistent or steady winds in moderation are typically more predictable and may be sometimes better conditions to operate. Although, even steady consistent high winds will often prevent a safe operating condition.”
- Forecast: “We always look at the forecast provided by the National Weather Service. If we’re at pretty high winds already in the morning and the forecast is calling for winds to increase throughout the day, we might consider closing that lift. However, if we’re at marginal winds and the forecast is showing winds to decrease, we will wait and watch to see if we can open that lift and put it on ‘wind hold’.”
Wind Speeds Season to Date
Crest Winds vs. Base Area Winds
While winds can be 20 – 30 mph at the base, they have been frequently blowing at three to six times that speed across the middle and upper parts of the mountain. This has been a remarkably consistent circumstance over the past two months. This graph shows the significant difference of wind speed at different elevations season to date.