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The Judge's Perspective: The Night Before the Tram Face

The Judge's Perspective: The Night Before the Tram Face

[ February 28, 2010 - 1:18am ]
Tram Face
Freeride World Tour Judge Tom Winter checks in from Squaw Valley, where it's currently dumping. The competition is slated to occur on Sunday with the number one ranked male skier, Candid Thovex, skiing first.

Editor's Note: Early Sunday morning, the organizers of the Freeride World Tour made the decision to hold today's competition on the Tram Face.

My first day at the Freeride World Tour’s Nissan Tram Face event here in Squaw Valley USA is marked by sleet, snow, and rain. A very wet front is pounding the mountain, with some weather reports hinting at 100 mile per hour gusts on top. After the experience at the Nissan Russian Adventure, where unseasonable rain and warm weather combined with fog washed the event away (it was rescheduled in Chamonix, France), the spitting mixture brings with it a certain amount of consternation. Until we talk to the friendly local at the front desk of the Squaw Olympic Inn, our home for the week.

“We call it Juneuary,” he says of the weather. But don’t worry, he adds. “It will get cold tonight and tomorrow will be epic.” And then, more seriously: “There could be two or three feet of snow from this storm. Avalanche danger will be through the roof. Don’t go out of bounds.”

Sure enough, the next morning I’m awoken to the sounds of the ski patrol doing avalanche control work, the muffled thuds of bombs pulsing through my wakefulness.

The bad news? This much snow means that the Tram Face won’t be safe for a competition. And it’s the Tram Face that we’re here for. A forbidden slice of Squaw Valley’s fruit, the Tram Face is impossible to miss, rising up from the base of the mountain, directly under Squaw’s most famous lift. Big, gnarly, with plenty of exposure, it’s a permanently closed piece of terrain, the steeps, the cliffs and the avalanche danger combining to make it too risky a proposition for the general public to event think about. So, while the Tram Face has been skied—by poachers early in the morning or at night, when it’s lit by a spotlight from Squaw’s village—the Freeride World Tour is the only time when it’s game on for this part of Squaw’s terrain.

The athletes that will face this challenge are a diverse bunch. Last night, in the bar, I met two of them. Both of the girls were down to earth, happy to be here and thrilled about the event. They’d had some competition experience, too, but it took some prying to get it out of them. It seems that Switzerland’s Melli Francon and Norway’s Helene Olafson had just been up in Canada, at a small shindig called the Winter Olympics, where Olafson finished fourth in the boardercross event.

Then, of course, there’s legendary French athlete Candid Thovex. Thovex currently sits in first overall as the Freeride World Tour heads into the final tour stops at Squaw and Verbier. During last night’s bib draw fate or some other force of nature conspired to have him yank out the #1 bib, so when this event starts, we’ll get to see him ski first.

With the weather supposed to clear on Sunday, there’s a very good chance that after we spend today scarfing up Squaw’s legendary powder, that the event will go off this weekend.

It will be, as Front Desk Guy would say, “epic.”


WOW, 100 mph wind. Surely

WOW, 100 mph wind. Surely that would blow a man right down that mountian?

The author gives us a clear

The author gives us a clear idea of the proceedings and weather conditions at the Freeride World Tour’s Nissan Tram Face event. He points out that the weather is marked by sleet, snow, and rain. The author found it indeed reassuring to note that there will be two to three feet of snow the next day. So that is certainly good news for skiing fans.

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