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TR - Road trip Lake Tahoe

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TR - Road trip Lake Tahoe

 Poster: A snowHead
Poster: A snowHead
I lived in San Francisco Bay area a few years back. So I (kind of, sort of) know the Lake Tahoe area well. But not so much about the skiing since my partner at the time was a non-skier.

This season, the US equivalent of snowheads, the "epic bears" were having their annual gathering (bash) in the Tahoe area in late Feb/early March. This is normally a very safe time frame for the region. But this year is not a normal year. There's thin base and no snow all over the region and most storm came as rain... Work was hectic in Feb. So I decided against joining the gathering. But that left me with lift vouchers good for about a week of skiing that I need to use up this season. When work wind down a bit, I hunted down a plane ticket and went skiing on my own for a week in the Lake Tahoe area.

For lift tickets: I had in my prosession a snowbomb card (snowbomb.com), which for $60, let me ski Kirkwood, Alpine Meadow for free one day each, $10 for a day in Diamond Peak, 2 days in two different XC ski area and 2 free ski rentals. Having lived in the region, I knew I can get fairly reasonable ticket at Mt. Rose. Plus, I also have 2 voucher for Alpine Meadow or Homewood came from buying a hydration pack earlier. So I figure I got lift tickets sorted for the week (actually 9 days of skiing, Friday till following Sunday)

Day 0: Friday after work, I boarded a plane for Reno. It had a stop at Salt Lake City. I felt like in a time warp movie. Everyone on the plane got off, ski boots and helmets in hand. I could see the snow on the peaks outside the airport. I was the few who continue on in the plane, taking off and leaving all that white snow behind...

Sitting at SLC, I checked the weather forecast again. Earlier in the week, I booked a passenger car, $140 for 9 days is pretty nice bargain. But by Thursday, the forecast was calling for snow on the day I arrive and lasting for a full day! That $140/week car won't get pass the chain control. And so many years out of the area, I didn't know where to get chains or how much they now cost. So I made another tentative booking of an SUV, at 5 times the cost. The forecast was for the storm to be delayed till late Saturday. So I resoved to get the passenger car and go buy some chains if need be.
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 Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person
Day 1, Saturday: The storm was delayed till evening. So I went over the pass to Soda Spring. There's a XC ski area called Royal Gorge. It's quite famous as a xc ski area. I found out why, it's HUGE! Enoug for a week of skiing even for a fast skier. I'm a pretty enthusiastic XC skier. And the snowbomb card allows me to ski it for free for 1 day. Why not?

The scenery was stunning! But the altitude, plus the relatively slushy snow, made for a tiring 3 hr ski. Storm was delayed till Saturday night so I made it back over the pass no problem.

Day 2 (Sunday) Diamond Peak: With the storm forecast, I stayed at Crystal Bay instead of driving back to Reno. But Sunday morning dawn nice and sunny. Where's the storm? Oh, it's coming during the day. So I went to Diamond Peak, a small area right off Incline village, saving the big mountains for after the storm. Good decision. It's just boiler plate all over. The tardy storm finally started to arrive around 3 o'clock. Just in time for me to get back to the hotel!

The hotel I was staying the night before, Cal Neva, had a broken furnace. So the water was only warm the night before and frigid the morning. They gave me a $20 breakfast voucher and I moved to South Lake Tahoe. I was ready for Kirkwood.

(At SLT, I stayed at Mount Bleu, which has a nice room and a kidney shaped pool, and a jacuzzi, both of which I utilized)

By the time I went to bed, snow flakes were flying around. This was lake level. So I fell to sleep dreaming of fluffy snow up high.

Day 3: (Monday) Homewood: In the morning, I had to switch cars. They didn't have a 4 wheel drive at Reno at the time at the price I wanted. So I was picking one up Monday morning. Except the car wasn't there! So 1/2 hr later, the agent found the car been returned as promised and turned it over to me. Now it was a bit late for the long drive to Kirkwood. And besides, Homewood got 6" and it's a low key resort with very light skier traffic. So I changed plan to went there instead (I got a free voucher also). The drive over the Emerald Bay section of SR 89 was pretty scary to say the least (chain or 4WD required). I was glad I wasn't going to Kirkwood which involves TWO passes!


Last edited by Obviously A snowHead isn't a real person on Tue 3-04-12 13:50; edited 1 time in total
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 Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see?
I got to Homewood not very early. But there were maybe 50 cars in the lot. So have the mountain all to myself. It's not a big resort by Tahoe standard but not at all small by northeast standard! The groomers indeed got about 5-6" on top of scratchy boiler plate underneath. On the steeper black trails, one would hit the frozen bumps beneath the new snow. Not fun. So I lap the smooth groomer a few times and moved into the glades. That's where the skier heaven is! The trees were not that tight. So it's pretty relaxing. Lunch...what lunch? I skied till my legs were about to fall off! (it's about 3 o'clock).

Drove back to SLT and stuff myself silly in the buffet at Harrah's. Hot tub, bed, and more dream of soft snow...

Day 4 (Tuesday): Kirkwood today! It's high, it's steep, it's vast! And it's a long drive with 2 mountain passes. But Caltran had cleared the road of the snow the day before. So it's an easy drive. Park pretty close to the village again. It's just not a very crowded mountain.

I started in the main area and plan to move over to the ridge on the left (of the map) in the afternoon. But I never made it there...

Similar to Homewood the day before, the steeps were still scratchy under the 8-9" new snow they got the day before. And the light was flat. So the bowl up top weren't terribly inviting. Found some nice snow in a hidden run between the trees and lap that a couple times before moving higher. At one point, I was following some nice soft snow and wondering why it hadn't been skied despite in plain view. And it kind of roll off gradually. Saw a sign nearby and decided to take a look... "Cliff Area!". Geeze, no wonder the snow were so pristine! Remind myself, this is Kirkwood, don't just ski everywhere without looking...

After lunch, I was moving to the valley I planned to explore but was a bit surprise the access lift had no one on it (still spinning). Turned out the wind had picked up and that side of the mountain is more exposed so the lift stopped. Bummer. Well, it's not like I had a lack of terrain with the remaining lifts! So wasn't too disappointed and just skied till my legs gave out. This time, drove back to Reno. The next 2 days, I'll be skiing Mt. Rose, which is easiest from Reno. Much happier to have the $20/night hotel with hot tub and cheap buffet too.

Day 5 (Wednesday) Mt Rose: Another storm came in while I slept (the same storm that shuts the Kirkwood lifts). This time, a foot to a foot and a half on Mt Rose! One more benefit of the snowbomb card is a free ski rental. I upgraded it to a demo of a fat plank: the Salomon Geisha (it's a women's ski). 97mm underfoot and something like 120 at the tip. For a change, I was going to see what it feels like to ski on some waterskis! rolling eyes

The drive up was pretty exciting. That is, from Reno side, it's already the shorter version. Following a school bus up the pass, not sure if I would put my own kid into that bus...

Mt Rose is not a very well known mountain outside of the region. It's very much a "local's mountain". But it's high, it's pretty big and got some pretty exciting terrain (for me anyway). But first, I had to get a bit more familiar with those fat planks first. I clanked them together a few times before I learned to keep my feet apart ALL the time. Those fat boys REALLY make it easy on the heavy Sierra Cement! No worry about tip dive, and with such a wide platform, I got out of any mistake I made without a fuss.

Around noon time, riding on the lift up, saw the patrol came to drop the rope on "the chutes"! Those are not actually chutes, just wide passages lined by trees. But compare to the rest of the wide open bowls, they're a bit more constrictive. With so much snow, all the rocks were well covered it was easy cruisy! There's so much space on the bowl, no need to compete for lines. Just pick a fresh patch and go! Probably the best day of all my skiing (helped by the fat planks too)

About 3:30, at the bottom of the bowl (Nevada side base), a crowd gathered by the lift. The previous ride up was pretty windy. In fact, they implemented a "no singles" rule on the lift ride. You have to ride up with at least one other person (the mountain is soooo uncrowded you actually have to WAIT a few minutes for someone to join you!). Now, the lifts were on wind hold, which doesn't look good, given the forecast was for increasing wind. So about 5 minutes later, someone asked how we got back to the California side where we parked. Oh! The lifty ask "you want me to call the shuttle?". Erhh, we're not walking, if that's what you mean as the alternative... So 5 minutes later, we cramped into the shuttle and back on the Cali side of the mountain. All the upper mountain lifts were close at that point. I debated about skiing the lower mountain till closing but decided my legs needs a rest...

More hot tub and buffet and gone to bed.

(I forgot, the shop offered me a deal on the ski I demo'ed. I was very much tempted. But I don't have room in my bag to bring it back... So the trip cost didn't get any more out of hand!)

Day 6 (Thursday) Alpine Meadow: Now, after such fantastic days, things start to go wrong. First, I called Alpine and asked if my Alpine voucher allow me to ski at Squaw now that they're one and the same. Yes, I was told. And I should be able to just present the voucher at Squaw and got my ticket. Wrong! Not only wrong, but I made the mistake of trying to do it at a "satellite" ticket office. The lady in there had problem with every person, and the line stretches out the door! So, 3/4 hr later, I was back at Alpine when they issued me a dual mountain ticket. But it'd be silly to drive another 15 minutes back to Squaw again. So I skied at Alpine Meadow that day, thinking I have another Alpine voucher which I could use to ski Squaw (but first get the ticket from Alpine ticket window).

There's still a lot of left over powder from the day before. But it was warming up fast. Since I've wasted nearly an hour in the morning, I was forced again, to skip lunch and ski straight till my legs couldn't take it any more. Although by then, the snow at the bottom of the mountain were so soft I actually had to pole to get to the lift, even though it's clearly downhill. So, it was a good ... half day.

Day 7 (Friday) Alpine Meadow: Sadly, the voucher I presented to the window netted me a "Alpine Only" ticket instead of one that's good for both Squaw and Alpine. Had I knew that, I would have used this one the previous day and saved the other one for the day when I intended to ski at Squaw! It's really warm day. And Alpine doesn't have too many upper mountain only lift. The best terrain are serviced by a lift from the very bottom. So a lot of boring (and tiring) going through the slow section at lower mountain. The runs I did at the upper mountain were good but quickly I ran out of terrain.

I'm pretty disappointed by Alpine Meadow this time around. I used to like them a lot. I'm not so sure I like them as much after this experience.

Day 8 (Saturday) Tahoe XC: Another storm warning! With extreme high wind this time. Given the experience of the past 2 storms being rather tardy, I decided to XC on Saturday instead. (used up the second free XC voucher on the snowbomb card) Though the snow did came on time, the wind did too. So almost all the upper mountain lifts on all areas were closed. I felt good that I made a good decision. As I was getting ready in the lodge, I saw streams of alpine skiers came in to rent XC gear...

The wind was so strong is stink when it hit my face! But at least I was skiing in the protected woods, not high up on the mountain or worse, sitting in a chair. The snow was actually nice and soft. So it was a lovely day.

Day 9 was a decision day. I was flying out midday. I could ski half day and still made the flight. But when I went back to the hotel, my legs were screaming for rest. So for the first time in a long while, I decided to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport. Also, I'm out of coupons and/or vouchers. So it would had to be a $50 half day of skiing. Given the condition my legs were in, it's not going to be worth it.

(later, I was told the traffic to the mountains were absolutely insane. I'm now glad I didn't gamble with trying to squeeze half day skiing and got stuck into such mess)

All in all, a great trip, especially in terms of timing of hitting 3 storms! But I pay for such luck. Also, if I were to ski 8-9 straight days in heavy Sierra Cement in the future, I probably should get that fat girl Geisha before I go again!


Last edited by Well, the person's real but it's just a made up name, see? on Tue 3-04-12 14:05; edited 2 times in total
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 You need to Login to know who's really who.
You need to Login to know who's really who.
abc wrote:
. And so many years out of the area, I didn't know where to get chains or how much they now cost. So I made another tentative booking of an SUV, at 5 times the cost. The forecast was for the storm to be delayed till late Saturday. So I resoved to get the passenger car and go buy some chains if need be.



Leaving Reno on I 80 - Walmart or O'Reilly Autoparts on McCarran North (exit 8ish) for future reference. Been watching unofficial - they've definitely had some "variable" snow the past week.

The Squalpine shuttle bus is pretty good - I used it one day despite being parked right next to the lodge at Alpine it was easier to hop on the bus rather than change boots to drive to Squaw in the afternoon. Morning at Alpine, sarnie from Treats in the breezeway, eat it on the bus and still plenty of time to ski Squaw top to bottom. Not something that had seemed to catch on with the locals or US visitors however.

You made the right call on the Geishas - I can't imagine trying to handle Sierra Cement on regular skis.
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 Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
Anyway, snowHeads is much more fun if you do.
fatbob wrote:
abc wrote:
. And so many years out of the area, I didn't know where to get chains or how much they now cost. So I made another tentative booking of an SUV, at 5 times the cost. The forecast was for the storm to be delayed till late Saturday. So I resoved to get the passenger car and go buy some chains if need be.

The Squalpine shuttle bus is pretty good - I used it one day despite being parked right next to the lodge at Alpine it was easier to hop on the bus rather than change boots to drive to Squaw in the afternoon. Morning at Alpine, sarnie from Treats in the breezeway, eat it on the bus and still plenty of time to ski Squaw top to bottom. Not something that had seemed to catch on with the locals or US visitors however.


I hadn't skied Squaw for years since I left the Bay area. So unlike a local, even if I had taken the shuttle over, I'd be wasting time trying to figure out where to go and all that. I didn't want to bother with it, thinking I could ski Squaw the whole day the next day. Major bummer!

Quote:
You made the right call on the Geishas - I can't imagine trying to handle Sierra Cement on regular skis.

Well, I'm sure someone more skilled than me will do fine. I just can't manage it. I only had the Geisha for a day. So after returning it, I had to tackle the Sierra Cement on my own 82mm midfat. That was quite a challenge. Basically, I stayed on the open terrain most of the time so I could keep the speed up. That helped.

Now I understand why expert off-piste skiing grumble about the fat planks taking less skilled skier into "their" terrain and messing up the snow. I certainly was one such less skilled skier who would have stayed home, or at least on the groomers, had it not for these new big planks.
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 You'll need to Register first of course.
You'll need to Register first of course.
The Lake Tahoe Six-pack ticket is a very good deal.

The Ski Lake Tahoe Six-Pack offers 6 days of skiing at 7 Tahoe resorts for US$299. The lift tickets are flexible, allowing you to choose one of two resorts with each ticket.

The lake tahoe six-pack includes:
1 ticket valid at Heavenly, Kirkwood or Mt. Rose
1 ticket valid at Heavenly or Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort
1 ticket valid at Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort or Kirkwood
1 ticket valid at Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows or Mt. Rose
1 ticket valid at Squaw Valley or Northstar
1 ticket valid at Alpine Meadows or Northstar

http://www.skilaketahoe.com/lake-tah...2012-13-season
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 Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Then you can post your own questions or snow reports...
Anything valid at Squaw is valid at Alpine, and vice versa - now ownws by the same company, you can ski both resorts on the same ticket at the same day.

abc, next time get in touch with me - we get "spare" SquawAlpine tickets after christmas, and I had some left at the end of the season...... wink
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 After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
After all it is free Go on u know u want to!
skinanny: I've got nothing planned for Tahoe area (I'll be in Canada catskiing at New Year), but is your offer just for abc - or do you have enough 'spares' for all your snowHead mates wink ?
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 You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
You'll get to see more forums and be part of the best ski club on the net.
Thanks, skinanny, for your generous offer! I'll definitely keep that in mind next time I head over that way. I haven't done any planning for next season yet. Probably not until about Christmas time when I know how my work situation turning out...
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 Ski the Net with snowHeads
Ski the Net with snowHeads
mountainaddict, depends on when we get them - which pay period we get them in varies.....
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