Heavenly bonus: Two more days of fun in the snow | TahoeDailyTribune.com
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Heavenly bonus: Two more days of fun in the snow

Column by Sam Bauman

Just in case you missed it in Wednesday’s Tribune, Heavenly is for the first time reopening after a spring closing this Memorial weekend. Lifts are $12 for adults and $7.50 for kids. Season passes, including employee IDs, will be honored both Saturday and Sunday.

Gunbarrel, the Tram, Patsy’s, Waterfall and Sky Chair will be running with most California trails open. Upper mountain will be open until 2 p.m. and lower until 4 p.m.

This has to be the most innovative season in a long time at Heavenly, what with its October opening (first around the lake, beating Boreal, which usually is the leader).

Then the banishment of the old (ski school, instructor) for the new (Perfect Turn, clinician or pro) and the addition of such clinics (not lessons) as 25,000 feet of vertical in a day or beat the crowd and ski on perfect snow at 8:30 a.m.

The latter in the past had pretty much been limited to ski patrollers and ski school (sic) instructors. Freshly groomed, unskied show is a delight and a special pleasure and more skiers/boarders merit a chance to try it.

Nobody seems to know if the exciting changes at Heavenly come from new ownership by the American Ski Corporation or new freedom to existing local management, allowing more on-the-spot decision making. In any event, managing director Dennis Harmon and his team deserve a tip of the ski hat. It will be interesting to see what further changes they come up with. Rumor has it that advanced clinics may start at East Peak next season (thus eliminating the wasted time riding lower chairs to Comet and Dipper lifts).

Heavenly hasn’t released any attendance figures for the year, but Northstar-at-Tahoe reports a record-breaking season with 537,000 skier/boarder visits. This is the second time that Northstar has attracted more than a half-million in a season, the last time being the 1994-95 season.

And another reminder, Squaw and Alpine Meadows will be open until May 31. See you there!

HIKING BOOTS, PLEASE

While at lake level the snow is just about a thing of the past, up on the mountains there’s still tons of the stuff. Before you set out on a hike, you might want to consider the following four factors. They come from Dave McConnell, head of the Heavenly Ski Patrol and a part-time Forest Ranger:

ASPECT: This is the angle the slope faces. Southern exposures are usually the first to shed snow because of solar warming. Northern slopes receive much less sunlight. Northern slopes will hold snow much long at higher elevations, sometimes into the next winter.

ELEVATION: Generally, the higher the elevation, the higher the snowpack. As the storms come across the Sierra in the winter, the lower elevations get less percepitation. The higher the elevation, the heavier the snowfall. The combination of deeper snowpack and colder temperatures means the snow will hang in there.

WEATHER: Great spring snow conditions depend on the sun to turn frozen surfaces into corn snow (caused by the freezing and warming of the snow, forming corn kernel-size snow). If the weather forecast is for cold, overcast conditions you may want to limit your hiking to lower, snow-free areas until the weather cooperates.

TIMING: This could be the most critical point. Too early in the day and you could find yourself clinging to a tilted ice rink. Too late and you are “post holing” sinking in up to your knees with every step. While following a trail obscured by snow, look for signs of trail work to keep on track. Look for rocks lined up to mark a trail, downed trees that have a section removed for traffic, branches that have been “brushed” back, blazes cut into cut into trees to mark a trail.

When you come to a drift, climb on top to get an elevated view of what lies ahead.

When traveling across snow, ski poles can be a great help in keeping your balance, especially if you are toting a backpack. The new models designed for hiking are great, and the bigger the basket the better.

Dave has a lot of more good points for spring hikers which we’ll share with you next week.

Tahoe Daily Tribune E-mail: tribune@tahoe.com

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