A True Mountain Escape

A feeling like no other, Kirkwood energizes your heart and liberates your spirit. Fueled by a culture that demands a willingness to push your boundaries, Kirkwood offers adventure in its purest form.
Where tradition and values come together.

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You choose to come to the mountains – why? There is an intrinsic feeling deep within our souls that ties us to wonder, curiosity and connection. Kirkwood’s heritage runs deep in every aspect. It’s not Tahoe for a reason. If you choose to come to Kirkwood be prepared to take home a story like no other.
Get the insiders scoop from our VP Tom Fortune

Fortune Friday

Our Vice President and General Manager Tom Fortune will be posting a short update on our operations every Friday.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 15, 2019 

Hello Everyone,

What a week! What a February!

Again, Mother Nature showing who is boss this week as you all know. The main weather highlights of the week, both good and bad have been:

- As of Monday February 11, we surpassed last year’s total snowfall, most of which came in March.
- Thursday we clocked wind gusts all day over 100mph on top of chair 6, one gust was recorded at 169mph.
- Significant rainfall on Wednesday into Thursday caused flooding on roadways throughout the Kirkwood Valley. Crews from Kirkwood, KMPUD, and Cal Trans did a good job keeping water draining. - Strom water came close to the entrance of the Kirkwood Inn, but the staff got drains cleared in time to prevent any damage.
- Lightning was an issue both Wednesday and Thursday throughout the day. This usually happens later in the ski season generally in March and April.
- We had two full day mountain closures and one early shut down this past week due to Wind, Lightning, and Avalanche concerns.
- Despite amazing effort by Cal Trans, heavy snow led to off and on pass closures this past week which left some staff, guests, and travelers stuck at the resort. Kirkwood staff provided shelter to those who needed it. Someone wrote a nice letter to the Carson City, Nevada newspaper thanking our staff for giving them shelter.
- A few nights sleeping on a cot in my office!

I would like to give special Shout Out’s to Mike Niccoli and Elliot Fanjul and the snow removal and grooming teams who have worked extra hard all week keeping roads and parking clear, and chasing flood issue after flood issue and preventing any major issues like we have seen in the past.

Another highlight of the week was the “Ski Patrol Exchange” with Stevens Pass, my former resort. We had two patrolers from Stevens at Kirkwood during the big snow cycle last week. They were able to go out on snow safety with the Kirkwood Patrol each day while they were here. I even got to join them for a very special route! Kirkwood sent two patrollers to Stevens Pass for the week as well. Ski Patrol exchange is a long time practice in the ski industry, it’s one of the traditions that has been able to remain throughout the years. In general, two or three times a year Kirkwood Patrol partners with another resort (in and outside of our company) and swap two patrolers with each other. While on exchange, they work side by side with the patrol team to learn and share best practices. I would love to see other departments such as Lift Maintenance, lift Operations, and Ski School do the same thing. We have one more patrol exchange this season with Arapahoe Basin in a few weeks.

Attached is a pic of the Stevens Pass Ski patrolers who visited last week at the top of Thimble Peak, along with a couple other pictures from the strange week, including one from Carson Spur on Wednesday. Also attached is a link from CalTrans regarding what it takes to keep Carson Spur open.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kmJFnQGtbHA&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR2q5AEhrQSVLiHL8BZmZANru299eUjWkbqMlejluxUtNT9eSJfGDaKqjw4

Looking forward, it should be great skiing for Presidents Weekend and Northern California Ski Week. 

See you on the slopes.

Tom
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 8, 2019

Hello Kirkwood Community!

Last Week I posted about the IFSA - Tahoe Junior Freeride Series Regional event that we had set to take place. At the time, it looked like there may be a window of opportunity to hold the event off before the big storm. As we all know, Mother Nature had a different plan and the weather came in early. Wisely, our staff and the event organizers cancelled the event when it became apparent that the weather was just too much. We also didn’t want to take the chance of stranding people in the valley if there was a chance that Hwy 88 might close.  It was totally the right call and I am glad it all worked out. The good news is that the TJFS event has now been rescheduled to go back to back with the TJFS National event in March!  This is actually a really cool thing because now Kirkwood will be hosting 4 days in a row of junior freeride competition and the terrain options for this competition are seemingly endless. 

NEW IFSA/TJFS DATES AND CAN'T MISS WEEKEND
March  7 – 10 – IFSA Tahoe Junior Freeride Series Regional and National Junior Championship

I can’t wait for this exciting Junior big mountain skiing competition!   

Last week, I also wrote about the junior skiing and snowboarding programs we offer at our resort such as: JETS, EK, and the Kirkwood Freeride Team. We also have a great partnership with KSEF (Kirkwood Ski Education Foundation)  which offers top notch programs in alpine ski racing for juniors and masters. Jim Reilly, the Executive Director, the coaching staff, the board of directors, and the volunteers really do a great job for our community. You all have seen them while riding chair 11 while training on Short Spoke. This is a competitive organization and the kids who go out and race at other mountains with Kirkwood on their backs, continually have top finishes. We are very lucky to have KSEF churning our great skiers at this resort.

Weather – I have commented a lot about it all year, the storms that dropped 92’’ of snow in 4 days last week were impressive. Again, weather forecasters did a great job which helped us prepare for the storms, which we did. The mountain teams had early snow safety starts every day from last Friday – Tuesday and we had night men staff at the top of the mountain each day. We also had essential staff on the mountain from all departments across the resort to help keep things managed throughout the storms. I know most people can understand how much work it is to deal with nearly 8’ of snow, high winds, in such a short period of time. I think the fact that we were able to open chairs 5 and 6 on Tuesday, while the pass was still closed, and then open the entire front side at 9:00am on Wednesday, then backside and entire mountain on Thursday morning, shows how much work was done during the storm period.  I am completely proud and humbled by the people who work at this resort…Kirkwood Proud!

Some people have commented that Kirkwood management (some people call us Vail, for some reason) doesn’t work with Cal Trans and CHP enough to get Highway 88 open faster. I can tell you that we do communicate all the time with these agencies both during storms and otherwise. It’s a partnership and whether it’s Carson  Pass and/or Spur closures during storms, highway back up’s on powder days, or accidents, our plan is to strategically work together to solve our common issues. The men and women who work hard to keep our roads safe deserve a real pat on the back.  Thank you Cal Trans and CHP.  

Each week I like to highlight some of our staff, this week I want to shout out to our Mountain Operations Leadership Team:

Ricky Newberry – Sr. Director of Mountain Operations
Kelly Keith – Sr. Administrative Assistant Mountain Operations
Mike Niccoli – Sr. Manager of Snow Surfaces
Elliot Fanjul – Snow Removal Manager
Steve Hodgkins – Grooming Manager
Reid Devine – Lift Operations Manager
Colby Dick – Fleet Maintenance Manager
Jason Fontenot – Director Lift Maintenance
Art Simus – Sr. Manager Lift Maintenance
Adam Ikemire – Sr. Manager Ski Patrol
Greg Cunningham – Manager Ski Patrol
Amy Armstrong – Administrative Asst. Ski Patrol and Gunner

This is a group of mountain professionals I would put up against any other in our industry.

Attached are a couple pic from lift maintenance and patrol during the storm.

See you on the slopes!

Tom

 

 

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 1, 2019 

Hello Kirkwood,

We are half way through the season and so far it’s been pretty great. The storms this weekend look insane! Be ready for some lift challenges with wind and potential delays digging out and conducting avalanche mitigation work if we get the amounts of snow in the forecast.

It’s “February Family Month” and we have a lot of events coming up this month. This weekend kicks off with the Tahoe Junior Freeride Series on stop 2 out of their 4 series competition. The TJFS events are sanctioned by the IFSA (International Freeskier/Snowboard Association) These are junior events for skier and snowboarders broken into two age groups - ages 12-14 and ages 15-18, with the older kids have a more challenging course. Competitors can earn points based on how they place, with the points going toward a national ranking. The plan is to have the course off the top of Vista this weekend, weather permitting.

While this weekend event is regional stop for the Tahoe Basin, we will also be hosting a national level junior event in March with athletes from all over the west. Many of you may remember this event last year when we had great weather and really good competition.

While on the subject of freeride and big mountain skiing and riding, I wanted to give a plug for some of the other programs we have at Kirkwood to promote all-mountain skiing and education with kids.

The Jets Program 
This is our all-mountain development program for kids ages 5-15. This program which is run by our Expedition Kirkwood staff and the program has over two hundred kids who ski with the same coach every weekend from January through March. These kids are most recognizable by their Helly-Hansen team jackets you see all over the mountain. This program is a huge asset to the resort and community with both parents and kids developing a lifelong love of the mountains and resort. 

Kirkwood Freeride Team
There are approximately 40 kids on this team which is comprised of 2 programs, our Competition Team (which will be competing this weekend), and our Freeski All-Mountain program. These programs are for ages 10-18 and focus on kids who really wanted to develop their all mountain skills at a high level with a direction towards competing. These kids will gain avalanche, freestyle and big mountain skills through the program. We have kids who have achieved high levels of national rankings and competed in the North American Championships over the last 3 years. 

The staff that run these programs are – 

Matt Keith – Expedition Kirkwood
Jamie Mullens – JETS
Kyle Johnson – Freeride Team

These are skilled and dedicated employees who work really hard to ensure the success of these programs, and the development of these kids. These programs have kids from South Lake Tahoe, Gardnerville, and all the way to Monterey and San Francisco! I also have to give a shout out to Jon Copeland, our long time Skier Services Director, without his passion for all this, these programs and events would not be where they are today.

As all of you know, Kirkwood is the perfect mountain to host these events and have programs dedicated to making kids great all-mountain skiers and competitors. And, what I am most proud of is that these programs make lifelong skiers and riders who learned at such a special and authentic ski mountain. It’s also really cool that many of our staff have kids that have gone through these programs, or are in them currently, as well as some that are filling the pipeline with little ones that will be part of these programs in the future!

I will talk about other Expedition Kirkwood programs in a future blog, this operation is unique in our industry and also does a ton to promote and educate about back country and big mountain skiing.

See you on the slopes!

Tom

FRIDAY, JANUARY 25, 2019 

Happy Friday!

When I posted last week we were in the midst of the large storm that was hitting the Sierra Nevada. The storms dropped over 5 feet of snow and despite some challenges getting here, the skiing was great! I was really proud of how the teams showed up and got the mountain and resort open each day during the MLK holiday. It really helped by keeping extra staff at the resort in addition to those who live here full time. Monday was a holiday, powder day, with mostly clear skies, this led to a lot of people coming to the resort and some parking challenges. The Base Operations crew have been working their Peak Parking Plan on these big days, and while we know it’s frustrating to drive so far and have a slow entry into the resort, we are trying our best to be as efficient as possible. We have a great relationship with CHP and CalTrans and communicate with them continually during these peak situations. In fact, we hire CHP to help us control the entrance to Kirkwood Meadows Drive on these big weekends. I know it’s cliché’, but getting here early makes all the difference in the word.

Last Saturday I held my first “Lunch with Tom” session with front line staff. I really value the time I get to meet with our front line employees, I always learn something new about them personally, but also get good feedback and ideas on improving our resort. I plan to use this blog to profile some of our team members to our guests. Sometimes it will be management and departments, and other times it may be random staff. This Friday I am going to introduce the team I met with last Saturday:

Shahariel Gyurko – aka “Shay” - HR
Shay works in our Employee Center located in the basement of the Sun Meadows complex. The Employee Center is the hub for all staff, it is where our team goes for coffee, news and information, and to just hang out. It looks like inside someone’s house. There is a large flat screen TV, a library section, air hockey. Our “Street Team” hosts movie night, and other events in the Employee Center. It’s also where all the uniforms are distributed and laundered.

Shay lives at the resort and has worked at Kirkwood for 2 years and moved here from Connecticut. Prior to “living the dream”, Shay had a 9-5 job in the city. Before moving out west, she hiked the entire 1,100 mikes of the Appalachian Trail, and last year, she took the summer and did a 9,000 mile road trip around North America.

Kaeli Sturtevant – Lift Operations
Everyone who has been on Timber Creek Express or Chair 9 would know Kaeli, she is the super friendly lift operator who always greets you with a big smile, generally at the top lift station. This is Kaeli’s first year working at Kirkwood and she loves it, and it shows! She is from a small town near Yosemite called Knights Ferry, CA. Kaeli is also a musician and playa bunch of different strings, piano, and vocals. She even auditioned for the television show “The Voice” in Las Vegas! Kaeli lives at Kirkwood.

Neil Scnaible – Ski Patrol
This is Nick’s first year on Ski Patrol, despite having lived in South Lake Tahoe for many years. He has known many of the patrol and mountain staff for a number of years and decided to join the team! Neil is a graduate of NAU in Flagstaff, Arizona. The majority of Neil’s career has been as a firefighter, and he continues to teach firefighting and related emergency subjects at Lake Tahoe Community College in South Lake.

Tim Slike – Building Maintenance
Tim has worked in our Building Maintenance department for the past 3 years. Tim is from Pennsylvania and has always wanted to work at a ski resort. He originally applied for a maintenance position at Vail Mountain in Colorado. When Vail didn’t have a position open, the HR department there told him they would be in touch. He thought “Yeah Right” believing he would never hear from the company again. But sure enough, someone called from Kirkwood, California a few weeks later, and Tim’s dream of living and working at a ski resort came true! Tim’s first role was doing maintenance on the employee housing facilities, now he is involved in all facets of keeping the buildings and facilities working at Kirkwood.

Jasmyne Crissey – Product Sales and Services – aka “Tickets”
Jasmyne is a Supervisor in the Season Pass and Ticket Office. This is her 4th season at Kirkwood. When Jasmyne told our little group she was from a resort beach town called Destin, Florida, I asked why on earth she ever left? Her response was like many of us would say, she is here for the incredible scenery, the change of seasons, and the great, low key vibe at Kirkwood. Jasmyne has a degree in psychology that probably comes in handy in her role. She has travelled a bunch and has even taught school in Thailand!

I hope you enjoy meeting these great people and say hi to them next time you see them at the resort!

See you on the slopes,

Tom

FRIDAY, JANUARY 18, 2019 

Happy MLK Weekend!

My posts have been all about the weather lately and how we handle these big storms internally. And, this week is no different…

After the storm on January 6th and 7th, we had good weather and great skiing. Last weekend was super busy with blue bird skies after all the snow earlier in the week. A lot of people showed up early last weekend, the parking and base operations team did a good job setting up their “peak day parking plan” and were able to accommodate every car that came to Kirkwood. That said, it was still congested getting into the valley on days like that and we appreciate everyone being patient as the parking lots fill up.

Then, the storms and atmospheric river forecasted for this week showed up right on schedule. We did plan for this week’s storms and we kept essential staff and night men at the mountain to help keep up with all the snow. Thursday the wind was so strong, we were not able to spin any lifts to get the snow safety crews to the top of the mountain for avalanche mitigation work. We ended up closing the mountain for the day at noon Thursday due to high wind and visibility. We were however able to shoot the 105 Howitzer in the Cirque and Thimble Peak, and the night men were able to some work with explosives at the top of chairs 6 and 10. This helped us get a bit of a jump for Friday, but there was a lot of work to do after a storm like this. I can assure everyone, the entire crew works really hard to open as soon and safely as we can. The fact that more than 30 people from all departments volunteered to stay on the mountain (in addition to those who live on mountain) during the storm and highway closure says something about the hard working culture at Kirkwood.

Another smaller storm Sunday and then it looks like some high pressure and clear weather for a while. The additional snow we have gotten will really change the way the mountain skis. Please be cautious when exploring after the storm, with the increase in base snow the mountain will be more accessible, so go slow as you find new lines that have opened up.

For anyone who noticed the Sunrise Grill on the backside had a limited menu last weekend, it was due to a malfunction with the grill itself. It’s been repaired and will be back to grilling great burgers and dogs after digging out.

Lastly, it’s going to be a busy holiday weekend, please plan on getting here early to avoid parking challenges. Our parking crew will be out in force, but the flow into the valley can only go so fast.

See you on the slopes,

Tom

FRIDAY, JANUARY 11, 2019 

Happy Friday Kirkwood!

Well, the storms that were forecast last week didn’t disappoint. Good job to all the weather forecasters who made accurate forecasts…timing of the storms was good, and so were the snow totals and wind predictions. This was all helpful in making decisions for staffing and other operational matters.

Thanks to all of you Kirkwood skiers and riders for your patience with lift wind holds, avalanche mitigation work, etc. The teams at the resort try hard to get things open as fast and safely as possible. We will never sacrifice safety for either our employees or guests by opening the mountain before its ready.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the mountain operations teams did have early starts beginning on Saturday and went all the way through Thursday. We also had night men all week. We have received 41’’ of new snow since Saturday. This really helped freshen up the slopes, The Wall was scraped dry from the east wind the week before, and now it’s covered again. I have never seen so many pine cones on ski runs as I did last week, I think the wind stripped all the trees. Skiing down Thunder Saddle I could actually hear the pine cones crunching under my skis!

Besides wind and snow safety lift delays, Sunday night Hwy 88 and Carson Pass and Spur closed due to blizzard conditions at around 10:30pm and didn’t open until Monday afternoon. I am sure many of you that read this were affected by the highway closure as were a couple hundred travelers who were stranded at Kirkwood while heading home after the holidays. It was truly a perfect storm for a travel nightmare having I-80, Hwy 50, and Carson Pass all closed at the same time on the Sunday after New Year’s! Cal Trans, NDOT, CHP, and all local law enforcement did the best they could to manage the situation, but sometimes Mother Nature just rules! Thanks to all these entities for their hard work keeping us safe.

Speaking of thanks, I also want to thank the Kirkwood employees who worked so hard during the storms and the highway closure. We prepare for this to happen. We have what’s called “Snow Emergency Plan” with levels 1 and 2. We implement level 1 often during storms which essentially requires company vehicles to chain up and keeps certain parking lots and roads closed, among other things. Level 2 is when it snows so much that the highway closes and staff and guests get stuck at the resort. We implemented level 2 on Sunday night. Part of this plan is preparing an emergency shelter for stranded guests and making sure there is food and beverages, sleeping bags and blankets, and restrooms available. Red Cliff’s Lodge was our evacuation shelter Sunday night through Monday afternoon. Prior to the storm, Dan Deemer, our guest service manager and Natasha Buffo, our employee center supervisor got 30 sleeping bags moved over to Red Cliff’s Lodge, and hauled bean bag chairs and other supplies over to Red Cliffs. It was just a precaution at the time, but we ended up needing all of them and could have used about 40 more! The lodge was warm and dry and we had snacks and water out for people. Kirkwood Inn was also a gathering point for stranded travelers Sunday Night, the staff there helped people get transported over to Red Cliff’s lodge. Our security staff stayed with the stranded travelers all night and made sure everyone was safe.

During these storm events we also make arrangements to keep essential staff on the mountain. This happened as part of our preparation for the storms on Sunday and Monday. We had staff from virtually every department on hand from Food and Beverage to Mountain Operations to deal with things. Our Health and Safety Sr. Manager Kip McCarthy, and our Snow Surfaces Sr. Manager Mike Niccoli were on-site the entire time during the road closure to support the staff. Not only did this group of dedicated staff take care of the travelers who were stuck at Kirkwood, they were also able to get the mountain open on Monday and we spun lifts for the homeowners and skiers who were stuck at the resort! 

This was quite a week, the mountain got refreshed, and the skiing has been good each day. I hope you all got to enjoy it as much as I did!

See you on the slopes…

Tom

FRIDAY JANUARY 4, 2019 

Happy New Year!

Thank you for your patience and understanding on postponing  the New Year’s Eve outdoor events. We wanted to make the call early enough so everyone could make other plans. It is always hard to pull the plug on events that have been planned for so long. I know a lot of people based their NYE plans on the torchlight parade, the fireworks, and the outdoor bonfire, but with the conditions the way they were on Monday, it was the safe thing to do. When I left at 5:30pm it was really nasty out and I was really glad we didn’t have people out in the elements. As mentioned last week, our wind instrumentation on top of chair 6 has been working overtime! Winds were again well over 100 mph on the ridge tops on December 31 and into New Year’s Day.  Thanks to the team for their hard work planning the events and then working to change plans. The good news is, we will re-do all these events on Saturday, February 23rd, on the weekend of the 25th Annual Kirkwood Banked Slalom!

 
Additionally, thanks to everyone who attended the annual “Kirkwood Ski Patrol Meet and Greet” last Saturday evening. The attendance was at an all-time high. We will look at getting a PA system and a bigger space for next year. I can’t tell you how proud I am of the men and women of the Kirkwood Ski Patrol! The avalanche mitigation work this team does in order to get this mountain open is impressive, takes a great deal of knowledge and training, and is very hard work. As both Adam and Greg mentioned in their presentations, the safety of staff and guests is their highest priority. Obeying the signage and direction of the ski patrol is paramount in being able to open the mountain. Please help by calling out and reporting those who duck ropes and don’t obey the staff.

What a difference a couple days make! The weather since New Year’s Day has been sunny and warm, but the snow has stayed cold and conditions have been great.

Now it looks like we are heading into a snow cycle starting this weekend! For the mountain staff, this potentially means - early starts, night man duty, and 24 hour snow removal. For those that missed the ski patrol meet and greet, I wanted to explain the “night man” program.

First, it’s not exclusive to men, women of the Kirkwood ski patrol and lift maintenance teams will also spend all night on top of the mountain during big storms. “Night Man” duty is usually decided before our daily operations call at 2:30pm when the weather forecast calls for heavy snow and wind. We generally have a ski patrol staff member and a lift maintenance staff member stay in the ski patrol buildings at the top of Chairs 6 and 10, only sleeping a few hours during the night. These staff members are stationed up there because the top lift terminals can often get buried in snow or iced up and if we didn’t have staff up there to plow and shovel out the top terminals, we may not be able to get the lifts started from the bottom in the morning. In addition, ski patrol staff stay up there so they can get a jump start on getting explosives ready for the rest of the snow safety team in the morning. They can also do the initial avalanche mitigation routes before the lifts start spinning. Then the rest of the mountain operations teams show up early at 6:00am to start all their work. Besides shooting the 105 Howitzer, all hand charge avalanche mitigation work  has to be done during daylight hours. You might think it would be hard to get staff for night man duty, but it’s not, the team always step up for this unique ski industry work.  Sometimes, the weather forecast will fool us and it snows way more than predicted, and we don’t have night man staff at the top of the mountain. When this happens we often don’t know if the top lift terminals are buried or iced up and the only way to find out is to have ski patrol hike up to the top of Chair 6 from the top of Chair 5. If Chair 10 can’t spin, they will either walk over from the top of Chair 6 or take one of the snow cats from the top of Chair 6 to the top of Chair 10. In any of these circumstances, it’s a lot of  hard work and takes time.

I hope all of you who are reading this get out and enjoy some powder days Sunday and into next week!

See you on the slopes,

Tom

FRIDAY DECEMBER 28, 2018 

Happy Holidays everyone!

The conditions for Christmas were nearly perfect, it started snowing on Christmas Eve and we woke up to 6 inches of new snow Christmas morning with clearing skies. I know there we a lot of happy people out on the slopes Christmas morning, because I was one of them! The skiing was particularly good on the backside off chair 4 on Happiness Is and under The Wave….so much fun!

Since then we have been in a clearing pattern with cooler temps, which is keeping the snow quality really good. Even though we had the Winter Solstice last week, and the days are slowly getting longer, the sun angle is still really low which is keeping the snow quality good. There isn’t much in the way of snow storms in the near future, so this low sun angle is our best friend right now in terms of keeping the snow quality high.

Thursday the East wind kicked up and last night we recorded a wind gust of 169 mph. This is Category 5 Hurricane Scale wind!  The wind is also creating a minus 20 wind chill this morning. Not good conditions for running chairlifts or having people out on ridgetops! The good news is that the wind is supposed to reduce throughout the day. Our crews are standing by to open the upper lifts if and when we can. Keeping our staff and guests warm and safe is the biggest priority today.

While on the subject of weather, I wanted to give a shout out to the team of people who have worked hard to improve our weather forecasting and reporting tools. Adam Ikemire, our new Ski Patrol Director had a vision to improve our wind instrumentation at the top of chair 6. The previous wind tower was located near the Ski Patrol hut and the top of chair 6 lift terminal which affected the accuracy of the wind speeds and direction. And it was too short to be considered for “official” wind measuring data for NOAA weather. So Adam, along with some summer maintenance staff re-used some old lift tower pipe and material and with the permission of the USFS moved the location of the wind tower to the top of the ridge near Monte Wolf/Lost Cabin. It also got raised to the official 30 feet so that the wind measurements would be considered official data by NOAA. This has been a game changer in the wind and weather forecasting and measuring for Kirkwood, just like last night, recording a Cat 5 Hurricane gust of 169mph!  

Another cool project that Adam Ikemire led, along with our IT Manager – Jared Allen, has been the “Whisky Pig Weather Station” this project was brought on line this fall after 2 years of effort. The old snow plot (which we still use for data) is near the bottom of chair 1, just above the snowmaking pump house on skiers right of Hay Flat, is at approx. 7,800 feet above sea level. The new weather/snow plot is at approx.. 8,500 feet which will be more comparable to weather and snow measurements with the other ski resorts in the region where snow plots are generally at mid-mountain or above. At the new Whiskey Pig site, we measure snow totals daily and season to date, and have the flip board on a web cam. The coolest thing about this new snow plot, is that it’s “off the grid” and runs on solar power with generator back up. Again, this project was done in cooperation with our partners from the USFS, and completed in house by Adam and Jared and many others from Lift Maintenance, Summer Trail Crew, IT, and Ski Patrol. All the parts are recycled from old chair lifts and other cool things from the boneyard, with the exception of the nice new solar panels!  If you ever ski by any of our snow and weather stations, please stay outside the roped off areas. It’s crucial that only our staff go into the plot areas to preserve our data.

Lastly, on the topic of solar power, we have a brand new Lift Shack at the top of chair 4, if you look on the back side of the shack, you will see a solar panel. That is providing heat for the lift operator manning that station. Then, look up at the newly remodeled Ski Patrol Bump Station up above the top of chair 4, and you will see another solar panel on that little building, again helping to heat the space for our ski patrol staff. Credit for these projects go to Jason Fontenot – Lift Maintenance Director, Reid Devine – Lift Operations Manager, and Quince Buckley – Ski Patrol Team Lead.

Kind of a long post, but hopefully you found it interesting.

See you on the mountain…

Tom
 

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 21, 2018 

Happy Holiday’s Kirkwood Skiers and Riders!

Kirkwood Mountain is set up for a great conditions this holiday period. We are 100 percent open, we have fresh snow, more snow in the forecast on Christmas Eve, we have all of our facilities open, and we have an engaged staff ready to deliver…We are ready to go!

I wanted to give a public shout out to all of our staff here at Kirkwood. Our team is one of the things that make Kirkwood so special. We often say “it’s not just a job, you have to want to work at Kirkwood”. This is so true, and the end result is a group of like-minded people who work together every day to deliver an amazing experience. We have an internal mantra here at Kirkwood which is “Make the Mountain Proud”, I am also incredibly proud of all the people who strive make Kirkwood what it is!

In other news this week, The Cornice has re-opened and been re-imagined. We invested in a new triple decker conveyor pizza oven. “Chef” has designed a custom pizza sauce and we are making our dough from scratch. In addition to great pizza, the menu will include toasted sandwiches, wings, and salad. The Cornice will be open every afternoon for happy hour except Tuesdays. On New Year’s Eve the will be an “80’s” party at The Cornice…stay tuned for details. For homeowner’s and lodging guests, you can get pizza to go.

Again, Happy Holidays and See you out on the mountain!

Tom

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 14, 2018  

Happy Friday Kirkwood Skiers and Riders!

Thanks to everyone who came out last weekend for the opening of the backside of the mountain. It was really great to open all of the amazing terrain Kirkwood has to offer. I hope you also noticed that we opened Outlaw Terrain Park, and started our high angle grooming off chair 6 last weekend. We would never be able to open the mountain early like we have this year without such an amazing and hard-working staff! Thanks to all of them for all the hard work this season.

Kirkwood has some operational challenges that many other resorts don’t have to face. For instance, there are no roads to the top of chair’s 6 and 10. During the summer, everything goes up the lifts, or by helicopter. In the winter, when there is enough snow, we build a road out of snow between Sentinel Run and Rabbit Runs. This allows our staff to haul supplies up to the top of chair 6 and from there to the top of chair 10 via snow cat. We don’t have near enough snow to build a road yet, so in order to start the high angle grooming off chair 6, the crew has to get a 25,000lb winch cat up to the top, which is really hard to do without a road! So how does the crew at Kirkwood make this happen….

Well, having enough snow is the main driver of when we open or start grooming runs, but not having a road up to the top of chair 6 plays a real role in when we can start high angle grooming. This is because it takes a snow cat with a winch to help the motor in the snow cat climb such steep runs, and we keep all of our front line snow cats and winch cats at the vehicle shop. Once we feel we have enough snow to groom Sentinel and Upper Zachary we dust off the old Braeden Winch that lives in the garage at the top of chair 6. The Braeden has been used once a year for a long, long, time. The Braeden is a giant winch that runs on diesel which is mounted on an old LMC 3700 snow cat that also lives year round in the garage at the top of 6. (think of a small winch on a jeep x 10,000). When it’s time, the LMC with the winch drives from the top of chair 6 over to the top of Sentinel Run and parks near the edge. A ski patroller skis the cable down to a waiting winch cat and operator who which has climbed as high as they can on Sentinel run and hooks the winch cable to the winch cat at the bottom. Then the operator of the winch at the top of Sentinel dials up the power and the starts pulling at the same time the driver of the winch cat at the bottom starts driving up Sentinel Run. It takes all the power pulling from the top and all the power from the machine driving below, with both the tiller and front blade raised, to be able to make it to the top of such a steep mountainside. This generally happens at the end of the day and finishes in the dark. Once the winch cat has made it to the top of Sentinel, the LMC and Braeden winch go back to the garage at the ski patrol building at the top of chair 6. The winch cat can then hook up to an anchor located at the top of Sentinel and top of Upper Zachary and head downhill with the cable keeping them from free sliding while knocking down the moguls and smoothing out the run. Once it gets to the bottom, the overhead winch arm spins 180 degrees around and the winch motor assists in pulling the big machine back up hill. This happens several times until the width of the run has been leveled. You may also have noticed that it generally takes several nights to groom the full width of Sentinel and Upper Zachary. Then, the large winch cat has to stay at the top of chair 6 until the snow road can be built (usually in January or February) at which time it can go down the snow road to the shop and get plugged in with the other snow cats. Pics attached of this year’s annual project of getting a 25,000 pound winch cat to the top of chair 6.

Besides the high angle grooming we do off of chair 6, the grooming crew generally use a winch cat on many other runs around the mountain on a nightly basis, and sometimes they get to branch out and winch groom other steep runs around the mountain on a periodic basis.

I am very proud of the grooming team and how they take pride in their work and do things with safety on top of mind. The employees who did this year’s Braeden/Winch Cat project on Sentinel Run were:

Steve Hodgkins – Grooming Manager 
Phil Pedrojetti - Winch Groomer
Jon Trent – Vehicle Shop Foreman
Steve Noble – Vehicle Shop Team Lead
Kyle Essary – Ski Patrol
Ricky Newberry – Sr. Director Mountain Operations

Until next Friday….see you out on the hill!

- Tom

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 23, 2018 

Hello Kirkwood Followers! 

What an amazing start to the 2018-19 ski season! Thank you all who have been on the mountain already, and we look forward to seeing those soon who haven’t been up on the mountain yet. I want to start a weekly post to give you all an update on what’s happening at Kirkwood from an operations perspective. 

I wanted to start this weekly update by acknowledging the entire staff here at Kirkwood for their effort in ramping up operations fast and as safe as possible. Each and every employee plays an important role in opening the resort every year. Our motto is “Safely Home, Everyone, Everyday” and we approach everything we do with safety as our first priority, for both our guests and our staff. 

Secondly, I want to acknowledge our summer trail crew and all the work they did on the mountain this summer. Beginning in June, this small crew of Mountain Operations employees used chain saws, blade saws, string trimmers, and a big mower to cut back the small trees, brush and grass on the main ski runs so that we can open earlier and with less snow. This maintenance work hasn’t been done for many years, and has contributed big time to being able to open as much terrain as we have so far this winter. Nowhere has this been more evident than looking down Sentinel Run this past week and not seeing a tree top sticking out.

In addition to the summer trail work, our crews also made a number of impactful improvements to make Kirkwood better. Here are just a few of the improvements to look forward to:

Mountain Improvements: New drive and comm. line on chair 6 | New braking systems on chairs 10 and 11 | Moved Epic Mix gantries on chairs 7 and 9 to help maze flow | Rebuilt all snow fencesSolar Powered weather station at 8,500 feet for better snow and weather reporting
Timber Creek: New carpet and furniture | New flooring in bathrooms New outdoor barbecue and bar service | New ticket and season pass sales booth at top of stairs | Move Epic Mix gantry on chairs 7 and 9 to improve maze flow.
Village: New Outside Guest Service Information Center | New and upgraded outside barbecue and bar areas | Added ski school sales and service counter at the entrance of the rental shop | Adding additional fire pit and outdoor seating at The Wall Bar
Parking Lots: Asphalt repairs Village Parking Lot and Lower Red Cliff’s Parking Lot | Road Base and graded gravel lots and Kirkwood 

Again, it’s great to be open and off to such a great start, enjoy the snow and expanded terrain over the next couple days and I hope to see you at Kirkwood Deep on Saturday.

- Tom