One of the great perks about working at a hotel is that you get to experience a lot activities and amenities for free so you can then positively recommend these things to your guest. Snowmobile tours, restaurants and since we work for Squaw Valley Ski Corp. anything to do with on hill activities. So, we were encouraged to participate in the new Dawn Patrol program.
At first, it seemed like a novelty but then the wheels started to spin and we thought, “be up at High Camp an hour before the public, be first to get to Granite or Silverado?”, huh. We were really encouraged to go all of ” Juneuary”during our mid-winter corn cycle but we kept holding out thinking we would go when Granite or Silverado were guaranteed to be fresh and open first thing in the morning. (Didn’t think that would actually happen.)
Somehow on February 27, 2011 the moon and the stars aligned, strings were pulled and me and my co-worker Sam got the go ahead to attend Dawn Patrol. Conditions couldn’t have been more perfect, a couple of feet of powder, close to zero degrees the night before, very stable snow (nothing in Silverado slid at all), blue bird and a totally fresh Silverado!!
Dawn Patrol includes a gourmet breakfast buffet, which is hearty enough to sustain you all day long. We wolfed down the breakfast in about 5 minutes and headed to Granite Chief at about 8:15 for a warm up lap, it had been spinning since 8:00. Granite had been open for a few hours the day before but the peak was still fresh and it was to be opened at 9:00 sharp. We did a quick VIPs lap, which was still pretty fresh and of course we had the entire area all to ourselves.
We then made the easy decision to go wait for Silverado over heading to Granite Peak. We went to the Bailey’s Cirque gate, and at 8:55 patrol dropped the rope. We easily won the Chinese downhill against the other 10 people that were there. The snow was epic, blower on top and perfect Sierra sponge padding underneath and untracked all around!! It was fast and very good for hucking and nothing had slid at all, which is unusual for Silverado. All the steep stuff held ever bit of snow, no ice showing at all. Second run we went Bungee Bowl to Katmandu and it couldn’t have been any better. By the third lap, everyone had showed up and the line was 45 minutes long. Time to call it a day.
Would I recommend Dawn Patrol? Hell yea! Save up your 49$ and plot and scheme the perfect day to do it. You can reserve up to the night before on Squaw.com and they do take walk-ins the morning of. Usually on the Squaw web-site the night before they give a pretty good idea of what is going to be open for the next days Dawn Patrol. As far as I know, it never sold out all season. The buffet breakfast also last until 10, so you can ski before then have breakfast later. Dawn Patrol is done for this season but I am sure it will be back for next year. Definitely a unique experience that you should try at least once a season!!
On a side note, the final clip of the POV video was not from Silverado but from the Lower Tram Face/Toilet Bowl zone on my way back to the car that day. It was probably the best conditions of the year for that zone, cold, deep, stable powder all the way to the road.