Easter services with a side of eggs at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

In celebration of Easter, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will both offer mountaintop services and Easter egg hunts for all ages on Sunday.

Squaw Valley’s annual on-mountain Easter egg hunt returns Sunday at 9 a.m. Skiers, riders and guests can search for candy-filled colored eggs that will be hidden on the mountain from Gold Coast to High Camp, as well as in The Village.

Alpine Meadows also will host an Easter egg hunt Sunday beginning at 9 a.m. Eggs stuffed with delicious treats will be hidden off Roundhouse chair for kids and families to scoop up on their way down the mountain. In addition, a large, golden egg will be hidden among the candy-filled eggs; the skier or rider who finds the golden egg will receive a free 2014-15 bronze season pass.

Both Easter egg hunts are open to the public, and free with a lift ticket or season pass. All ages are welcome to participate.

Mountaintop services
A free, non-denominational Easter service will be held at Squaw’s High Camp from 8-8:45 a.m. Visitors who do not plan to ski or ride can take the aerial tram to High Camp for free to attend the service as early as 7:30 a.m. In addition, the regularly scheduled, afternoon service will take place Sunday at the top of Big Blue Express. The service will begin at 1 p.m. and is open to skiers and riders with a lift ticket or season pass.

Skiers and riders at Alpine Meadows also may attend a non-denominational mountaintop service at the top of Roundhouse Chair at 1 p.m. A lift ticket or season pass is required.

Info: http://squaw.com and www.skialpine.com

What’s that coming down from the sky? Yes! It’s snow!

After being MIA for too long this winter (at least in California), lots of fresh snow courtesy Mother Nature is falling on the slopes at resorts throughout the state. Today’s storm is the first of a three-storm series expected to roll through by Sunday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

We’ll update this post as reports from the resorts come in. >>>

4:15 p.m. Thursday …

Fresh photos from our friends at Mammoth Mountain, courtesy Mammoth Lakes Tourism.
07millcity
06chair2line“With a foot and half of snow on the ground at Mammoth Mountain and several more feet expected through the weekend and early next week, best estimates put the snow total for this storm system at around 3 to 4 feet,” says spokesman Tim LeRoy.

“That would make this the biggest storm system to hit the Eastern Sierra in two years,” he adds, citing a report at Mammoth Weather.

On the Mammoth website, lodging specials included “stay three nights and get the fourth night free” and a lift and lodging package starting at $129 – both good for arrival dates through late May.

3:30 p.m. Thursday …

The winter storm sweeping through the Sierra Nevada brought 13 inches of fresh snow to Squaw Valley and 10 inches to Alpine Meadows by Thursday afternoon, with snow continuing to fall. Both resorts could see more than two feet of snow by Sunday night, with the possibility of even more snowfall through Wednesday.

Here’s what Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows looked like this morning. >>>

Mammoth Mountain received as much as 15 inches of new snow overnight. The forecast calls for another 3 to 5 inches tonight, and up to 17 inches more on Friday. Another 1 to 3 inches is possible on Saturday.

Noon Thursday … 

Rachel Luna, our colleague at The Sun and Daily Bulletin, is on the prowl today for #ieweather photos and videos and took this shot at Snow Valley. >>>

Snow ValleyIt was almost lunchtime and Snow Valley hadn’t sold a single lift ticket all morning. The resort closed for the day at noon.

“Resort officials believe skiers & snowboarders are holding out for the snowstorm to come,” Luna reported via Twitter.

10 a.m. Thursday … 

Mountain High is closed today, and operators are planning to re-opening the resort on Saturday morning. “We fully expect to reopen this weekend with hopes of remaining open all the way through Easter,” said a post on the resort’s website.

In the meantime, here are some other fast facts, according to the resort:

  • Mountain High has been open into May three times during the last 15 years.
  • The average closing date has been April 21.
  • 30-40 percent of the season is still ahead.
  • March is often the snowiest month at the resort.

Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows set to host Women of Winter camp

The Women of Winter three-day camp is returning to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows on March 2-4. The camp is designed for intermediate to advanced women skiers and includes three full days of skiing, daily lunch, après ski events, and collaborative teaching for serious on-hill progression.

An innovative program, the Women of Wonder camp is specially designed to help women challenge themselves on the hill in a collaborative and supportive environment. The WOW program embraces a fun, fast-paced approach to ski instruction, allowing women to push themselves on Squaw and Alpine’s expansive terrain and pick up new skills, all while having a great time.

Off the hill, the camp also includes après ski events such as a wine and cheese social in The Village, and a guest speaker and social at Trilogy Spa.

The Women of Winter program is the result of over 35 years of contiguous women’s-specific ski programs at Squaw Valley, the first resort to offer female-specific ski lessons. In the early 1970s, Elissa Slanger, then a Squaw ski instructor, realized that the typical mechanical, and sometimes tyrannical, methods used to teach skiing terrified women and prevented them from exploring the sport and realizing their potential. From that realization, “Women’s Way,” the first women-specific ski program was born, pioneered by Elissa at Squaw Valley. Women of Winter is the latest development in women’s-specific ski programs at Squaw, offering a new, innovative, and most importantly, fun, approach to skiing.

The Women of Winter camp is available for intermediate to advanced women skiers, ages 13 and older. The camp is $536 without lift tickets, and $689 with lift tickets. Reservations are required. To book, call 530-452-4349 or email wow@Squaw.com.

Dropping in for a Sochi to California comparison on vertical descents

Sochi Downhill

We’ve been watching a lot of NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage – speed skating, slopestyle skiing, halfpipe, hockey – and have been wrapped up in much of it.

A few minutes ago, @NBCOlympics posted on Twitter the image above with course info on the downhill portion of the men’s super combined. The vertical drop of 3,205 feet caught our attention, and we thought it would be worth checking http://mountainvertical.com to see how the mountains near Sochi compare with the ski resorts in California. Here’s what we found:

Mammoth: 2,885
Heavenly: 2,735
Squaw Valley: 2,389
June Mountain: 2,420
Northstar-at-Tahoe: 2,276
Diamond Peak: 1,741
Bear Mountain: 1,665
Mt. Rose: 1,635
Homewood: 1,625
Kirkwood: 1,622
Sierra-at-Tahoe: 1,590
Mountain High: 1,588
Alpine Meadows: 1,555

The best U.S. match to the 3,205 vertical descent of the mountain where the Olympics competition is happening now is the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort – the area where the 1932 Winter Olympics took place.

– Jerry Rice

Blanketed in white, a view from above Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows

This is what 68 inches of new snow looks like at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

By this weekend, the resorts plan to have 32 lifts and more than 100 runs available. Beginners will be able to ski from High Camp for the first time this season. In addition to jaw-dropping views, the green runs at High Camp are ideal for learning to turn.

The terrain parks also are being ramped up. There will be 27 features including seven small to medium jumps by Saturday in the Gold Coast Park. At Alpine Meadows, look for 16 features including three small jumps in Tiegel.

Here’s the line-up for lift openings:
• Granite Chief (today)
• Scott (today)
• Big Blue (today)
• Lakeview (Friday)
• KT-22 (by Saturday)

Winter returns in a big way to Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Mammoth

After going way too long without major snowfall from Mother Nature, the storm system that rolled through much of California at the end of last week left mountains coated in white.

In the Lake Tahoe area, Squaw Valley received 68 inches – more than 5 and a half feet – of snow while sister resort Alpine Meadows received 63 inches. The new snow has created a tremendous base at both resorts and will allow both mountains to open new terrain this week.

At Mammoth Mountain, the storm dropped more than 3 feet of fresh snow, bringing the base depth at the summit to 70 inches. The new snow will allow the resort to open 100 percent of the terrain this weekend for the first time this year.

In addition, Mammoth has some great deals:
  • The resort is selling 2-for-1 lift tickets. For more information, click here.
  • Mammoth is also offering free flights from LAX and San Diego when guests stay three or more nights at any of the Mammoth Lodging Collection properties.
  • To earn the free flights, reservations must be made by March 23 by calling 800-626-6684. Guests can stay through April 6.

Back in the Lake Tahoe area, Squaw Valley had 15 lifts operating today and Alpine Meadows had seven. Lifts slated to run this week for the first time this season include Solitude at Squaw Valley, and Scott and Lake View at Alpine Meadows. Siberia Express also is set to reopen at Squaw Valley starting Tuesday.

“The new snow was just what we needed to really get winter going here at Squaw and Alpine,” said Mike Livak, executive vice president for Squaw Valley Ski Holdings. “Thanks to the storm, we are now able to open new lifts so that our guests can truly experience the diverse terrain that these two mountains have to offer.”

Here’s what Squaw Valley is looking like with its fresh coat of snow. >>>

Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows ready for 4 feet of new snow

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are set to receive up to 4 feet of snow by Monday afternoon thanks to a significant snow storm sweeping through the Sierra Nevada, according to a forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

As of Friday morning, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows had both received 4 inches of new snow, with heavy snowfall continuing throughout the day. This weekend, skiers and riders at Squaw and Alpine can expect an additional 23 inches of new snow by Saturday morning, with snowfall continuing Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Both resorts could have a total of 46 inches of new snow on the slopes by Monday afternoon.

Skiers and riders looking to take full advantage of the fresh snow can purchase the Tahoe Super 4 Pack, which offers four unrestricted days of skiing and riding anytime this season for less than $88 a day for adults, $75 for young adults and seniors and $50 for kids with no blackout dates. Tahoe Super 4 Packs are available at www.squaw.com and www.skialpine.com, or by calling 800-403-0206.

Squaw Valley opening 4 more lifts for weekend skiing, riding

Squaw Valley will open four new lifts for skiing and riding this morning following the storm that brought 10 inches of fresh snow this week to both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

The new chairlift openings include Shirley Lake Express, Siberia Express, and Mountain Meadow. Skiing and riding also will be offered from the Aerial Tram, which will provide access to Mountain Meadow lift and Mountain Run, the longest run at Squaw Valley. All lifts, including the Aerial Tram, are scheduled to be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The new openings provide access to some of Squaw’s most popular terrain. Mountain Meadow lift services the mountain-top beginner area, giving first-time skiers and riders the opportunity to progress amid stunning views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada.

Off of Shirley Lake Express, skiers and riders will find five wide, tree-cut runs, perfect for intermediate to advanced skiers and riders. Siberia Run and Siberia Bowl will be open off of Siberia Express, offering wide, open terrain for advanced skiers and riders.

Both today and Sunday, Squaw and Alpine are scheduled to offer a combined 24 lifts for skiing and riding.

Information: www.squaw.com and www.skialpine.com

Snow makers rescue big Sierra resorts as drought bakes smaller ones

Daniel Crandall monitors a fan gun snowmaking machine on the upper slopes at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. The lack of rainfall this winter has left the tourism trade in the Lake Tahoe area in shambles as ski resorts struggle to survive without snow. (Daniel Crandall monitors a fan gun snowmaking machine on the upper slopes at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. The lack of rainfall this winter has left the tourism trade in the Lake Tahoe area in shambles as ski resorts struggle to survive without snow. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News)

Daniel Crandall monitors a fan gun snowmaking machine on the upper slopes at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 10. The lack of rainfall this winter has left the tourism trade in the Lake Tahoe area in shambles as ski resorts struggle to survive without snow. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News)

By Lisa M. Krieger
San Jose Mercury News

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — These are the unlikely saviors in the lofty peaks of the serene Sierra: high-tech snow machines, roaring like jets and spewing million-dollar crystals.

“If it wasn’t for snow making, we probably wouldn’t be open,” said Barrett Burghard, head snow maker at Heavenly Ski Resort, who is propping up the beleaguered mountain economy with his vast computer-driven complex of snow guns, pumps, compressors, pipes, hydrants, nozzles and miles of hoses.

Mother Nature, always fickle, has been especially cruel this drought year to the resorts and mountain communities that depend on snow for their economic survival. Instead of fluffy powder, there’s just granite, mud and manzanita.

So Burghard and other snow makers are fabricating winter where it isn’t.

As the eastern sky turns pink with dawn’s rising sun, his 165-gun system performs alchemy, mixing massive drafts of water, air and electricity to prepare 14 miles of bare ski runs for thousands of visitors. Every night, snowcat crews push piles of the precious product back up the slopes.

Innovations in technology — such as the $40,000 Super PoleCat, with a built-in automated weather station that alters man-made snow characteristics — make it possible to produce an acre of thigh-deep snow in an hour.

That’s enough to blanket a football field with snow 8 feet deep during a three-hour game.

In this dry and balmy winter, the small, historic and family-owned resorts without extensive snow making — such as Donner Ski Ranch or Dodge Ridge — haven’t opened, costing jobs and starving local businesses. The National Winter Trail Days event at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Center was canceled.

But big corporations running Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain have made major investments in snow-making tools. Squaw Valley alone has spent $5.2 million since 2012. This month virtually all of the snow at the resorts came out of machines.

The goal is to survive not just dry years, but what could be a parched future.

“The larger resorts have the capital resources to do extensive snow making,” said Bob Roberts of the California Ski Industry Association.

At South Lake Tahoe’s Powder House, where equipment rentals have fallen from 120 to 60 a day due to lack of natural snow, technician Michael Breshears said “they have technology on their side, and Heavenly has by far the best snow making around.”

“It is the saving grace,” said skier Colleen Tanaka. Tracking California’s weather from her home in Hawaii, she says “we were a little bit bummed. It is a little disappointing. But thank goodness that Heavenly makes their own snow so we can still have a nice white winter.”

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Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows opening expanded terrain

Santa will be skiing the slopes at Squaw Valley this weekend before he boards his sleigh on Christmas Eve. (Squaw Valley photo)

Santa will be skiing the slopes at Squaw Valley this weekend before he boards his sleigh on Christmas Eve. (Squaw Valley photo)

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will both open expanded terrain this weekend, with the addition of Shirley Lake Express at Squaw Valley and Hot Wheels Chairlift at Alpine Meadows.

Shirley Lake Express is a high-speed, six pack chairlift on the upper mountain and is set to open on Saturday. The lift provides access to some of Squaw’s most beloved intermediate terrain. At Alpine, the Hot Wheels Chairlift will open for the season on Sunday. Hot Wheels gives skiers and riders access to tree-lined intermediate trails.

Both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are open top-to-bottom for skiing and riding. Squaw Valley currently has 12 lifts and 19 trails open, including Mountain Run, the longest run at the resort. Alpine Meadows has five lifts and 26 trails open, as well as Sandy’s Corner terrain park off the Roundhouse Chairlift.

In addition to great skiing and riding, both Squaw and Alpine have a full schedule of festive happenings this holiday season including Santa on the slopes, free Ski with Jonny Moseley days, New Year’s Eve fireworks, and a torchlight parade. Click here for a full list of holiday events.