Alpine Party Rentals: Toasting tents in the snow

When and where: The Korbel American Ski Classic is held annually in March, near Vail Village, Vail, Colo.

Background: The five-day skiing event benefits the Vail Valley Foundation and includes ski races for former professionals as well as a Pro-Am ski race with pros and donors.

Timeline: Alpine Party Rentals, Eagle, Colo., has been the go-to rental for the Ski Classic for several years. “Today, this event is very well dialed in,” says owner David Smiley, CERP. “We know all of the main tenting needs as they don’t change much from year to year. Generally, about a month before the event, we meet with the clients, take them to lunch and go over the changes for the year. Most everything is nailed down at that meeting and then, of course, there are last-minute changes, which are usually small and can be taken care of with shorter notice.”

Each year, a snow pad is built adjacent to the village with snow groomers. The elevated snow pad, which ranges in height from 6 ft. to 20 ft., is located alongside the chute for the races. “Each year, we install a tent on the snow pad, as well as flooring and fencing. We use 4-ft. screw-in sand augers. They are designed for sand, but they work about 1,000 times better in the snow,” Smiley says.

“We take up to four days to set up this event. It depends on what the tenting changes are from year to year. Usually, we spend the first day laying down the subfloor. The next day, we lay the carpet, then build the tents and get them walled in. On the third day, we bring in the tables and chairs, hang the doors and take care of the outlying smaller tents. Sometimes we do stages or extra tents and that requires a fourth day,” Smiley says.

“This timeline used to be much longer, but four years ago, I purchased a trailer that we use to load all the tent poles and the carpet. The trailer can be pulled up on the ski mountain and the use of that trailer alone cuts a full day off the setup and takedown,” he says.

Other rental companies involved in the event: The Ski Classic also hires Temp-Air, based in Burnsville, Minn., and located in Englewood, Colo., to do all tent heating on site. “They have very large construction heaters connected to a 1,000-lb. propane tank. Temp-Air runs thousands of feet of gas line, buried deep in the snow, to reach all the heaters in all the tents we provide,” Smiley says.

Major items used and products bought specifically for the event: All tents are from Eureka! Party Tents, Binghamton, N.Y., including a 40-ft.-by-120-ft. Twin Tube Plus with a French window wall for the VIP tent; a 30-ft.-by-75-ft. Twin Tube Frame System with white and French window walls for the registration, gift bag and ski check tents; and a 30-ft.-by-30-ft. Twin Tube for the kitchen tent, in addition to multiple 15-ft. and 20-ft. sponsor tents. All tents are installed on flooring with a carpet overlay.

“We also provide 8-ft. tables for the bars, chairs and linens. A local construction company builds the stairs to the tent and those who need handicapped access are brought to the venue in a truck that can handle the snow,” Smiley says.

Challenges and solutions: “Weather can be the biggest challenge. We have encountered times when it has snowed 2 ft. in the middle of setup. Depending on the day, this requires us to shovel out areas to set tents or remove snow from the tent canopies,” Smiley says.

“Sun is the enemy. When we have lots of hot, sunny days, we have to work with the snow melting away from the sides of the tent. We have crews on hand to check straps and legs of the tent, and to shovel snow in and under the platform if need be,” he says.

“During the event, it’s difficult to get in and out of the venue as it is on the ski hill. Fixing problems, delivering last-minute equipment, removing items — all this requires quite a bit of planning when you are working on a ski hill during business hours,” he says.

What went well and why: “Every year, we learn a thing or two that makes us more efficient in the setup and takedown. This always seems to go well. The best part about this event is our relationship with our client. We work very hard to solve their issues and problems to creatively fulfill their needs and to make sure they are happy. In doing so, we have created a relationship that is mutually beneficial. They also help us out when we need it,” Smiley says.

Lessons learned: “There is a way to do everything. It seems we are among only a handful of companies that set tents on snow, so learning how to make that happen in a safe manner has been a long process. Every year, something new comes up and you get the opportunity to figure out how to deal with those new issues. We have learned that the heat in the tent escapes below the walls and melts the snow away from the floor outside the tent. How do you make that stop happening? Build the floor out? Fill the area with extra snow? Tighten the walls
down more? It’s a combination of all these things,” Smiley says.

Why rental is important for events like this one: “This event couldn’t happen without rental. Clients like this one help shape what our inventory looks like. We own five sets of tent doors, specifically because of this client, and they use all of them on this event. This client,
as with almost all others, doesn’t have a place to store or reason to own this type of equipment. Without rental, this would either be held inside or it wouldn’t be held at all,” Smiley says.