California ski, snowboard resorts get a Halloween treat: snow!

The Village at Squaw Valley became a winter wonderland this morning as several inches of snow fell at the resort and throughout the Lake Tahoe area. (Squaw Valley photo)

The Village at Squaw Valley became a winter wonderland this morning as several inches of snow fell at the resort and elsewhere in the Lake Tahoe area. (Squaw Valley photo)

About the time kids were trick-or-treating on Friday night, mountain resorts throughout California were starting to get a special treat: snow. In some cases, it was the first white stuff of the season, raising hopes that the lengthy drought – fingers crossed – will come to an end this winter. There certainly was lots of excitement to go around:

Mountain High: The first snow of the season fell this morning at Mountain High Resort giving the area a crisp glow and solidifying the coming of winter. Traditionally, Mountain High opens in mid-November but it all depends on the season. Three times in the past 10 years, the Wrightwood resort has opened in October. Mountain High’s 10-year average is a Nov. 16 opening. For a gallery of “first snow of the season” photos, click here.

Heavenly: Winter has arrived at Tahoe, and Heavenly Mountain Resort received 3 inches of new snow overnight. 

Northstar: Three inches of fresh snow has accumulated and snow continues to fall. Temperatures have remained in the low 20s and the mountain’s snowmaking team has activated Northstar’s state-of-the-art snowmaking system. The National Weather Service has forecast an 80 percent chance of snow throughout the remainder of the day and into the evening, with expected additional accumulation of up to 3 inches. Snow showers are predicted for Sunday at a 20 percent chance.

Sierra-at-Tahoe: The resort received as much as 6 inches of snow overnight in the base area near the new Solstice Plaza. Early season snowfall is a reminder that winter and the ski and snowboard season are right around the corner.

Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows: The winter storm sweeping through the Sierra Nevada has brought 10 inches of fresh snow to Alpine Meadows’ upper mountain and 6 inches to Squaw Valley by late Saturday morning, with snow continuing to fall at both mountains. This is the first significant snowfall of the 2014-15 winter season, and comes less than a month before Squaw Valley’s scheduled opening date of Nov. 26. Alpine Meadows is expected to open on Dec. 12.

Sierra-at-Tahoe’s 2014-15 passes come with a bonus for this season.

Home to 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort has a deal for those who purchase a 2014-15 Keepin’ It Real Unlimited Season Pass: free skiing the rest of the 2014 season at the resort and also at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

Sierra-at-Tahoe is offering the Keepin’ It Real Unlimited Season Pass for $289 through April 30. The price increases by up to $100 starting May 1 (earlier, if quantities run out).

Along with free skiing and riding at Sierra-at-Tahoe, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, passholders can enjoy free skiing/riding in much of the Western U.S. with The Powder Alliance. Those resorts include Angel Fire Resort, Arizona Snowbowl, Bridger Bowl, China Peak, Crested Butte, Mountain High, Mt. Hood Skibowl, Snowbasin, Schweitzer, Stevens Pass and Timberline.

Season passholders will automatically be enrolled into a free membership that earns points toward free lessons, rentals, lunch and other bonuses.

Information: www.sierraattahoe.com or 530-659-7453.

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

Sierra-at-Tahoe ups its game for the 2013-14 snow season

After a day of hot-doggin' it on the slopes this winter at Sierra-at-Tahoe, skiers will have a new plaza area where they can boast about the day's exploits with friends. (Sierra-at-Tahoe photo by Nathan Vetter)

After a day of hot-doggin’ it on the slopes this winter at Sierra-at-Tahoe, skiers will have a new plaza area where they can boast about the day’s exploits with friends. (Sierra-at-Tahoe photo by Nathan Vetter)

Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort has several new additions for the 2013-14 season that will offer guests an enhanced on-mountain and overall experience.

A new 9,000-square-foot structure and plaza will improve the base area experience, enhance the overall après atmosphere, and give guests a place to gather and celebrate winter in the mountains. The Burton Star Wars Experience continues to grow with the Burton Star Wars Echo Base, a learning experience for kids ages 7-12. The Powder Alliance offers unlimited season passholders free skiing at 11 other resorts. And, in the spring there will be a new concert series. The details:

Base Area Plaza
Sierra-at-Tahoe has invested $4.5 million into a new facility located at the base of the mountain that transforms the current skier services area into a mecca for gathering and services that improve the overall skier/boarder experience. The new plaza will include 9,000 square feet of indoor space with retail options, a demo center, and new restaurant. Outside, guests will be able to enjoy a large deck area with fire pits, live music, and lounge chairs where guests can watch the action on the mountain, or reminisce about the day’s events.

Burton Star Wars Echo Base
Building off of the success of Yoda’s Riglet Park, the Burton Star Wars Echo Base now offers a snowboarding program for kids ages 7-12. The new Burton Star Wars Echo Base gives kids 7-12 the opportunity to learn how to snowboard using terrain-based teaching, iconic Star Wars characters, and Burton Learn to Ride technology and techniques. Young snowboarders will get the chance to “defeat the dark side” and become Jedi knights by conquering their fears of sliding on snow. Kids will learn to snowboard in a one-of-a-kind environment unlike any other in the universe.

Powder Alliance
Sierra-at-Tahoe has joined the Powder Alliance, which includes some of the greatest powder stashes in the West. Sierra Resort unlimited passholders will get free skiing and boarding benefits at 11 other mountains: Crested Butte, Snowbasin, Stevens Pass, Timberline, Schweitzer, China Peak, Mountain High, Arizona Snowbowl, Mt. Hood Skibowl, Angel Fire Resort, and Bridger Bowl.

The membership applies to top-tier, anytime passes. Tickets are valid Sunday through Friday, non-holiday, and must be used during the 2013-14 season. Sierra Resort guests can visit www.sierraattahoe.com/powderalliance for a list of holiday dates and resort benefits.

Spring concert series
This spring, Sierra-at-Tahoe will host a foot-stomping, energetic music series featuring live music from top regional touring music acts. Produced by OnCourse Events and sponsored by Tahoe South, the music series will take place in the new base area plaza and feature bands that will play on three select weekends in the spring. The concerts will give guests a chance to enjoy live music, après, dance, and relax after a fun day on the mountain.

Sierra-at-Tahoe boasts 480 inches of average annual snowfall, wind-protected slopes, incredible tree skiing, and 320 acres of backcountry terrain out the Huckleberry Gates. For beginner skiers and riders, Sierra Resort is home to the world’s only Burton Star Wars Experience, has more than 100 acres of dedicated terrain, four beginner-only conveyor lifts, a $45 adult beginner package, and PSIA-certified instructors. For freestylers, a commitment to innovative terrain parks has led to Sierra Resort being recognized by TransWorld SNOWboarding as a Top 10 Overall Resort as well as among the Top 10 Best Parks and Pipes in the nation.

Information: www.sierraattahoe.com and 530-659-7453.

On a taxing day, Sierra-at-Tahoe celebrates its customers

Sierra-at-Tahoe will give skiers and riders one last chance to shred during its annual Customer Appreciation Day on April 15 (a.k.a. “tax day”).

Skiers and riders of all ages can purchase a lift ticket for $25. All proceeds raised from the day’s lift ticket sales will be donated to sponsor youth recreation and education, including baseball, soccer, swimming and other youth activities.

Sierra Resort will operate a limited number of lifts from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., including Grandview and Easy Rider. All guests are invited to join John Rice, the resort’s general manager, and the rest of Sierra Resort’s managing team for the official “last run of the season” from the top of Grandview Express beginning at 2 p.m. Last call at the Sierra Pub will be at 2:45 p.m., in time for the ending of all winter operations at 3 p.m.

Passes for the 2013-14 season will be on sale that day. Prices: $279 for adults, $239 for ages 13-22 and college students (proof of six fall 2013 credits), and $109 for children ages 5-12 and seniors (70 and older).

Information: www.sierraattahoe.com

Force is strong at Sierra-at-Tahoe

Yoda welcomes youngsters to Sierra-at-Tahoe’s Burton Star Wars camp. (Sierra-at-Tahoe photo)

The Force is strong at Sierra-at-Tahoe for Younglings and Padawans this winter in Yoda’s Riglet Park at Wild Mountain Children’s Center. The Burton Star Wars Experience uses the beloved intergalactic saga to help children ages 3-6 make their first snowboard turns using Burton’s innovative Riglet Reel Technology.

This singular on-mountain experience is filled with visuals from the Star Wars galaxy and combines Burton’s industry-leading technology with Jedi Master Yoda’s teaching methods – movement, navigation and control.

Younglings and Padawans will learn using the ways of the Force through interactive drop in nodes showcasing custom-made wood carvings of R2-D2, C-3P0, Chewbacca and more. Availability is limited and may sell out on a daily basis; reservations are strongly recommended. For more information, call 530-543-3150.