Ski & Snowboard Club Vail expands into snowmaking, grooming operations at Golden Peak
Local organization gets its own winch cat, crew
VAIL — This season, as a Ski & Snowboard Club Vail snowcat drives past a new clubhouse toward an expanded race venue at Golden Peak, the scene might be somewhat surreal to those close to the club.
Fifteen years ago, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail came to grips with the fact that its reputation as one of the world’s top coaching organizations was at odds with the facilities — an outdated clubhouse, a very average snowmaking system, an increasingly cramped training facility and a difficult road to the top for kids trying to balance school and snowsports.
As a result, the country’s first public ski academy began in 2007, a state-of-the-art snowmaking system was installed on Golden Peak in 2009, and over the course of the next decade, a 16,000-square-foot clubhouse and a 760-vertical foot expansion of Golden Peak received the green light.
As the 2019-20 season approaches, the club now prepares to start a new phase of management on its expanded race facility — snowmaking and grooming operations.
In the past, Ski & Snowboard Club Vail has contracted with Vail Resorts to provide these services, so in transferring operations in-house, “We were able to do it with no additional cost to the membership,” said John Hale, chief operating officer for Ski & Snowboard Club Vail.
Getting grooming in house is an idea Hale has had in mind since he first joined Ski & Snowboard Club Vail two years ago. Hale came to Vail from Loveland Ski Club, where he was executive director.
“(Loveland) had basically dedicated an operator to us,” Hale said.
Through that experience, Hale learned what direct management of the snow surface can bring to the overall training experience for a ski club.
“I was realizing, through that, what could be done, what is possible with a surface,” Hale said.
In Vail, the club was using a rotating group of operators and machines, contracted through the resort.
“Which was fine,” Hale said, “but I knew that there is another few levels out there, if we could get this type of control over the whole process.”
The club has hired Lane Wentland and Justin Wildman at cat operators, and Bryan Calcaterra and Sean Guthrie as snowmakers. The group has worked together preparing the World Cup track at Beaver Creek.
“With all four of us having worked together before, now we’re in a tight-knit, close group, the communication is amazing,” Wentland said.
Hale said that immediately, the club will go from four grooms per week to six on the training surface. And the cat itself will provide the club with another level of expertise through its latest-and-greatest technology.
Adam Tietz with PistenBully said Ski & Snowboard Club Vail went all out on the technology available in their new cat.
“They went with the full snow-sat system, Version 3, with snow depth,” Tietz said. “They’ll have real-time snow depth as they’re out there.”
Wentland said the snow-depth information will be extremely helpful.
“You used to have a guy with a probe out there, and we would have to look at the slope and look at his map, and we’d have all this downtime while that was going on,” Wentland said. “Now you know what’s going on as you’re traveling, you get real-time knowledge, it will be super-efficient.”