Tahoe’s big three ski resorts set for season opener
James Grant was probably one of the few people in this world eager to shovel snow Thursday.
After 10 years with Heavenly, the lift supervisor looks forward to opening day, much like a child anticipating snow at Christmas. And today, Grant and his fellow sunglasses-clad employees have much to show their pearly whites about.
The snow conditions are presumably the best at this time of year since 1995, quite a departure from two years ago when the ski area opened in mid-December, he said.
“I think this is the best opening we’ve had in a long time,” Grant said, prepping the Gun Barrel Express lift for the hordes of people expected today. “It’s just amazing how much snow is out there.”
Grant, who oversees the mountain himself to monitor chair-lift operations, was referring to the combination of natural and man-made snow that has accumulated on the upper half of the mountain. The dry, cold weather has made for ideal snowmaking conditions.
In just two weeks, the snowmaking operation that covers about 70 percent of the resort’s cleared trails has thrown out enough snow to bury a football field more than 1,000 feet deep, the company states.
Like a true all-weather snowboarder, Grant wants to add to Mother Nature’s 12- to 36-inch base.
“Bad weather would be the best thing,” he said.
This weekend, the Aerial Tram and Gun Barrel Express quad will take skiers and boarders up to nine open trails on the California side, including Upper and Lower Ridge runs, Canyon Steamboat, Sky Chute, Patsy’s and Groove. From midmountain, they can shoot over to the Waterfall chair then criss-cross to the Sky Express lift to the 10,000-foot summit.
The Upper Nevada side of the mountain will open Saturday, with riding off the Dipper Express chair lift.
And to handle the influx of eager skiers and boarders ready for a promising early ski season, the rental shop has stocked its inventory well. More than 3,000 ski boots, 2,200 Rosignol skis and 1,000 boards await the rider who happens to walk into the park without equipment, Manager Pablo Valles said.
Valles, a dance teacher, had his staff of 14- to 27-year-olds dancing Thursday.
“Everybody’s jazzed about the snow,” he said.
An adult lift ticket for opening day is $39, young adults (12 to 18) pay $35, and children’s and senior’s tickets run $20. When the Nevada side opens, tickets go up to $45, $38 and $22, respectively.
Also opening Friday is Sugar Bowl, with the Jerome Hill Express, Christmas Tree and Silver Belt chair lifts and the Cable Car beginner tow. The Donner Summit resort is selling tickets for $40.
In Alpine County country, Kirkwood kicks off its opening Saturday with seven lifts accessing 27 trails. This includes the new Cornice Express Quad that zips skiers to the top of the mountain in under five minutes.
Base depths amount to 12 to 24 inches of natural snow, and the resort is adding to them with round-the-clock snowmaking on four runs including Zachary from the top of the new express quad.
Lift tickets run $39 for adults and $29 for young adults between 12 and 18. Half-day passes are also available.
For cross country skiers and snowshoers, Kirkwood’s Nordic center offers 25 kilometers of groomed trails in the meadow. Trail passes will be reduced.
On North Shore, Squaw Valley joins Kirkwood this Saturday with “the best opening-day snow conditions in 25 years,” Mountain Manager Jimmy King said. The upper mountain has been blessed with nearly 3 feet.
Operating lifts this weekend include Cable Car, Funitel, Shirley Lake, Siberia, Bailey’s Beach, Gold Coast and Links, “enough terrain to make your legs burn by noon,” spokeswoman Katja Dahl pledged.
Lift tickets go for $39 for adults, $29 for juniors and children under 12 and seniors may ski for $5.
The Squaw Valley Film Festival also marks the opening day with the premiere of “The Game.”
Down the road to Truckee, Northstar-at-Tahoe opens Saturday.
Its sister resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe, is already open and has expanded its free shuttle service to all seven days. The first departure time is at 8 a.m. from the Lake Tahoe Inn at Stateline and the last bus leaves from downtown Meyers at 12:46 p.m. The bus leaves the ski resort Monday through Friday at 2:30, 3:30, 4:30 and 5:30 p.m. On weekends and holidays, the last departure time changes to 6 p.m.
Other resorts already open include: Boreal Mountain Resort at Donner Summit, the nation’s first; Alpine Meadows in Tahoe City; and Soda Springs Winter Resort in Soda Springs.
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