Resort opens with slick first-day results |

Resort opens with slick first-day results

A lift operator jammed reggae at a return shack. Three chairs carried snowboarders and skiers up the mountain between moss-covered red firs. Sierra-at-Tahoe was open for business.

In one of the mountain’s earliest openings ever, 12 of 44 trails were offered free to the public Friday at noon. On the hill, there was a foot of packed snow and hidden nooks of powder.

“We had 1,100 people. We were jazzed,” said John Rice, general manager of Sierra-at-Tahoe. “People were all smiles. We didn’t see anyone who was disappointed.”

Saturday and Sunday lift tickets were half-price and about 600 people showed each day to board or ski.

Troy Drufee, a 26-year-old waiter from Sacramento, seemed totally satisfied after snowboarding all day. “Every Sunday, it’s either here or Alpine,” he said. “First weekend, first day – it’s perfect. It’d be nice if the top was open, but it’s all good though.”

Thanks for the early season should go to a storm that hit the region the night of Oct. 28. Rice said the weather system dropped 6 to 10 inches of snow on the lower elevations of the mountain and 12 to 24 inches up top.

“The type of snow that fell was perfect for early season base,” Rice said. “You’d be surprised how much snow there is. People don’t believe it.”

Bobby Schultz, assistant director of Ski Patrol whose worked the terrain for 13 years, said the terrain was in decent shape for this time of year.

“In places it’s really fun,” he said. “We’re about where we were Christmas week last year. If we get a storm as much as this last one, it’ll be all go everywhere.”

Forecasters are predicting a storm may hit the area at the end of the week. In the meantime, Sierra-at-Tahoe plans to remain open with two chairs and 12 trails and tickets at half price.

“The goal is to get good skiing conditions under way by Thanksgiving, any day prior is just a blessing,” Rice said.

“It’s awesome. Everyone here is really excited. We put employees to work and gotten some momentum going.”

The earliest season opening for the mountain came on Oct. 20, 1989. Back then the mountain went by a different name, Sierra Ski Ranch. It changed ownership in 1993 when it was bought by Booth Creek, a ski holding company which owns six other mountains including Northstar-at-Tahoe and Bear Mountain.

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