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Boulder’s season comes to a close

Sam Bauman

Heavenly closes Boulder this weekend, with Stagecoach already shut down. There’s no firm date for closing the California side as the snow is still great off Sky Chair and Ridge Trail, not to mention Betty’s and Canyon. It should be good for a couple of weeks at least.

Meanwhile, it’s going to be a six-pack Tamarack Express for the new chairlift at Heavenly. This will be the second in the Tahoe area, after Alpine Meadow’s introduction of the multi-seater last fall. The opening is set for December of this year with construction to begin in July.

“When we first determined we would be installing a new lift for the upcoming winter season,” said Dennis Harmon, Heavenly president, “we had originally planned for a high-speed detachable quad. However … we felt that the six-passenger lift would be the best option.

“There are a number of added benefits … the six-passenger lift is heavier and can withstand more wind than a quad, providing more reliable upper mountain lift access on windy days.”

That will be good news for those who have chaffed at the wind holds on the Sky Express, limiting access to the Nevada side from California.

The Tamarack will begin in the Von Schmidt area near the end of the California trail and will top out near the end of the Dipper Express. When tied to the eight-person gondola this will mean much quicker access to Nevada and the top of the mountain. The lift will be 3,564 feet long and tote 2,400 passengers to the top per hour at a speed of 1,000 feet per minute. That’s a 3.5 minute ride!

Two new trails will be added off the California and Comet runs, with new snowmaking on the California piste. An additional seven lifts are scheduled as part of the resort’s master plan.

“Heavenly and South Lake Tahoe will be a virtually new destination going into the year 2000,” said Stan Hansen, Heavenly vice president.

You can’t say it too often: spring skiing is the best.

Sure, they’re playing golf and tennis and sailing down in the Bay Area, but they can do that all summer long.

What they can’t do is enjoy that great boilerplate (OK, so you have to use those edges) in the morning, that softening stuff at noon and then head for the trees as the trail become soggy. On the boilerplate it is next to impossible to dig a rut, but you could at least scratch the surface.

I had a perfect example of that last weekend at Sierra-at-Tahoe. Two of us started at 9 a.m. and it was like getting a foot massage in an iron mill as the skis bounded and clattered on the frozen corduroy. But it was exhilarating! Just the challenge of the hard stuff and a gas. That was over on West Bowl. Later we moved to the other side of the resort and skied more of the slightly softer stuff. Not so noisy. Then a quick lunch (they serve a new kind of thing at Sierra, a wrap lunch of such things as Thai chicken, excellent!) and back to West Bowl, where the runs were softening nicely and you could carve a trench. Then back to the east side and with the shepherding of Mike Carlson from the ski school, into the woods.

And what a delight! The snow was reasonably soft so that where there was a trace of a trail you could stick it, but if you wanted to or needed to you could roam into untouched stuff. Powder, hardly. Skiable, absolutely. Fun, you bet.

Then there was this Wednesday at Heavenly. Some fresh snow at the lake level so nobody was too optimistic. But then at the Boulder Lodge, well, it looked promising. And at the top of the Olympic run, wonder of wonders, real powder in April! At least six inches of light, fun stuff on top of groomed trails.

Yes, visibility could have been better, and out in the trees there were some surprise bumps. But it was sheet delight in that fluff. I made several runs before having to halt for work (075 was a real gas!). It was one of those wonderful spring skiing surprises that come along.

And that’s what those Christmas-time skiers are missing. On the other hand, if those people find out how great spring skiing is, we’d have to share the snow with them. So maybe forget everything I’ve just said!

***

I commented a few weeks ago on the trend toward wearing helmets while skiing recreational trails. Somebody asked me if I had ever skied with a helmet, and I hadn’t. So I borrowed one from the Boremi rep at the Reno retailer ski show. And I’ve tried it several times. Summary: no problem. Light, comfortable, warm, no difficulty in hearing. Unfortunately, the one I demoed looked like a World War II Nazi coal bucket so I got a few salutes, but I’m about ready to buy it. You never can tell when a surprise bump is going to send you off into the trees, which always seem to move out in front of me anyhow.

***

At the Reno show I stumbled across two innovative snowboard step-in bindings that show promise.

The first is the Berger High Tech Step-In, which employs a upright piston on the binding, which in turn inserts into a cylinder in the binding (fits any Switch compatible boot). The design allows the rider to make an instant alignment of the boot with the board over a 360-degree range. A handy lever on the inside side of the boot allows for easy in and easy out.

No problem with snow clogging the binding either. The upright piston doesn’t collect snow and a spring-loaded plunger in the cylinder keeps snow out of that. The binding includes a strap that comes up over the instep of the boot, which should give some additional control, a problem with most step-ins.

The other binding is an improvement in the K2 Clicker line, in which a prong under the front of the boot fits into a slot. The heel then presses down and into a spring-loaded fitting that holds the boot in place. Easy in, easy out by means of a small lever. Again, a power strap over the instep keeps the boot locked to the board.

OK, I’m ready. Get me a board, someone!

***

A quick note about the Zardoz “Notwax.” I picked on some samples at the Vegas ski show and have used it on my Volant Power Karves. It works fine, particularly in wet snow and repels the black guck that comes up in spring skiing. The stuff is a distant relative of Teflon (it’s a fluoropolymer from DuPont, perfluoropolyalkylether to be exact) and only works on sintered bases.

I banged my Volants up badly in Slovakia, and I had Vertical Sports repair the damage. The tech there went ahead and applied regular wax to the bases, and I was wondering what that would mean. Not much, says distribution Jake Clark. Seems the Notwax just stays in base pores with the regular wax on top. As the regular wax skis off, the Notwax steps in and continues to work.

Nice thing about the stuff is that there’s only one kind and it works fine in all temperatures down to minus 12 Celsius. Application (once you’ve cleared the old wax out of the pores with a solvent) is quick, just run the powder puff-sized applicator over the bases and let them dry.

***

Don’t forget $10 skiing/boarding at Northstar on Monday, April 14. Proceeds go to local charities. Also, a Project MANA food drive the same day. Bring non-perishable foodstuff to the Village.

And at Alpine Meadows, the weekend of April 19-20 will feature the “Wayne Wong World Hot Dog Skiing Festival. Don’t bother with the details, just get ready to have fun doing the impossible. Call ’em at (916) 583-4232.

You can pick up a guide to following the sun around the slopes at Alpine Meadows while you’re there. Or meet the gang at the big map at the base for the Meet the Mountain Tour, which also highlights the best spring skiing spots.

***

Next weekend they’re having a beer and wine tasting, dinner and auction for a bunch of great gear at Kirkwood. Gear such as a weekend at Squaw Creek with lift tickets, two four-day passes at Whistler-Blackcomb, skis, snowboards and select wines. Call Kirkwood for details, (209) 258-7339.


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