Sierra ski resorts ready for winter with new features

LAKE TAHOE - Lake Tahoe night owls who like to soar in snow on planks may get their wish at Heavenly Mountain Resort this ski season.

The South Shore ski resort will add a nighttime terrain park on the World Cup Run that could be designed as much for spectators as riders. The High Roller Nightlife Terrain Park will offer a slew of plastic and steel boxes and rails for all levels of riders - some will be illuminated from within the features.

The park will make its debut mid-December and will be open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 5 to 9 p.m.

"This was created for the locals. Everybody in town has talked about this for years," Heavenly terrain park manager Rob Guistina said. The South Shore native has skied Heavenly for 32 years. Twelve of them were taken up building and designing parks.

Guistina has empathized with the youth in the community looking for something to do at night, when their older friends and siblings go to bars or nightclubs.

Even the older riders may take part. Dick Yost, who owns the shop, thinks the addition of the night park will be "epic."

"This is huge. It's going to be the meeting place. This segment of the sport is huge," Yost said, referring to rail riding.

The park will receive a late afternoon grooming of which Heavenly plans to beef up this year with new machines.

Full-day lift tickets and season passes can be used at the park after hours. Or, riders may buy a nighttime ticket. That price is yet to be determined.

South Lake Tahoe's back yard ski resort has also added more signs and snow guns off the lake-facing Gunbarrel run.

With more changes in the coming years including a longer and swifter North Bowl chairlift, Heavenly will offer skiers and boarders four terrain parks and one super pipe that's cut with a 22-foot Zaugg pipe cutter.

• Sierra-at-Tahoe added a 17-foot Zaugg pipe cutter to its grooming fleet for its terrain park off the Broadway run.

Adventure zones will be expanded on the mountain. The names match the themes - Bear Caves, Pony Express, Maidu Meadows and the Gold Rush.

The interactive displays allow children to climb in and out of treehouses, caves and secret hideaways.

Sierra has also placed a lot of thought into its food service. It will take out Mountain Munchies in the main lodge and put in the Happy Hippie snack shack. Motorized bike taxis will shuttle skiers and boarders around the parking lots.

• Northstar-at-Tahoe has been added to Aramark's ski shuttle program in which a rider takes a bus from the South Shore and the Tahoe Queen paddlewheeler on the way back. The aqua ski shuttle is scheduled for Northstar on Wednesdays and Fridays beginning Jan. 18 at a cost of $104 per person. Squaw shuttles are slated for Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The biggest news out of Northstar is the opening in December of its village. Guests strolling through the village will see a maze of cafes, art galleries and shops. Phase I will contain 60,000 square feet of commercial space.

• Squaw Valley's Trilogy Spa has opened, along with Ben & Jerry's ice cream and a men's clothing store. At mid mountain, Squaw will offer a demo center at the Gold Coast Lodge and add more rails to its three terrain parks.

• Sugar Bowl has expanded another 14,000 square feet to its day lodge in the Mount Judah area, adding a bar, restaurant and medical clinic. The lodge is due to open Dec. 17.

• Kirkwood is still planning on running a new high-speed chairlift, cutting the 15 minutes spent on Chair 7 down to four. The $4 million chairlift near the Mighty Mountain Lodge, which will probably open by Thanksgiving weekend, helps get skiers and boarders riding the ridge above Cornice Express to the Sentinel and Palisades bowls get back to the central part of the mountain faster and easier.

When the snow comes, Kirkwood will add on more areas for high-angle grooming opening up more terrain on the 2,300-acre Alpine County resort.

Also this year, Kirkwood plans cat skiing to Martin Point, a crown-like rock at the top of the southern ridge resort above Timber Creek.


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