Squaw Valley Invests $4 Million into 13 Gazex, 4 Avalaunchers, 1 Avy Helicopter, Largest Ski Patrol Team in History, Navy SEAL Trainers, & The PACT Promise

Jake Rubnitz | | AvalancheAvalancheIndustry NewsIndustry News

[sponsored by Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows]

Coming off of a record 728″ snowfall winter, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows has invested $4 Million in new equipment and training to help improve the safety and efficiency of the mountain. The investments are geared towards allowing the Ski Patrol and Staff to more efficiently perform their jobs. The investment includes:

  • New snow safety helicopter: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is the only resort in California using a helicopter as part of their snow safety program
  • 13 new Gazex aka “Dragons,” now the largest system in use at any ski resort in North and South America. “Dragons” will be installed along Alpine Meadows Road, High Yellow, Red Dog Ridge, and The Roof 
  • 4 new avalaunchers, including two new units at Squaw Valley that mark the reinstatement of the avalauncher program there
  • Special training with Karakoram, which uses a background in elite military training to develop high-performing teams
A map of all 13 Gazex Dragons.  Organge are proposed, blue are existing. (Photo: Squaw Valley)

The new equipment is really intriguing from both a skier and ski patroller’s perspective. The Helicopter, Gazex Dragons, and Avalaunchers will allow for more efficient avalanche control and more controlled openings. 

“The helicopter enables us to assess snow conditions around the mountain, using test explosives, in under 30 minutes. We can use it to drop explosives onto the terrain below and transport our teams up onto the mountain to complete their avalanche control routes on the ground.”- Will Paden, Squaw Valley Ski Patrol Director

The Headwall Gazex Dragon (photo: Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows)

In this case more efficient is also safer. All of the new gear allows patrollers to be removed from high-risk zones during avalanche control, have less direct contact with explosives, and run safer control routes. Additionally, eight of the Gazex Dragons will be installed along the ridge above Alpine Meadows road; allowing for easier access to the valley and fewer road closures.

“All of these tools can be applied without having “boots on the ground”—they are used to perform avalanche control before ski patrollers go into the area. The Dragons can be deployed at routine increments as snow accumulates, including during dark hours when crews are unable to access that terrain safely.” – Liesl Hepburn, Squaw Valley, PR Director

Snow Safety Helicopter for Squaw/Alpine. image: squaw/alpine

This year Squaw-Alpine is employing the largest ski patrol team in its history. The Team also has more than a millennium of combined professional patrol experience at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

Squaw-Alpine has also opted for some unconventional training for its employees and they have been working with the Karakoram Group. The Karakoram group uses a background in elite military training to develop high-performing teams and leaders.  U.S. Special Operations Veterans have been working with Squaw-Alpine employees to improve cooperation and cohesiveness throughout mountain operations teams. It’s definitely an unorthodox idea, but one that Squaw-Alpine hopes can improve their mountains.

“The mountain operations mindset is similar to that of a Navy Seal: high-adrenaline and self-challenging. They work in a complex and challenging environment. They are passionate about what they do and they hold themselves and their teams accountable” – Dave Cooper, Founder of Karakoram Group

About the Karakoram Group. image: karakoram group

Squaw Alpine has also pledged to uphold a PACT with their guests this year:

“The PACT is a pledge to our guests that we are showing up, every day, with our largest staff ever, millions in new tools and transparent communication with more ways than ever to get real-time mountain information. It’s a promise that we will do everything we can to open as much terrain as safely and efficiently as possible.” – Squaw Alpine

This PACT is comprised of 4 moving parts:  Promise, Action, Communication, Team work. 

The details of the PACT are impressive:

  • 2,600 staff – the most staff in Squaw Alpine history
  • Largest ski patrol staff in history
  • 577 employees dedicated to opening the mountain
  • 6 departments involved in leadership training
  • 30,000 hours of annual patrol training
  • $4 million invested this summer into staff, training, & tools
  • 13 new remote triggered avalanche dragons (Gazex)
  • 4 new long range avalaunchers
  • 1 new Astar AS-350B3 helicopter
  • 8 new grooming machines
  • 2 new snow removal machines
Squaw Alpine’s PACT. image: squaw alpine

It’s a win-win when a company can improve the experience for both their employees and guests. With this investment, Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows hopes to accomplish that. Hopefully, this winter brings big snow, and Squaw-Alpine Patrollers get to test out some of their new toys and training to the fullest.

Women of Squaw Alpine Ski Patrol 2017 Calendar Project

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4 thoughts on “Squaw Valley Invests $4 Million into 13 Gazex, 4 Avalaunchers, 1 Avy Helicopter, Largest Ski Patrol Team in History, Navy SEAL Trainers, & The PACT Promise

  1. all this is great, but its really just to distract the masses from the environmental violations that KSL/Squaw real estate projects in the area will cause… this is the corporate mindset towards these type of things……”hey everybody, look at the shiny things, ignore the real issues.”

    kinda like the NFL protests, although totally relevant and important, are being given all the media focus, in order to distract attention from potential nuclear war…

    go amurika.

    bring on the snow.

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  2. 2 milion for a helicopter that can’t fly during storms or windy conditions,
    Why not spend that on employee housing, increased wages ? So they still have to send out patrollers in the morning to throw bombs ? How does that make it easier or safer to do avalanche control ? Jackson hole has a helicopter and one of their patrollers died when bomb detonated in her lap inside the helicopter .

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  3. Question 1). What exactly will be offered to the guests when the terms of this “PACT” are broken?

    Question 2). Can we please just state the obvious, these steps are being implemented to reduce the costs associated with insurance for Squaw Valley? It is plainly clear that these moves are part of plan to reduce the number of patrolers manually throwing hand charges. “Efficiency” is obviously subservient to this goal. The gasex will work great until they get buried as they have every year since their instillation.

    I’m in no way opposed to steps to ensure the safety of our ski patrol but lets just be honest as to what the goal is in all of this.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
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