Thanksgiving marks time to think about snow |

Thanksgiving marks time to think about snow

With the Thanksgiving holiday comes the traditional start of the ski season in the Tahoe area. Despite the modest amount of natural snow, the manmade stuff has been flying since the temperatures dropped to below freezing on the mountains.

Lift tickets are being discounted at almost all resorts until they swing into full operation. Don’t expect entire mountains to be open; we need a natural dump to coat the manmade snow before that can happen.

So here’s a quick rundown on skiing and boarding conditions.

Alpine Meadows offers packed powder on four trails with one lift running from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Bear Valley planned to open Friday, call 209-753-2308 to check it out.

Heavenly scheduled to open the Nevada side Friday with a packed powder 18- to 24-inch base served by eight lifts, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Heavenly has the biggest snowmaking system in the West and has been running it night and day for more than a week. Best bet will be the Nevada Big Dipper run and the California Ridge run. Don’t bother to think of Gunbarrel, although that quad chair will be running.

Kirkwood reports packed powder 12- 24-inch base with three trails open served by three lifts skiing from top of Cornice to base 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Surprise: the cross country area will offer five km. of skiing.

Squaw Valley USA has 2 to 4 inches of new packed powder, a base of 4- to 17-inches with nine lifts open 9 to 4 p.m. but Thursday through Sunday earlier, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Squaw added two new high-speed detachable six-pack chairs and a magic carpet surface lift for the children’s center.

Up off I-80, Tahoe Donner was to open Nov. 25 but call (530) 587-9494.

Small but fun resort Soda Springs opened with one lift for snow tubing (hot with the kids) and one lift for skiing/snowboarding. Inexpensive!

Sugar Bowl opened last Sunday and is celebrating its 60th birthday. The Jerome Hill Express quad is running as is the new White Pine beginner chairlift. Sugar Bowl has also replaced the old two-seater Mt. Disney chair with a high-speed detachable.

The addition of the new chair on Mt. Disney is sure to attract advanced skiers as there are challenging runs on the mountain. No word on when the awesome Silver Belt chair will open.

Sugar Bowl has planned a birthday party Dec. 11 a party and a major opportunity to demo new skis. The resort is also offering 2-for-1 lift tickets that day.

For Alpine Meadows, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Northstar-at-Tahoe, no work on openings but odds are the lifts will be running at those resorts after Thanksgiving.


Many of the Tahoe area ski resorts have demonstration centers where skiers can try out the latest stuff. At Heavenly, for instance, you can check out a pair of new skis for a couple of hours and go out and give them a run. Or you can ski with an expert and get tips of how to get the most out of shaped skis. Heavenly is not alone in this, of course. Sugar Bowl has a demo center at the main lodge, Northstar offers demos up on the hill.

If you’re going to demo some skis, here are some suggestions.

Take paper and pencil along (not pens, they freeze up). List the ski brand and name and record your sensations. Try them in as varied conditions as possible – groomed, crud, powder, steeps, bumps.

Try and feel the reactions of the skis, don’t try to push them to the max. Yes, as a last run give them a dynamite run. Don’t wait to record your reactions, do it after each run.

And don’t make more than three runs on the test skis. After three runs you’ve already begun to adjust to the special characteristics of the skis. Better to return to the demo center and check out a different pair of skis.

If you’re an expert or advanced skier, you probably know all about demo-ing skis. But for less experienced skiers, don’t try to ski the most advanced racing skis. You won’t enjoy them and you’ll have to work hard to make then turn for you. Ask the techies at the center what you should try. Tell them (honestly) how you ski, what you want to be able to ski in the future.

It’s always better to get a ski a little advanced for yourself, but not into a too tough category. If in the past you have liked a certain brand of ski, stick to it. Each manufacturer has certain parameters that continue from model to model.

A note to women: make sure you try models designed for women, which usually have the bindings mounted differently from men’s. Ski makers have finally realized that women’s structure is different from men’s and have adjusted skis accordingly. Suggested retail prices for skis are mostly fiction. Most ski shops discount them significantly. And for bargains check out the complete set of skis, bindings and boots. Maybe not for the experienced skier, but fine for the intermediate coming up.

A final note: there probably isn’t a bad ski on the market (except perhaps some that are sold in chain stores). Where things go wrong is when the ski and the skier aren’t matched. Don’t let the ski magazine review of racing skis lead you astray.

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