This season marks the 50th year that Jimmy King has been working at Palisades Tahoe. Jimmy is our Mountain Manager on the Palisades side of our resort, a role he has held since the early 90s. We caught up with our well-loved, fearless leader about what it has been like to dedicate 50 years to this mountain, and what he’s looking forward to this winter.
What was your first season at Palisades Tahoe? 1973. I started on November 13th.
What was your first role at the mountain? I first started helping Lift Maintenance. It stormed really early that year, and there was a lot of snow by mid-November. They hadn’t put all the chairs on Sq**w One yet, so I was helping to hang chairs. Then I became a Lift Operator for about three months. Then they hired me full-time as a Lift Mechanic.
Jimmy at the top of Headwall in the early 80s.
How long were you a lift mechanic? For years and years and years. I went from being a mechanic to being the Manager of Upper Lifts. (At Palisades, we have both an Upper Lift Maintenance and a Lower Lift Maintenance department). I also worked on Lower Lifts for a while. I helped out everywhere I could – even on the tram or on the [old] gondola. Back then, we had a very old PHB gondola, which was replaced twice before it was turned into the Funitel.
What are some stand-out experiences you had as a part of Lift Maintenance? Building lifts was the most fun. We used to build all of our lifts in-house in the summertime. I learned how to do this from Yan [Kunczynski]. I spent time with him all over the west coast for part of a couple of summers learning how to build lifts, and then came back here full-time.
Photo: Jimmy and other Lift Maintenance team members building Shirley Lake.
We built Olympic Lady after it was wiped out by an avalanche. We built KT-22. We built Far East. We built Shirley Lake, Silverado, Granite Chief. Emigrant. Bailey’s Beach. All of those we built in-house. Those were some of the best parts of my career.
Was there a chairlift that was the most fun to build? Yes. There’s no question. Silverado was the most fun. It took two years to build, and we had to hike in and hike out every day. In the winter, people ski over those cliffs under the lift line, but in the summer, we had to belay down them with ropes every day. It was hard work.
Jimmy being flown off the top of Lakeview at Alpine. He was there assisting with the drive terminal.
Can you talk about your cable splicing experience? Yes, one thing that I did learn how to do, which there are not many people who can do it in the world, is cable splicing. (For more on cable splicing, read our blog post on the Red Dog Cable Splice). I really enjoy it. When management changed, we stopped doing our own splicing quite as much, but back in the day, we did all of that ourselves.
Did your daughter spend a lot of time at the mountain with you? Yes, Danielle was one of the first Ski School students back when the program was located in Austria House. I would pick her up from Dispatch, where her mom worked, and transport her to the Ski School on my snowmobile.
Jimmy with his daughter Danielle in the early 80s.
Did you always know you wanted to be the Mountain Manager? It was always in my heart, yes. One thing I have also always enjoyed doing is building lifts.
Do you have any seasons that stand out as a favorite or a most memorable? Actually, two years ago in December really stands out. It was the snowiest Christmas and we were closed three days in a row: Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas. We opened up very slowly through New Year’s and it just kept dumping snow. It was fabulous. I also love being in a snowcat. To be up there in the middle of a blizzard, alone with the other snowcat operators, when you can’t even see your blade… that is the cat’s meow.
Have you worked a little bit in every Operations Department? You need that knowledge as Mountain Manager, right? I do have to do a little bit of everything, from snowmaking to assisting Ski Patrol. I’m here for accidents and rescues. After all this time, my knowledge of the mountain is pretty cool.
What has the hardest part of your job been? Safety. Keeping the team members safe is always the scariest and hardest part. What we do is fairly dangerous and we try to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Photo: Yan Kunczynski and Jimmy, far left
What is the best part of your job? The best part is wintertime! Not many people love their job the way I do.
Jimmy putting in the Silverado access road in 2022-23 season.
What are you most excited about this winter? I look forward to having enough snow to put in the Silverado access road every year. (We have a whole blog about how we do this, if you’re curious, and Jimmy is one of the only people who knows how to cut the road). I’m still just having a total blast. I’m hoping for a really good winter, and when I say that, I mean a lot of snow that we can get into full operations as soon as possible.
Do you still ski? I do, and I learned to snowboard, too. When we were thinking about allowing snowboarding at the resort, they gave a bunch of us snowboards and boots to learn all about it. So we did! I didn’t get real good, but I was good enough to ride Shirley Lake. I preferred skiing. I’m a skier.
What do you like to do when you’re not at the mountain? I like mountain biking and surfing.
What keeps you coming back every year? My job is one of the most fun jobs that anyone could ever imagine — in any industry. Anywhere in the world. I come to work no matter what the conditions are with a smile on my face. I don’t think a lot of people in the world can say that.