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Mountain Mayhem

 


Mountain Bling

Originally uploaded by jodi_engle

The sun was shining and the temperature was a balmy 50 degrees by noon at Sierra at Tahoe last Saturday. It was Day 8 of the 2010-11 ski season for me, but I didn’t do a lot of skiing. There were too many things happening!

We started the day, as we usually do at Sierra by going to the West Bowl. Then, we headed to Lower Main to catch some race action. I was a spectator, and my partner actually raced down the slalom course (taking first place in his age group). The slalom race was sponsored by the Bay Area Ski Bus, which also happened to be our mode of transportation for the day. Owner Brian manned the mic at the base and passed out trophies at 2 p.m. Men, women and children entered and had a great time.

Another highlight of the day was seeing the Cal-State Marching Band skiing down the bunny hill while playing their instruments. From the Nob Hill lift, we could hear the brassy sound of John Philip Sousa and Lady Gaga.

We caught our last chair of the day and skied down Castle. By then the snow was softer and the crowds had left–the perfect way to end a fun day at Sierra.

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January 19, 2011 Posted by | Trip Reports | , , | Leave a comment

Unconsciously Cross-training for Skiing

I started doing yoga last spring, and I love it! My mind and body race as I hurry on foot to yoga class after work once or twice a week, and 90 minutes later the relaxed yogi-me emerges from the warm, dim studio with a happy grin. It’s the same expression I wear when I’m pedaling on two wheels or riding downhill on two planks.

What I am finding thanks to my recent Skiing Magazine and Yoga Journal is that all three sports complement each other in some sort of strange triangle. For instance, world-class skiers warm up and cool down by riding stationary bikes positioned next to the ski hill (no joke: the photo in Skiing Magazine shows a skier pedaling in ski boots, which looks very uncomfortable–as if skiing in ski boots isn’t painful enough!). Yoga, according to Yoga Journal, is supposed to help skiers achieve proper body alignment when skiing (imagine doing mountain pose and chair pose on skis) and, as one might suspect, ease sore muscles and prevent injury.

Usually when the snow begins to blow, my bike starts to collect dust. This year, I’ve continued to commute to the office with my bike a few days a week and to ride on weekends (despite the rain, and there has been lots of it this year). While riding bike strengthens my leg muscles and improves my cardio fitness, yoga, I find, builds a calm state of mind and the ability to savor the moment, which enhances anything I do, including skiing. I enjoy skiing in the trees where there are no crowds and pausing to hear the birds chirping. Next time, I’m going to remember to take a deep yoga breath and slowly release. Aaah. Oops! Ommmm.

I began investigating the whole yoga and skiing link in planning my upcoming vacation to Big Sky Resort. Big Sky offers yoga classes in the morning and afternoon–aptly timed to coincide with when the lifts open and close. For a week, it only costs $35 to enjoy the benefits of yoga with skiing. Count me in! After a full day of shredding, savasana will feel amazing, although they may have to wake me up when class is over.

January 9, 2011 Posted by | Tips & Advice | , , , | Leave a comment

Spring on the Slopes


Alpine Meadows

Originally uploaded by jodi_engle

Today is the first day of spring, which means the official start of spring skiing–and with it, comes the allergies. I have the perfect marketing point for ski resorts: “Escape the high pollen count from all those flowering trees in the Bay Area, and come to Tahoe, where the vegetation is smothered in several feet of snow!”
Skiing in the springtime is truly undervalued. On March 13-14 (last weekend), it felt like spring conditions with sunny skies at Alpine Meadows on Saturday and Northstar on Sunday. The only difference was that at Northstar, the crowds were heavier than I’d ever seen. To my chagrin, Northstar had the audacity to sell refreshments at high prices to skiers and boarders waiting in the long lift lines. Usually, spring skiing means fewer people, along with the sunny skies and warm weather. Overall, the atmosphere is more relaxed. That’s because by 2 p.m. the snow is too soft to ski comfortably, so everyone heads into the lodge for drinks. Spring skiing requires some extra precautions, namely sunscreen and extra water to stay hydrated.
Kirkwood kicks off spring with a big Spring Break Party–Jammin’ XVII-April 2-4. A lifeguard tower and giant pond will turn the plaza into a slopeside beach.
Squaw’s sun-drenched mountaintop outdoor pool and hot tub opened on March 20 for the season, giving skiers and riders a way to partake of the snow and swimming at 8,200 feet in elevation.
Sugar Bowl turns up the heat with hard-to-beat specials, including free lessons and rentals with the purchase of a general admission lift ticket. The Bay Area Ski Bus heads to Sugar Bowl both April 3 and 4, which allows skiers and boarders to combine two of the best deals under the sun!

March 21, 2010 Posted by | Ski Resorts | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can’t Wait to Be Back in the Saddle Again

Bluebird conditions, fresh corduroy and first in the lift line. I knew it was going to be a primo day for skiing at Kirkwood last Sunday. Sure enough, we skied from the time the lifts started turning to the apres ski party in the parking lot with the Bay Area Ski Bus folks.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

We immediately headed to some of my old faves: Buckboard (a blue) and Conestoga (a black), which was groomed to be smooth from top to bottom. Then we made a beeline forĀ  the back side and the Sunrise chair. We skied the Wave and then rode up Covered Wagon, two surface lifts, to find the powder stashes on Fawn Ridge. Skiing the rolling landscape of Fawn Ridge, I took the opportunity to simply look around and admire the beautiful snow-capped mountains. It resembled cross-country skiing more than downhill.

On our return, I took the Lookout Vista lift for the first time. Added in 2008, Lookout Vista is a two-person T-bar surface lift that replaces the hike to areas such as the chutes of Thunder Saddle. The lift gets steep near the top. To avoid panicking, I stared at the tips of my skies. I wasn’t ready for Thunder Saddle just yet–my plan was to take baby steps up to skiing it as one of my last runs of the day.

We took Cornice Express to Sentinel Bowl (a black). I bobbed and weaved through some of my favorite gullies. Two o’clock rolled around, and we decided it was time to tackle the biggie–Thunder Saddle. We took the Sunrise chair up and traversed to the skier’s left. We arrived at one of the entrances into Thunder Saddle that looked manageable (the toughest run at Thunder Saddle is called Hell’s Delight). The top of the chute had collected a bunch of snow, and to my relief, it was wide enough to make my turns. The path narrowed to a rocky chute, where I sidestepped past the rock jutting toward me. Once through, the Saddle lost its rumble as the slope of the run dwindled to the bottom.

Liking the steep, but wanting something wider, I suggested heading to Zachary’s. The fast run off of Cornice Express was too crowded with skiers and boarders, so we headed to the left to Olympic (a black). It seemed so easy after Thunder Saddle.

We crisscrossed the mountain, but I left behind plenty of advanced terrain–it seems like there’s no end to the advanced stuff at Kirkwood–for a future, braver me to bite off one trip at a time.

March 9, 2010 Posted by | Trip Reports | Leave a comment

SnowFest: a Snow Lover’s Playland

Lake Tahoe is about to “spring” to life with its 29th annual celebration of SnowFest. With activities on and off the snow, events include the a polar bear swim, wacky human bowling and a crazy costume parade. I spoke with the executive director Ruth Schnabel about the gathering that draws up to 30,000 snow lovers each year. Celebrations kick off with a laser show, torchlight parade and fireworks at Squaw Valley on Friday night at 6:30 p.m. and last until March 14.

Wacky Human Bowling. Photo Credit: Niobe Burden

Q: How much work goes into planning for SnowFest?
A: Serious planning for SnowFest goes on year-round, although it ramps up in September. We try to have our first publicity–60,000 rack cards–out before Thanksgiving, so visitors to Tahoe during the holidays make the decision to return for SnowFest in March.

Q: What is your favorite event at SnowFest?
A: I’d have to say the two parades are my favorite events because they’re truly funky small-town parades. Everyone in the parade knows everyone on the sidelines, so there’s much interaction. We have the Vulcans who have come out from the St. Paul Winter Carnival for the past 25 years as guests in our parade; a group of former classmates from the University of Wisconsin Madison who reunite here and have been in our parade the last couple of years and will return this year; and the Tahoe City Kiwanis Club Snow Shovel Drill Team. We will show off all of our big snowplows–they do wheelies, etc. during the parade.

Q: What are some of the best deals at SnowFest?
A: All of the restaurants and bars offer deals. Pick up a copy of The Weekly or the Sierra Sun to find all of the specials in town.

Q: SnowFest is meant to showcase skiing in March. Can you describe why the conditions are so nice this time of year?
A: We usually have some of the best snow–and the best storms are in March, which bring lots of snow–and when it’s not snowing, the sun is shining and its skiing. Today [Thursday] is a typical example–nice snowfall yesterday, clear blue sky with sunshine today. It doesn’t get much better than that!

For a full list of events, a lift ticket/lodging deal to Squaw Valley and more information on SnowFest, visit www.tahoesnowfestival.com.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | Ski Resorts, Tips & Advice | , | Leave a comment

Fresh Snow at Squaw Valley

Squaw was a white paradise on Saturday. Fourteen to 16 inches of snow had fallen, and it was my first time skiing the resort on a powder day. Chains were required on Highway 80, but the Bay Area Ski Bus made it to the resort in good time. Before de-boarding the bus, I layered my clothes, because the weather can be temperamental at Squaw (my suspicions were right–the conditions ranged from cold and foggy to sunny and slightly slushy).

Squaw Valley Resort

Because of the snowfall, lifts were gradually opening at the resort. We rode up the Funitel (a rare treat, since it is the only funitel in the U.S.) to the midmountain and then skied over to the Gold Coast Express. Because it was becoming crowded, we took a slight detour to Mainline, a small two-person lift adjacent to Gold Coast.

The runs were filled with strings of youngsters in ski schools–aka, snow cubs as they call them at Squaw. One ski instructor was telling her pupils to stay in the french fry and let their skis turn uphill to slow themselves down. One little boy exclaimed that he did it, and I wished for a moment that adults could celebrate small accomplishments with such exuberance.

Next, we skied to Shirley Lake, an area that hadn’t been groomed and was full of powder. Again the lift lines looked long, so we headed for Solitude and skied around the trees a bit.

Riding the Funitel at Squaw Valley

One of my favorite lifts at Squaw is Red Dog. It takes riders to Lake View, which as the name suggests has lovely views of Lake Tahoe, to Twin Pines. It makes for a nice, long run down the mountain that we lapped twice before breaking for lunch. The run is long enough that I could feel my legs burning when I got to the bottom. We decided to try the barbecue at the Resort at Squaw Creek. The food was delicious and cheaper than anything we could’ve found at the main lodge.

Refueled, I was ready to take on Red Dog. The snow was a bit choppy, but I made it down the black run without any problems. Feeling perhaps overconfident, I tackled Cushman’s, which was steeper and scarier than Red Dog. Once down, I realized our day was almost done. I couldn’t believe how fast time was flying! We took Exhibition and then headed back to the base to call it a day. I enjoyed a great day at Squaw, and I left a lot more terrain to explore for when I return.

February 28, 2010 Posted by | Trip Reports | Leave a comment

Jamaican Roots in Truckee

Skiing Alpine, I’ve become a fan of Errol Kerr who lives in Truckee and whose home mountain is Alpine. The 26-year-old finished ninth skiing for Jamaica in skier cross in the Olympics today. Congrats!

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Ski Resorts | , , , , | Leave a comment

Homewood: Small But Big on Fun

Homewood Mountain Resort is small, but it makes up for its 1,260 acres in size with its short lift lines, family friendly terrain, lower lift ticket prices ($39 midweek) and the best views of the Big Blue at Lake Tahoe. The mountain features mostly intermediate runs with some beginner and a bit more expert terrain, which is a bit gentler than terrain labeled black at many other resorts. One slope has three chutes that are rated double black.

View of Lake Tahoe from Homewood Mountain Resort's Lower Ego Alley run

I skied Homewood yesterday–a day that started sunny and warm and turned into a winter storm with wind, cold and pelting snow. Three inches of fresh accumulated over the hard-packed snow.

Conveniently, the Madden Triple Chair is adjacent to the resort’s North Lot, which means you can park, haul your gear 10 feet and be at the ski lift. The Bay Area Ski Bus pulled up beside Madden, and we took the chair to the top and skied down to Old Homewood Express, one of the few high-speed lifts at the resort. We skied down the crunchy surface of White Lightning (black) to the Ellis Chair. From Ellis, we explored the trees near Third Creek and The Glades. Riding from the top of the mountain to the bottom, we wound up at Exhibition (black) and at the base near Madden.

Some of the best runs of the day were Miner’s Delight and Bonanza at the top of Old Homewood. Laskey Lane (black), located beneath Old Homewood, was full of moguls, and I dared to ski down it. The moguls grew bigger and bigger as I approached the bottom, but smart skiers and boarders could escape into the nearby trees if necessary. Zari’s Run was another nice and mild blue run and the easiest way to reach the Ellis lift from the west.

Due to the cold, we stopped for hot cocoa at the mid-mountain lodge–nothing fancy, but it does the job, selling hot dogs, sandwiches, candy and beverages in a warm shelter. Eventually, cold, tired and happy we made our way to the parking lot. Of note, we avoided Lombard Street, which can grow crowded and slushy due to high traffic. We chose Pot o’ Gold and Ore Car, a long path to the main lodge. Though this route has less traffic, it does require a lot of poling in spots.

All in all, it was a fun day, with hopefully more snow on the way!

Homewood stats:

  • Base Elevation of 6230′
  • Summit Elevation of 7880′
  • 1650 Vertical Feet of Mountan to Play on
  • 7 Lifts
  • 60 Runs

February 21, 2010 Posted by | Ski Resorts, Trip Reports | , , , | Leave a comment

Romantic Things to Do at Tahoe

Valentine’s Day has come and gone, but Lake Tahoe is romantic all ski season long. Here is my list of powdery activities perfect for two:

Dashing through the Snow

Snuggle under a warm blanket with your honey while soaking in the spectacular Tahoe scenery from a horse-drawn sleigh. Rides depart from South Lake Tahoe near Heavenly and whisk couples to a peaceful spot with panoramic views.

Borges Sleigh Rides operates from November to April. A 30-minute sleigh ride costs $20 per adult. 775.588.2953.

Get Steamy

Not far from Heavenly’s Nevada side, couples can escape the ski scene to David Walley’s Hot Springs, nestled one and a half miles south of Genoa. There, you can trade your snow suite for a swimsuit and plunge into one of seven mineral pools surrounded by vistas nearly as lovely as your date.

775.7828155

Picnic in the Powder

Plan a private picnic for two with the help of the Cupids who work at Heavenly. They provide the music, flowers, wine, silverware, china and food–including the kicker, a five-layer chocolate torte dessert. Everything is served on a table carved out of the snow and covered with a linen tablecloth. This unique dining experience is sure to make your hearts beat faster.

775.586.7000 ext. 6228

Stay the Night

No hotel at Lake Tahoe is more romantic than the Plumpjack Squaw Valley Inn. You’ll appreciate the small touches such as the fluffy robes and comfy slippers when you settle in on a cold winter’s night.

530.583.1163

Nothing Says Valentine’s Day Like…

For me, the best part of Valentine’s Day is the chocolate. Northstar-at-Tahoe‘s Chocolate Bar has it covered, offering delectable white, milk and dark chocolate creations. When there, try one of its award-winning chocolate martinis–cheers!

530.562.1800

February 17, 2010 Posted by | Ski Resorts, Tips & Advice | Leave a comment

I Heart Sugar Bowl


Jodi Ripping Nancy’s Colouir at Sugarbowl

Originally uploaded by dmourati

It was going to be mostly a groomer day at Sugar Bowl on Valentine’s Day. We arrived early on the Bay Area Ski Bus and caught the first lift of the day–albeit it was White Pines, aka the bunny hill. Despite that, we gave each other high fives and headed out on what we knew was going to be a great bluebird day with temps in the 40s.
Going up White Pines from the parking lot is a nice little trick to save yourself the hike from the parking lot to the Judah lodge. We skied down to the Jerome Hill lift and rode it up to Sidewinder (the snow on Sidewinder is usually nice, because it’s shielded with trees). We took Sidewinder to the Lincoln and Christmas Tree lifts.
Off of the Disney lift, we hit several nice black runs, including Donald Duck, Eagle and Nancy’s Couloir, a run which I’d never attempted or even seen. Nancy’s Couloir is a black diamond hidden behind the snack shack that another couple we met suggested skiing. They skied over with us but turned around when they saw the moguls. I dove into the moguls and had one of my best runs of the day. The moguls were small and soft (and as you can see from the photo, the snow was nice).
Another run that I like at Sugar Bowl is Crowley’s Run; however, I stay to the right side of the trail and ski along the fence in the ungroomed, which was a bit crunchy since it hasn’t snowed in days.
I also had a rare treat at Sugar Bowl yesterday. I rode the Crow’s Nest lift. It’s a small two-person lift that drops riders off below the top of the Disney Express. The lift rarely operates at Sugar Bowl, so I had to give it a few whirls. Plus, it was much less crowded than the Disney Express lift line.
New this year to Sugar Bowl is the Summit Chair. I think people used to hike up to the top of the ridge and ski or board down. I could see how it would be nice on a different day, but there were a few moguls and a lot of rocks poking through at the top. We skied through the tricky stuff and through the trees to Trailblazer. I guess that was my first double black, although it didn’t seem that bad.
The first weekend of February when there was more snow, we skied off-trail in Strawberry Fields and under and around the Lincoln Express. It was probably some of the most serious terrain that I have ever seen, although I saw it and then steered away.
It was two fun weekends in a row at Sugar Bowl. Now, I am pondering where I should go next on the Bay Area Ski Bus!

February 15, 2010 Posted by | Ski Resorts, Trip Reports | , , , , , | Leave a comment