TRUCKEE, Calif. — Storms have yet to dump snow on the slopes of the Lake Tahoe-area’s 14 downhill ski areas, but weeks’ worth of work by resort crews along with upgraded snowmaking capabilities have made it possible for several mountains to begin spinning lifts this week.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Northstar California, Heavenly Mountain, and Soda Springs Mountain Resort have all announced Friday, Nov. 16, as opening day for the 2018-19 season, joining Mount Rose Ski Tahoe and Boreal Mountain Resort as the region’s open mountains, thus far.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows announced both mountains will open on Friday, with access to the SnoVentures Activity Zone and Squaw Kids area at Squaw Valley, and the Kangaroo chairlift at Alpine Meadows.
The resort made opening day official in a release on Tuesday, and credited upgrades in its snowmaking capabilities for being able to give skiers and snowboarders an opportunity for the season’s first turns later in the week.
“We have continued to invest in snowmaking technology, and we are seeing that pay off this season,” Ron Cohen, president and COO of Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, said in a statement.
“Our snowmakers are some of the best in the business, and they are working tirelessly to get the resort open for our guests. It’s amazing to see our snowmaking and grooming teams putting a great snow surface together, even without natural snow, and even with largely unfavorable snowmaking conditions.”
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadow has invested $9 million on snowmaking during the past eight years, and more than $1 million for the 2018-19 season, including three new fan guns at Alpine Meadows.
Alpine Meadows will come into the season after $1.4 million in renovations to the Alpine Meadows Base Lodge, featuring a renovated food court and expanded marketplace.
For premium parking, carpool to Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows this season. Vehicles with three or more people get free access to premium Protect Our Winters, “POW Parking,” situated directly north of The Village at Squaw Valley. The program is a partnership with Protect Our Winters to offer free premium parking to reward guests who elect to carpool to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, with a goal to reduce traffic and the resort’s carbon footprint. Due to the popularity of the program, according to a statement from the resort, the POW Parking area at Squaw Valley has quadrupled.
At Alpine Meadows, POW Parking is located immediately adjacent to the Alpine Meadows Base Lodge. POW Parking will also be available for paid parking for non-carpool vehicles, with all spaces available on a first come, first served basis.
Northstar announced it will kick off the season with three days of celebration, starting on Friday at 8:30 a.m., when the first chairs start spinning.
The resort has yet to announce details in regard to which lifts and what terrain will be open on Friday.
“We are snowmaking around the clock right now,” said Manager of Communications Stephanie Myers. “Things may change depending on how much snow we can make, (Northstar crews) are just cranking it out.”
On Friday afternoon, the Welcome to Winter Weekend will take over The Village at Northstar with live music, family photos, sleigh rides, village-wide Apre’s, and complimentary S’mores at 4 p.m. at The Village Skating Rink.
“Come ski in the morning, and then take the rest of the afternoon to spend some time with the family and have Apre’s together,” said Myers. “It’s all about sipping, shopping, and hanging out with your friends after a great day. There’s going to be happy hour from 3 to 6 (p.m.) ... it’s really going to be a fun, hanging-out atmosphere.”
Northstar, which features 3,170 skiable acres, will debut increased snowmaking this season, including 24 low-energy snow guns along Luggi’s and Lower Washoe trails.
Across the lake, Heavenly Mountain will also kick off the 2018-19 season on Friday, and like Northstar, the resort is blowing as much snow as possible before announcing terrain and features for opening day.
The country’s only resort to span two states will begin spinning the first lifts of the 2018-19 season at 9 a.m., and will also have complimentary coffee, hot chocolate and donuts.
There will be a live house band at Tamarack Lodge and the resort’s DJ Cat will be cranking out tunes throughout the day. There will also be a complimentary happy hour for season pass holders from 1 to 2 p.m. at Tamarack Lodge.
“We’re really excited about opening day,” said Myers. “Our snowmaking team, I’d love to give them a huge shoutout. They are working so hard, and they are our heart and soul. We wouldn’t be where we are without them, and we all owe them a beer after we get open.”
New this year at Heavenly are guided UTV tours, which will start at the top of the gondola. The resort’s Galaxy Chair will also be upgraded from a double lift to a triple lift.
Sugar Bowl Resort
Perhaps one of the biggest additions to the area’s skiing this year comes from Sugar Bowl Resort.
The resort invested the first $3 million of an $8 million snowmaking upgrade this past summer, doubling its water-pumping capacity while reducing both energy consumption and the time it takes to cover its snowmaking terrain by two-thirds.
“The investments we’re making in snowmaking will not only improve the on-mountain experience for our guests and homeowners and ensure we have some of the best snow conditions in Tahoe, it will give us the added firepower needed to make it possible for us to operate from the Judah base area seven days per week, from opening day through season-end,” said Greg Dallas, Sugar Bowl president and CEO, in a statement. “This shift will offer our guests more convenient parking and resort access, as well as easy access to the popular base area lifts that cater to beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.”
Snowmaking improvements include the addition of over 100 of the project’s new energy efficient snow guns, and 17 tower-mounted fan guns positioned in large open areas where their “long throw range” can be put to maximum use. A new spur along Union Street with 10 fixed low E stick guns will produce critical early-season snow that will ensure top-to-bottom terrain from the summit of Mt. Lincoln to the Village base can be opened as soon as temperatures permit.
This season, new beginner ski and board school programs designed specifically for first time skiers and snowboarders will be offered daily. “Slide, Glide and Ride” sessions will introduce participants ages 13+ to their equipment, and get them comfortable stopping, turning and riding the lifts in no time. A three-visit package will also be available for those who want to continue building their skills.
The mountain fired up its equipment on Tuesday, Oct. 30, and is eyeing the end of the month for the season opener.
Tahoe Donner is scheduled to open its Cross Country Ski Center on Nov. 23, followed by the Downhill Ski Resort on Dec. 7.
The new Snowbird Chairlift is on schedule to debut opening day, conditions permitting. The fixed-grip triple chair replaces the original double chair installed in 1971. The new Snowbird Chairlift will provide improved access to beginner terrain, modern and reliable chairlift technology and an overall enhanced experience for skiers and riders. Its new location to the east edge of Snowbird Run will make more beginner skier terrain available and expand the size of the Learning Center area.
The resort’s Caterpillar Conveyor was relocated near the Ski School Yurt, providing better terrain for beginners to learn how to turn and stop before advancing to the Snowbird Lift. New this year, beginner Snowflakes classes will be split into two age groups: ages 3-4 and 5-6. Classes for ages 3-4 will be shortened to 1 hour, 15 minutes and offered four times daily to help students better focus on learning and improve their overall experience.
The resort will also benefit from upgraded grooming capabilities for both cross-country and downhill skiing.
Boreal Mountain Resort
The first resort in California to begin spinning its lifts for a fifth consecutive season, Boreal Mountain Resort, opened to the public on Nov. 9.
The resort will debut its California Cruiser beginner lift this season. The new lift is designed to help new skiers and snowboarders to easily load and unload. Boreal has also expanded is snowmaking system near the resort’s beginner terrain.
Soda Springs Mountain Resort
Soda Springs announced it will open Planet Kids and Tube Town on Friday, marking the resort’s earliest opening in 85 years of operation.
Planet Kids, a snow playground designed for children (7 and under), and Tube Town will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. through Thanksgiving.
Homewood Mountain Resort
The resort gave its snowcat an upgrade over the summer to give its Snowcat Adventures even more power for prowling the mountain. The tours takes groups of up to 10 people over 750 acres of backcountry terrain on the flanks of Ellis Peak, above the resort’s traditional ski area boundary.
Homewood is scheduled to open on Dec. 14.
Donner Ski Ranch
One of California’s last family owned and operated ski resorts, Donner Ski Ranch, has scheduled Dec. 27 for opening day.
One of the area’s most legendary hills, Granlibakken Tahoe, celebrated its 95th anniversary last season, and will offer expanded ski and snowboard lessons this season.
Later this year as part of a celebration of Granlibakken’s Olympic history, which dates back to a bid to host the 1932 Winter Olympics, the resort will host its annual Christmas torchlight parade.
Diamond Peak Ski Resort
The Incline Village-based resort will unveil a new terrain park area for skiers and riders to test their limits in the new lower-mountain zone called “The Village at Diamond Peak.”
The resort is scheduled to open Dec. 13.
Mount Rose Ski Tahoe
Mt. Rose was the area’s first resort to open when pass holders hit the slopes on Oct. 19, taking advantage of the resort’s base elevation of 8,260 feet.
The mountain invested $2 million in projects last summer, including the installation of 17 new snowmaking towers, and upgrades to its snow grooming fleet.
After opening to the public for weekend skiing on Nov. 2, the resort has been closed during the week while continuing to make additional snow.
Mount Rose is scheduled to open again on Friday.
Kirkwood, tucked 35 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, is serving up more than big mountain riding in a small-town atmosphere.
This season, Kirkwood Village is launching a new restaurant, The Cornice Pizza. The menu will feature build-your-own-pie options, traditional favorites and unique pairings.
The mountain is scheduled to open Nov. 21.
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