Opinion: Privileged mindset at Squaw Valley needs to change
Special to the Sun
In the nearly 40 years I have been skiing at Squaw, I would have to say that April 8, 2015, marked a low point in civility and human decency.
A lot has been said about tradition at Squaw, and there are certainly a lot of traditions worth preserving, but the behavior of the patrons on powder days is certainly not one of them.
Squaw attracts a lot of patrons who feel that they have a special right to the mountain and that everyone else besides their friends is an interloper and in the way. The frenzy to be first on powder days can be truly frightening.
I am surprised no one was crushed to death against the funitel building doors or pushed under one of the cars — I nearly was. The people trying to manage the crowd seemed to lack the motivation, the ability, or the power to do the job.
The line on Siberia was rife with pushing, tromping on skis, people cutting in line, and people being unwilling to give others the room to herringbone or sidestep up the steep slope.
While Squaw cannot by itself change human nature, there is a lot you can do to alleviate the worst behavior. Start by teaching the team kids some basic manners. The young team kids were as bad as anyone else in the lines. Deploy adequate ropes in the lift mazes to prevent lines from growing from the sides. Get rid of the funnel system, where pairs of lanes are expected to alternate, and go back to the Alpine Meadows system where a series of parallel lanes is managed by a lift operator who makes sure people take turns, that singles get to load, and that chairs are filled.
On the busiest days, have extra operators supervising the lines to admonish people when the shoving and squeezing gets too bad and to pull the passes of people trying to cut lines. Once people see that lines are fair everyone will calm down.
As it is now, once people start getting aggressive the mood spreads and everyone, myself included, I’m ashamed to admit, starts to act the same way. Better line control will not reduce the wait, but it will greatly improve everyone’s mood and their enjoyment of the fresh snow.
Given that last week was spring break for some, I’m sure that some of the people caught in this melee had booked a week’s skiing, and that some of those were from out of state. I’m also sure that a lot of those people will not be back.
While April 8 was a low point, anyone who has skied Squaw on a storm day or the day after knows that it is not an exception. It is frightening that a lot of people seem to think that boorish behavior is normal or acceptable — just the way things are at Squaw.
If you hope to be anything more than a locals’ resort, I suggest you do something to change this kind of thinking.
Jack Kashtan is a Truckee resident.
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