What makes a great ski hill?
Is it the terrain? The snow quality and/or quantity? The size of the mountain? The vertical? The quality of grooming? The number of lifts? The apres scene?
All of the above, of course, are contributing factors in defining a truly great ski hill. And there are many resorts around the country that can lay claim to most, if not all of the above criteria.
But there’s also one other factor that most skiers and snowboarders don’t usually consider. And that’s who, not what, is at the resort.
With that in mind, a case can be made that Olympic Valley, that segment of Palisades Tahoe that was formerly known as Squaw Valley, might just be THE best ski hill around.
A Big Mountain Who’s Who
Consider the roster of pro athletes who wear the Palisades Tahoe team logo:
- Jonny Moseley, the two time Olympic freestyler and gold medalist who was honored by having Olympic Valley’s signature bump run on KT22 named for him
- Jeremy Jones, the big-mountain freerider, snowboard designer and founder of the advocacy group Protect Our Winters.
- Cody Townsend, a big-mountain skier and filmographer who is documenting the most challenging backcountry ski descents in North America in his project, “The Fifty”.
- JT Holmes, big-mountain freeskier, B.A.S.E jumper, stunt coordinator and frequent featured model in winter ski/snowboard films.
- Daron Rahlves, the U.S. ski team’s most decorated downhill racer ever who won the fabled Hahnenkamm event and subsequently founded the popular skier-cross event the Rahlves Banzai Tour.
And that’s slightly less than half of the full team, that also at one time had Scott Schmidt and Shane McConkey representing the resort.
The Fundamental Attraction
Most of the above athletes spent their younger days racing gates or ripping up such iconic terrain as Olympic Lady, the Fingers and the Nose on KT, the Palisades chutes, Granite Chief, etc.
And that’s what brings them back.
“All of us have gone around the world and skied a lot of places,” says Moseley, “but there’s something about (Palisades Tahoe) that keeps bringing us back. It’s hard to put a finger on it; it’s hard to describe.
“First and foremost, there’s the sensation of skiing there. The chutes, the steeps, the snow, the springtime, the moguls … the things that keep you interested. … (But) I think the fundamental attraction … is the valley itself, the familiarity, the general flow, the people welcoming you back. It feels very comforting.
“It’s a world-class mountain that has all the support you need.”
Paying It Forward
It this sort of vibe that the Palisades Tahoe team athletes want to bestow upon to the next generation.
“I have so much more of a desire to pass on the passion … in race, freeride and general ski enthusiasm,” says Rahlves, who joined the team just last week. “I definitely feed off the high-energy vibe here, and I … love the terrain the mountain has to offer.”
Moseley thinks everything’s going in the proper direction.
“They’ve done a nice job of building out a good environment for the pro team,” he says, “and now they are taking it to the next level.”