KCRA – Summer Snow Skiing at Squaw Valley
In every career you are blessed with a handful of great days that you will never forget. A few of mine were spent were:
- A morning spent with the great filmmaker Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion, Fly Away Home) on his film Duma.
- Shooting a press conference with the great Alex Haley, author of Roots and The Autobiography of Malcolm X, then having the opportunity to sit down and talk with him for a few minutes about writing.
- Doing the news story that aired last October on the 50th anniversary of the first broadcast of It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and getting to spend time at the Charles M. Schulz’s Museum, interviewing his son Craig, who produced and co-wrote The Peanuts Movie, one of my favorite movies of the new century, and Charles M Schultz’s television and movie producing partner Lee Mendelson.
And now I get to add June 25, 2017, a day spent shooting a story on the winter sport of snow skiing that is still going on at the uppermost ski slopes of Squaw Valley Ski Resort just 10 days from the Fourth of July. It is almost unimaginable—but true—that this year’s skiing season started before the winter equinox in 2016 and is still going on a week after the summer equinox of 2017. When we are already in the second half of the year, past to the longest day of the year, and now are back into the declining summer days of 2017—and people are still skiing and snowboarding shooting down the Olympic ski slopes of Squall Valley.
As you have seen from previous stories I’ve been posting over this year and previous years, I have really come to love getting up to the mountains and covering the snow in any conditions, most particularly the ski slopes and how the winters, both when they are dry and when the snow is plentiful, impact the businesses in the region.
When I initially originally got the idea for the story I looked online and found that Squaw Valley Ski Resort was only one ski resort still offering skiing going into the summer months, because they have one of the highest peaks in the Lake Tahoe region.
I called and spoke with Sam Keickhefer in the Squaw Valley Ski Resort media contact office, who was immediately and enthusiastically up for me coming up and doing a story. After that it was simply a matter of trying to work out when I could get up there.
Right now the skiing at Squaw Valley is limited to Saturdays and Sundays, and then only from 10 AM in the morning to 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
NOTE: I do not ski. I do not ask for any freebies like free lift tickets or anything. I simply love the beauty of the mountains. Having grown up in Missouri, a landscape of hills and an altitude that does not exceed a few hundred feet, being in an environment where in an hour and a half I could go from a sea level elevation below 50 and drive up to over 6,000 feet in a matter of 90-minutes an hour and see mountain peaks and bedrock of the earth rising up, it’s an enormous and powerful site, equally as great as the Pacific Ocean to the west.
I knew that I could not do this story when I worked on my Saturday shifts.
There is no way that I can see that a story like this could have been done on a regular weekend work schedule. Not just KCRA but all TV news stations across the country, even the networks, have minimal staffs on weekends. Our general working radius is within of the central valley, unless it was an extraordinary hard-hitting new situation, it simply would not be possible. And this is true for virtually all organizations, even on the network level, in this day and age. So the only way to do this story was if I was able to do it on my own time or if I could find a way to rework my schedule somehow.
But I desperately wanted to get up to show this winter skiing in summertime in 70-80° temperatures. I was willing to do it on a day off and as soon as I thought of this I was scheduled to a series of Sundays, so that was not be possible.
Finally I had the last Sunday in June off. This was crucial because the following weekend–Saturday, July 1—Tuesday, July 4—was scheduled to be the last weekend of summer skiing at Squaw Valley Ski Resort.
But I had an idea:
I pitched changing my schedule, working the Sunday to drive up to Squaw—about 2 hours or so away near Lake Tahoe, shoot this story then drive back—and give up a planned vacation day later in return.
Then—over the course of the coming week I could put together a larger story of several minutes long that could run on Friday evening as a special preview piece going into the 4-day Saturday-through-Tuesday Fourth of July weekend and let our avid skiing viewers know about the skiing opportunity that still exists for their time off. An incredibly unique Fourth of July opportunity which this will mark only the fourth time in Squaw’s 57-year history that allows skiing on The Fourth!
You’ll note in the pictures, that I came prepared with my full-sized Sony HD XDCA news camera and my two GoPro cameras—my GoPro Silver 3+, which my marvelous sister Margo sent me two years ago and turned me into a GoPro enthusiast, and my new GoPro Hero 5 Black, with its capability of shooting in 4K, and the GoPro Karma stabilizer “steadicam-type” unit to get fluid jiggle-free footage.
I have never before been on a ski slope where I was not wearing winter pants, winter coat, gloves and more. This time it was in the high 60s-70s at the top, but with the skiers that would be around, I did bring brought the added caution of a yellow reflective safety vest to make sure that I stood out.
The skiing started at 10 in the morning so I wanted to be up there when the ski lifts opened.
Sunday on the ski slopes at Squaw Valley Ski Resort:
Sunday morning I set my alarm for 6 AM. Had a hot cup of tea and watched the first hour of CBS Sunday Morning, hands down one of the greatest television programs that there is. It inspires me every weekend with every story.
7 AM—Shaved. (I wanted to look good when I represented KCRA at the 7000+ foot altitude.)
7:15 AM—Headed into work.
7:35 AM—Had all of my gear loaded up and pulled out of the station.
I love driving long-distances to stories. California is so beautiful, anytime of year. So many different views, the topography constantly changing. Anytime of the day or night. And as much as I enjoy working with the KCRA’s reporters, I’m privileged to be granted the opportunity to work on stories on my own.
Working with Squaw Valley’s media coordinator Sam Keickhefer could not have been easier or better. Everything that I asked of him he said, “Yes, we can do that. Yes, we can do that. Yes, we can do all that. Just let me know when you want to come up and I will be there ready for you.”
Working relationships like that make a day into a pure joy. And the joy only continued once I got up onto the mountain. I knew that I would have no problems talking with skiers enjoying the snow on the slopes. And this day lived up to my expectations 200%. Everyone that I approached was enthusiastic about talking about the conditions up there and why they wanted to be there to enjoy and experience them.
In all, I shot 75-minutes of footage over 2½ -hours spent on the mountain.
When I got back to KCRA for the start of my week on Tuesday, I mentioned to KCRA 10 o’clock producer John Glenn that I had something special for his one-hour newscast on Friday going into the weekend and warned him, “But it’s going to be long.”
“Go for it,” John replied.
The story was logged, written and edited over Tuesday and Wednesday at KCRA between assignments.
Aired on Friday, June 30, 2017, leading into the 4-day 4th of July weekend.