Heavenly experience | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Heavenly experience

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneLewis Currington, left, and Nick Gallego cruise the Ridge Run on Friday during opening day at Heavenly Ski Resort.

Heavenly Ski Resort is open, providing snow and smiles for people wanting a winter warm-up session.

A dozen trails, including Ridge Run, opened Friday, covered in mostly artificial snow from more than 100 snow making machines. Patchy dark clouds passed overhead but never came together to drop the natural stuff.

The conditions didn’t deter Shawn Freed and Louise Askew from gathering their gear and hitting the mountain. Freed said he has skied the first day in his past six years living in Tahoe. He was sporting a smile above new clear green ski boots.

“It’s just to get going,” Freed said about opening day. “Just to get the old bones working out.

It was the first time Heavenly opened under new ownership since 1991. In March, Vail Resorts bought the ski resort for $102 million in cash and liabilities.

Snowmaking crews covered 2,300 vertical feet of terrain with at least a foot of machine-groomed snow on the upper California and Nevada sides of the mountain, said Blaise Carrig, Heavenly’s chief operating officer.

For the weekend crowd, eight lifts — including the Gondola at Heavenly, Sky Express and Gunbarrel will begin running at 8:30 a.m. Skiers and boarders will also be able to check out the $2.5 million in renovations to the California Lodge.

The interior and exterior renovations include state of the art bathrooms, new furniture, carpet and paint.

“It definitely has that ski lodge ambiance,” said Molly Cuffe, spokeswoman for the resort. “It’s a comfortable place to sit down, take the hat off and enjoy our new menu.”

The menu is the brainchild of a new mountain chef and new food and beverage director.

Businesses close to Heavenly were grateful for the early opening, planned by the resort after it received more than 3 feet of snow during the second weekend of November.

Tim Halloran, owner of Nepheles Restaurant on Ski Run Boulevard for 25 years, expects a jump in weekend patrons.

“The better Heavenly does, the better Nepheles does,” Halloran said. “I’ve seen Heavenly through lots of seasons and we love having them as neighbors.”

Powder House, a ski and snowboard rental place across from Heavenly’s gondola, has already seen its business pick up, said Assistant Manager Keri Garrett.

Change has been a familiar bedfellow for Heavenly this year with the opening of Marriott’s two lodging options, a $299 season pass deal and the purchase by Vail. A new intermediate run has been made off Dipper Nob, while the lodges have received makeovers, Cuffe said.

“We’ve been talking of the changes all summer and now guests are ready to come up to the mountain to see them,” she said.

Kevin and Clair Parr, teenage cousins from the Bay Area, skipped school and drove three hours to make tracks on their snowboards. Both were having a good time and expected future winter fun.

“It’s going to be an awesome year,” Clair said.

“It’s going to be an El Ni-o year,” said an enthusiastic Kevin.

A meteorologist from the National Weather Service in Reno said there is a slight chance for precipitation beginning today when an arctic system from Canada drops into the area. A high in the 30s is expected Tuesday.

“It’s not looking like a real wet system,” said Larry Brown. “Since it’s coming from that direction it will likely affect the Nevada valleys. But it’s nothing like we had a couple of weeks ago. It will be cold enough for snow, even in Reno.”

William Ferchland may be reached at wferchland@tahoedailytribune.com

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