European vacation on the slopes | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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European vacation on the slopes

Sam Bauman

JASNA, Slovakia – Our recent visit to this new Republic of Slovakia, the south end of the old Czechoslovakia, just goes to show that you should never ski Europe just to ski Europe.

The snow has been terrible throughout Europe this winter, and the snow guns in the Lower Tatra Mountains at Chopok above the Grand Hotel at Jasna have had only moderate success in filling the gap. So it was a mountain top (about 5,500 feet) that was windblown down to patches of skinny rivers of snow, a midpoint of sheets of green ice and rocks and a bottom of slop and softball-sized rocks.

Too bad, the runs looked like they could have been great fun if there had been snow. But the bad surface didn’t slow down the locals, who plunged with abandon down the rock gardens, skis shedding sparks as they ran over rocks.

Heavenly’s Bob Valiquet and I tried some off-piste stuff but wound up gingerly seeking any way off the rocks. It could have been great skiing.

One of the pleasures of skiing something like Jasna/Chopok is the mixture of new and old. The new is a quad detachable lift serving the Slalomovy svah (read FIS downhill run). The old was a sidesaddle (honest!) double chair dating from 1950 and clanking like a steam locomotive. The gearbox was the size of a VW Bug!

When we raced GS, I turned in the worst time of all the SCIJ meetings I have taken part in, largely because I was trying to avoid the sheet ice. Oh, well, I did even worse on the cross-country, taking a fall into a collection of downed skiers at the bottom of a pitch. I landed on my nose, which bled so much that five doctors all tried to patch it up. At least the TV cameraman got some gore for the local network.

OK, back to the stuff about never skiing Europe just to ski Europe. Slovakia isn’t a name that comes to mind when skiing Europe. But its skiing is on a par with much of the continent. Even the snow in Austria was terrible. But there was much else to enjoy – beautiful Old World buildings, wonderful folk dancing, a different cuisine (lots of goulashish sort of stuff) and people having fun in their own way. You could complain about the lack of snow, but if that was all you did you missed the point of Europe skiing.

Europe skiing isn’t better than that in the USA. It’s just different and worth enjoying between days around Lake Tahoe. But there’s more to a Europe visit than just skiing. Look around and enjoy!

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Mark your calendars if you’re a freestyle ski enthusiast. Alpine Meadows will host a Far West freestyle competition April 5-6. The affair starts at 10:30 with an expected turnout of more than 75 competitors. Events for mogul and aerialists will be held on Sunspot and Lower Alpine Bowl. If you need info, call Clay Beck at (916) 583-4232.

***Monday is ski free day at Diamond Peak for “Guest Appreciation Day.” Yep, it’s all on the house for lift tickets and trail passes, but you’ll have to fork out for food and goodies. Any questions: (702) 832-1177.

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For the second time Squaw Valley will host Blade Running ’97, this time April 2-6. Blade Running is an aerial event where skydivers leap from hovering helicopters 2,000 feet above the Squaw Valley peaks and guide their high-performance parachutes through 15-foot high gates. Competitors will speed through the 10- to 17-foot-high gates at speeds of 30 to 50 mph. Scores are based on time running gates plus a penalty for missed gates. Top three prizes will be awarded.

This year the event will be staged in the Revo Race area at the base of Squaw for better spectator viewing. Last year it was held off the Headwall, with skydivers jamming their heels into the snow to keep out of the forests.

Competition is April 4-5 and April 6 a weather day. You won’t want to miss this event and be sure and take a camera as the colorful chutes make great pictures.

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Boreal will host five punk rock bands April 12 for “Snowboard ’97.” Included are Pennywise, Lagwagon, Guttermouth, Blink 182 and Salmon. Plenty of snow on the south-facing slope with five intermediate and advanced runs being softened by the morning sun. Night skiing lasts until April 11, with hours 9 to 4:30 until closing, April 27.

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Northstar chips in with a good deal, $25 lift tickets April 7-13. You’ll also get a chit for next season for a $25 lift ticket when the resort celebrates its 25th anniversary Dec. 1-7. The final day of the season will be April 13, but on April 14 you can ski for $10 plus a can of food.

And if you’re the owner of a Toyota car or truck, you can ski for just $29 at Northstar from March 29 to April 13. Bring your valid vehicle registration from any state. Maybe you’ll want to take part in the Northstar Sunsplash April 5 with live music, prizes, pond skimming, a mountain bike race on snow, a snowshoe fun race and corn snow slalom race.

Also at ‘star: snowboard slopestyle competition Saturday, April 12. A fee of $35 includes an all-day lift ticket; sign up 8:30 to 10 a.m. There will be medals for top three men and women. And if you’re ready to turn in your skis for a mountain bike, Northstar is holding a dual mountain bike slalom Sunday, April 13. You’ve got to be 18 at least, and have your bike ready to go. Start time is 10 a.m. Watch those gates!

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Mount Rose will host its first ever Monster-X border cross Sunday, April 13 on the “most challenging 1,000 vertical feet of ever laid out for a race.” Entry fee is $50, includes lift ticket ($25 for season pass holders). Payout basic is $1,000, $600 and $300 for men, $800, $400 and $200 for women. More depending on participation.

Entry limited to first 96 men and 60 women to preregister. An additional 24 men and 24 women can register on race day between 8 and 9 a.m.

Race begins at 10 a.m. in heats of six racers with top three advancing to the next round.

Preregister by sending entry fee and personal info to Think About It Ltd., 528 California Ave., Suite B, Reno, NV 59509. Make checks payable to Think About It Ltd. and get them there by April 11.

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Heavenly is sending a team of top skiers to take part in the World Syncronized Skiing Championships at Vail April 10-11. This will be the first time Heavenly has taken part in this demonstration of precision team skiing, and some of the resort’s best instructors are taking part, including Michael Rogan, Robin Barnes, Anke Neumann, Scott Dickey and Steve Everson, among others. Apparently the team was put together little more than a month ago with little expectations of great success, but after a month of daily practice there’s a modest amount of optimism for placing. This is the eighth such competition and includes teams from Italy and France. Heavenly is fielding an eight-person team, and Good luck to them!

And by now it’s common knowledge that Heavenly is going to put in a new chairlift this summer, ending up in the Von Schmidt area. The new lift won’t be of a great deal of help at first as it is part of the overall plan for the gondola from the Stateline casino area to the Von Schmidt patch, but it’s heartening to see concrete evidence of the Heavenly master plan at work.

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