Improvements Around Tahoe Resorts Focus Mainly On Conveniences


After a flurry of spending in recent years, the 2023-2024 headlines for "what's new" at Lake Tahoe-area ski and snowboard resorts do not include any new lifts or new terrain.

Rather, resorts turned to sprucing up on-mountain lodges, streamlining ticketing, pumping up snowmaking and grooming, and adding non-skiing activities.

Starting up around Truckee, regulars at Boreal can reduce the cost of their lift ticket by choosing a later start time than 9 a.m. Arrive at noon or later and the online cost is nearly cut in half.

At Tahoe Donner, seniors (50-plus) can enroll in a season-long race training program. From 9 a.m. to noon on Thursdays and Friday, older skiers get technical and tactical instruction through drills and an occasional race. For kids 3-6 years old, the resort has three age-group programs -- from beginners three days a week, more experenced on Thursdays, and "speedsters" on Saturdays. Parking is free, so are shuttles.

It's been a nearly a decade since Sugar Bowl put up a new lift, but California's oldest ski and snowboard mountain continues to upgrade. Money has gone into new grooming equipment and new warming hut, and there's a new speed-racing venue that can be booked.

In its 75th year, Palisades Tahoe paused after finally getting base-to-base finished a major remodel of Gold Coast mid-mountain lodge. The resort added five snowcats to its nation's largest fleet, and also winch picks to upgrade steep grooming.

Over in Nevada, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe upped its snowmaking game, then went for creature comforts. There's a new deck atop the Lakeview Express, a remodel in the Lodgepole Cafe, and a heated ramp from parking lot to ticket windows.

Along the north lakeshore, Diamond Peak got a new winch cat for grooming steeps, while the base food courts got remodeled for better flow.

West-shore Homewood returns to the public arena after a plan to go private stalled. New real estate development ownership has enhanced menus and tweaked mountain operations.

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North Of Tahoe, A Cluster Of Classic California Skiing Beckons


Skiing and riding in Northern California succeeds because of its proximity to the Sierra Nevada Crest (9,000+ feet), which pushes Pacific storms skyward to produce often prodigious snowfalls.

While the Tahoe "big boys" dominate in terrain, vertical drop, lift systems and skier-visits, you can find a less corporate feel to the north around Truckee, where a cluster of some of the oldest ski areas in the nation retain an old-school family ibe.

A quartet ski and snowboard mountains are within 10 miles of each other, each welcoming newbies, novices and casuals with terrain, vertical and mellow atmosphere they require. Take your pick:

  • Opened in 1937, Donner Ski Ranch (500 a.,750 vert.) sits astride Donner Pass -- an "easy" side and "difficult" side each with three fixed grips. One of several "big little" mountains around the pass.

  • Just off the Crest with a 7,701-foot summit, Boreal Mountain (380 a.,500 vert.) presents a laid-back, green-blue, terrain-park paradise. Woodward Extreme Sports at the base, plus five terrain parks and a half-pipe on the hill.

  • Open Thursday-Monday, Soda Springs (200 a., 650 vert.) is a family extension of neighbor Boreal. Founded in 1931, its two fixed-grip chairs serve a mountain with more than half its runs rated green. Plenty of off-hill stuff: tubing, kids play area and Woodward Start Park.

  • Another green-blue heavy hill, Tahoe Donner (120 a., 600 vert.) rates 90% in the easy-peasy category. A couple of fixed grips reach 7,300-foot summit for runs with few if any trees. Good place for kids to wander.

If the big-mountain urge hits, Sugar Bowl (1,500 a., 1650 vert.) is just down the road. It's got four peaks,13 lifts including five high-speeds. Blacks are more like blues on a hill that attracted Hollywood celebrities when the first chair went up in 1940.

Now, head a couple hours north to find some genuine classic ski slopes that locals love but few others know about. Near Susanville, Coopervale Ski Hill (50 a., 730 vert.) spins a single "poma" platter on Saturdays and Sundays. Owned and operated by nearby Lassen College, this tiny gem even has a half-pipe.

Less than hour away is Stover Mountain, likely the smallest hill in the state at 13 acres. Some 500 feet vertical drop is served by a very long rope tow to a 5,600-foot summit. Another weekend-only operation.

And, in the corner where California, Oregon and Nevada touch, volunteers operate Cedar Pass Snow Park (40 acres) on weekends. A T-bar and rope tow handle uphill transport.

Again, if you just have to get more vertical and ride a high-speed, take a three-hour ride west to volcanic cone Mt. Shasta Ski Park (425. a., 1,390 vert.). There, you'll find conditions more like Oregon -- Sierra Cement, drop-dead views -- without the crowds.


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The Snow Is Melting, Just In Time For Summer At North Lake Tahoe


After record-smashing winter snowfall, it's taken a moment for ski and snowboard resorts on the north end of Lake Tahoe to dig out and get summer activities rolling.

But now four of the resorts have shifted into warm-weather gears, and here is what they have to offer to the general public.

Palisades Tahoe will keep open for skiing and riding until July 4. At the base, a treetop ropes course swings into action. On the famed rock face above the base, the via ferrata is open to challenge participants who are clipped into anchors and cables up the granite wall.

The mountain's aerial tramway welcomes sightseers, thrill-seekers and hikers and bikers to ride up to 8,200 feet at High Camp. There, you'll find roller skating, disc golf (opening delayed by snow), and geocaching. As snow melts, naturalist and guided hikes begin, but there may still be some snowbanks to jump into. All activities, including tram ride, are free to Ikon Pass holders. Otherwise, a daily fee is charged.

At Diamond Peak in Incline Village on the lake, the resort opens up a moderate 1.2-mile hike to Snowflake Lodge. From there, the view of Lake Tahoe bursts out to the south. The lodge deck will be open for lunch and relaxing. And there's golf nearby, too.

Once again, Sugar Bowl will run Kids Camp on the mountain east of Truckee off I-80. Three four-day sessions in July breaks out children ages 4 to 15 onto age groups for a shot at outdoor activities and challenges -- from unstructured playtime for the youngest to mountain biking for young teens.

Home to the region's only Woodward adventure facility, Boreal offers a full menu of camps for skateboarding, mountain biking, BMX, scooter and parkour (indoor spring floors, trampolines and blocks to outdoor parks designed specifically for tricking). Camps run week-long, daily and micro camps.

On the shores of Lake Tahoe, Granlibakken transforms its winter ski and sled hill into a wider summertime experience. Prime is the treetop zipline, with 97 platforms, 27 ziplines and 60 bridges. Head to the water for swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding. Or hit the Rim Trail that runs right through Granlibakken's 74 acres.

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California's Ski, Snowboard Season Just Keeps Going And Going And Going ...


Snowfall for the 2022-2023 ski and snowboard season has bordered on the absurd, but the 700-plus inches that fell on California resorts is enough of a reality for at least 10 to extend their seasons beyond scheduled closing.

Nowhere did snow seem to fall more often than the resorts in and around the Lake Tahoe area and Mammoth Mountain. Photos of chairs buried in snow up to the tower tops kept coming and coming this winter. As the end approached, the month of May became the "new April" with a number of mountains keeping lifts spinning into the seventh month of their season.

Here's a look at what SnoCountry has as of March 28, but be sure to check websites because this season has been anything but predictable.

Starting at the top, Mammoth Mountain has announced it will stay open until "at least the end of July" -- perhaps taking a shot at its latest ever on August 6, 2017. Touting the state's highest summit elevation (11,050 feet), the central Sierra resort recently reported more than 800 inches of snow had fallen since the season began in November.

Next would be Palisades Tahoe on the north end of Lake Tahoe. Touting nearly 700 inches of snowfall so far, the mountain formerly known as Squaw Valley will run daily until the end of May, and then fire up the lifts on weekends through July 4.

The list of California resorts extending into May begins with a surprise: Southern California's Mt. Baldy has gotten so much snow that mountain officials say they have enough to keep going through May 21. But they also said they'd like to break their all-time record of June 6, weather permitting. Mt. Rose will run to April 30.

Also pushing their season into May are Kirkwood (May 14, more than 675 inches), and Heavenly (May 7, nearly 600 inches). Diamond Peak will also sneak into May, planning close on May 1 -- the second longest season since 1966.

A bunch of California mountains will push their closure dates deep into April. SoCal's park-ers' haven Big Bear will run until the end of the month, and so will Tahoe's Northstar. April 23 is the extended finish for Sugar Bowl, which seemed to catch every flake of every storm this season to ring up a total of 732 inches -- and counting. Recovering from the Caldor Fire, Sierra-at-Tahoe will  nonetheless extend to April 16.

While Boreal and Soda Springs officially say they'll finish on April 16, stay tuned as they are unofficially considering another week of operations. Tahoe Donner Downhill looks to add another weekend on April 14-16.

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West's Resorts Begin To Fire Up Snow Guns For Opening Day


With opening dates on the horizon, crews at many resorts in the West have been testing snow guns -- and looking longingly to the skies -- in hopes of putting down a base of snow in October.

Most ski and snowboard resorts have announced their anticipated opening days, although persistent warm weather in some regions may have something to say about that. A frequent check of resort websites is recommended.

However, hints of winter whiff the air and the high-country leaves are turning, so it's time to haul skis and snowboards out of storage and get them ready for the season.

The informal race to be the first to open in the nation falls upon the highest-elevation mountains along the spine of the Colorado Rockies. Traditionally, it's been Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland that vie for the title, but Wolf Creek surreptitiously snuck in last season by firing up its chairlifts on Oct. 16.

This year -- if official dates are to be believed -- Keystone will lead the pack by opening on Oct. 21, followed by Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 22, and Loveland and Wolf Creek on Oct. 29.

In California, 7,700-foot-high Boreal on Donner Pass is optimistic to begin on Oct. 28, while Mammoth Mountain plans to be in second place with an Nov. 11 opening. Tahoe's Heavenly has penciled in Nov. 18 for its first chairs.

Despite having middle-of-the-pack summit elevation, Lookout Pass (5,650 feet) on the border of Idaho and Montana has pushed its first day all the way up to Nov. 6 -- a full two weeks ahead of its previous earliest opening. Schweitzer, Sun Valley and Tamarack all plan to follow later in the month.

A pair of Utah mountains -- Brian Head and Park City Mountain -- hope to be the first in the Beehive State with openings on Nov. 18.

Skiers and riders in Washington will have to wait until December for Stevens Pass (Dec. 2) and 49 Degrees North (Dec. 3), while Oregonians will have to bide their time until Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline (Dec. 11). Mt. Bachelor expects to follow close behind on Dec. 12.

In New Mexico, Sipapu has had a lock on first-to-open in recent seasons. For 2022-2023, the family resort tucked into the Sangre de Cristos has tabbed Nov. 18 to begin spinning its lifts.




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Lake Tahoe Mountains Turn Up The Heat With Summer Activities


Warm-weather brings Lake Tahoe into its off-season bloom, and the mountain resorts that ring the largest lake in the Sierra put on their summertime best for visitors near and far.

Gondolas and chairlifts run all summer to open up vistas from ridgelines surrounding the lake. The usual fare of ziplines, hiking and biking, coasters and alpine slides, and adventure park challenges await. Here's a look at some of the highlights:

There's a new via ferrata on the Tram Face of Palisades TahoeGuides take climbers up two routes of permanent iron anchors and cables. Group or individual tours go 2, 3 or 4 hours daily. A tram ride ends at the popular High Camp at 8,200-foot elevation, where you can roller-skate, hike, disc golf and geo-cache.

Anchoring the south end of the lake, Heavenly's main gondola takes folks up to mid-mountain for the resort's summertime fare. There, thrill-seekers will find the Ridge Rider Coaster with 90-second slide down 3,400 feet of loops, twists and turns; lift-served Hot Shot zipline; tubing; and, adventure park. Or jump on the Tamarack Express chair to get higher.

Few downhill MTB systems can match Northstar's network of black-expert trails. A gondola ride to mid-mountain gets biker to two high-speed chairs equipped to bring rider and bike to dozens of single-track, cross-country and downhill runs.

Down south, Kirkwood boasts one of the most challenging disc golf courses around -- and one that is in its 23rd year. The course climbs out of the Timber Creek base area and winds through forests up and down the front. And it's all free.

On the west side of the lake, Homewood takes advantage of its lakefront location to promote its marina and water activities. Home to the High Sierra Water Ski School, visitors can purchase lessons in waterskiing, wakeboarding, waterskating and wakesurfing. Rentals of all sorts of water craft available.

Just off Donner Pass, Boreal is home to California's only Woodward youth active sports campus. Woodward Tahoe has two skate parks, BMX park and MTB trails on the lower mountain, plus base-area Wrecktangle and Woodward headquarters.




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What's New at California Resorts This Season


As temperatures begin to shift, Ski California resorts are gearing up for the 2021-22 winter season with investments in infrastructure, facilities improvements, and technology that will continue to allow for fast, contactless lift access, reservations and payment, and high-quality experiences.

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Head To The Park: Wintertime At Woodward Expands Into New Venues


Growth in mountain terrain parks, action "hubs" and programming define Woodward as the action sports company enters its 50th year in operation -- and the second decade on the snow.

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Powder Days All Around! Massive Storms Roll Across The West


In the waning days of January, Mother Nature got to work -- dropping her glorious bounty upon the mountains of the West, and finally giving skiers and snowboarders the deep powder they've been waiting for.

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Tahoe Resorts Ready To Open with Ticketing Restrictions


The baker's dozen of ski and snowboard resorts in the Lake Tahoe region will start opening for the season in late November, and all will have policies in place to combat the spread of Covid-19.

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Tahoe Resorts Let Skiers And Riders What To Expect This Season


Like all U.S. resorts, the list of COVID-related changes at Tahoe-area mountains reads familiar: Cashless transactions, masking up, self-grouping for lifts, state regulating size of gatherings, more weekday season pass options, rental shop spacing, group lesson capping,  gearing up in the parking lot, and grab 'n' go food.

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Plenty Still To Enjoy For Summer At California Resorts


Californians love the out-of-doors but COVID has put some reins on that. However, the mountains still beckon as one place that can be safe to go -- and give the sun-and-fun fix they crave.

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Ridin' The High Roads: Best Mountain Passes To Drive


All across the West you can find year-round paved roads that cross major mountain divides and offer some of the best mountain views in the nation. Plus, many are home to ski and snowboard resorts.

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Kids Getting Active At Summer Mountains


Willy Booker, head of Burke Mountain Academy which hones some of America’s finest ski racers, bemoans that kids are less active and athletic today and don’t get outdoors enough. 

One way to remedy that is to have fun at a mountain resort this summer.

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Opening Days Loom For Western Mountains


Loveland chairlift ready to be first open. (Loveland/Facebook)

It’s the time of year when the first snow hits the high ridges, the ski shows debut – and resorts begin to announce the day that the new ski and snowboard season will arrive.

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Party On Because The Season Just Won’t End

Party On Because The Season Just Won’t End

Turns to be had at Snow Summit. (Snow Summit/Facebook)

Mid-winter doldrums gave way to a snow-filled spring that has kept many resort open longer than expected – and cranked up the end-of-season parties.

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Storms Force Closures In The Sierra

Storms Force Closures In The Sierra

Snow everywhere you look around Lake Tahoe these days. (Heavenly/Facebook)

Ah, just like the old days … The trio of Pacific storms that recently slammed into the Sierra left behind record snow depths and wind speeds as high as 100 mph and forced nearly a dozen Lake Tahoe resorts to shut down their lifts.

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What's New Around Lake Tahoe

What's New Around Lake Tahoe

Snowcats open up new powder stashes at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows (Squaw Valley/Facebook)

The storms have started to roll across the Sierra Nevada, giving skiers and snowboarders who venture to the Lake Tahoe region a taste of what is to come this season.

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Snow Comes To The West, Opening Days Abound

Snow Comes To The West, Opening Days Abound

A pair of skiers punctuate the new season at Copper Mountain. (Copper Mountain/Facebook)

Just as doomsayers raised their voices, Mother Nature came to the rescue in the West and turned the conversation to, “When are you opening?”

For many resorts in the Rockies, Sierra and Cascades, the answer is a resounding “soon.” Yes, terrain will be quite limited – often a couple of runs in the beginner/intermediate areas – but many ski and snowboard areas put up cheap ticket deals to get people to the slopes as soon as possible.

Significant snowfall coursed across the northern tier of the Western mountains in the past week, dropping as much as a foot on Steamboat which opens this week. Most Colorado resorts that pushed back their traditional pre-Thanksgiving opening days have put a new date on the calendar. Colorado’s Keystone, Breckenridge, Winter Park and Copper Mountain all dropped the ropes this past week, after a week’s delay. Eldora is set drop the ropes this week.

Farther south, resorts like Purgatory got enough to open while others, like Taos Ski Valley, put it off until snowmaking and natural snowfall will cover more terrain.

Mammoth snowmakers

Out west In SoCal, Mammoth Mountain has been open for a couple of weeks and, in the Sierra, both Boreal and Mount Rose began spinning lifts this past week while a slew of other Tahoe-area resorts plan to open for Thanksgiving.

Early snow has come fitfully to Utah, but Snowbasin plans to lead the pack with a Wednesday (Nov. 23) start, followed by Park City on Friday (Nov. 25). A bunch of Utah’s 15 resorts haven’t announced an opening yet.

Up in the Northwest, Mount Baker expects to win the race this season by kicking off the season on Nov. 23. Others have coverage, but await more.

OpenSnow forecasters see multiple storm systems rolling in off the Pacific in the next couple of weeks, bringing significant snowfall to the mountains and brightening the prospects for early-goers all across the West.

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California's Soda Springs Steps Up To Snowmaking Using Recycled Wastewater

Snowmaking now at Soda SpringsYes, it’s finally a bonanza snow season in the Sierra with double-digit storms all over, but the managers of Soda Springs Mountain Resort don’t regret their decision to become the first California resort to use recycled water for snowmaking.

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