Squaw Valley heritage tour highlights venues from 1960 Winter Olympics

With the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, about to start, Squaw Valley is offering a timely look back at the Lake Tahoe resort’s Olympic past with the new 1960 Winter Games Heritage Tour.

The tours are three-hour private excursions of Squaw Valley’s on-mountain Olympic venues and highlight historic moments of the 1960 Winter Games.

Led by some of Squaw Valley’s most qualified professional guides, the tours will take participants down the same trails that were used as Olympic venues during the 1960 Winter Games. The private tours are available for individuals or groups of up to five people and cost $200 ($40 per person for a group of five).

As part of the experience, guides also will share insider details about Squaw’s rich heritage and the incredible story of the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The Olympic bid by Alex Cushing, founder of Squaw Valley, originally began as a publicity stunt to gain awareness for his new resort, though it eventually turned into a potentially feasible plan. At the time of the bid, Squaw Valley was a small, fledgling ski resort with just one chairlift and lodging for 50. After securing the bid for the VIII Winter Games, Squaw Valley emerged as a mecca for outdoor recreation and grew into a world-renowned winter sports destination.

As the first fully televised Olympic games, the 1960 Winter Games at Squaw Valley had a profound impact on winter sports in the United States by sparking an interest in winter athletics that continues to grow today.

Information: www.squaw.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.

Alpine Meadows about to join Squaw Valley and open top to bottom

The skiing has been nothing short of spectacular at Squaw Valley, where this photo was taken Dec. 7 by Jeff Engerbretson. (Squaw Valley photo)

The skiing has been nothing short of spectacular at Squaw Valley, where this photo was taken on Dec. 7 by Jeff Engerbretson. (Squaw Valley photo)

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will both be open top to bottom starting Friday. At Alpine Meadows, it will be the resort’s opening day for the season.

There will be five lifts and seven groomed trails open at Alpine, where skiers and riders can purchase reduced-priced lift tickets for $59. All proceeds from lift ticket sales will benefit the Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows Foundation as part of Alpine’s Ski Team Scholarship Day.

Squaw Valley, Alpine’s sister resort near Lake Tahoe, is open top to bottom with 10 lifts and 21 runs, including Mountain Run, the longest run at Squaw. This weekend, both Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will roll out the Learn to Ski and Ride Special. Beginner skiers and riders at both mountains can purchase a beginner lift ticket, equipment rentals, and a half-day lesson for $49.

“We are so excited to offer skiers and riders top-to-bottom access at both of our legendary resorts,” said Cara Whitley, chief marketing officer for Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. “From first-timers to those simply looking to support a good cause, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows have a great weekend on tap for those of every ability level.”

Flaming Lips, Jurassic 5 to take over Squaw’s Last Chair Festival

Back for its second year, the Last Chair Festival returns to Squaw Valley Jan. 9-11 with a new format, huge headlining acts and new cultural seminars. A celebration of music, culture and community, the Last Chair Festival welcomes an eclectic mix of world-renowned music acts including The Flaming Lips, Jurassic 5 and Matisyahu.

“The inaugural Last Chair Music Festival last January was a great success, but this year we really wanted to blow it out of the water,” said Sean Kristl, marketing manager for Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. “For 2014, we’ve brought in bigger acts and added a lineup of cultural seminars, workshops, and after-parties, as well as incredible lift ticket packages.”

Last Chair’s 2014 lineup features:
• The Flaming Lips
• Matisyahu
• Jurassic 5
• Mayer Hawthorne
• Fitz & the Tantrums
• Random Rab
• Chali 2na (and the House of Vibe)
• Ben Rector
• Tennis
• West Water Outlaws

Beyond the slopes and stage, the Last Chair Festival also includes cultural seminars and after-party events.

Last Chair Festival offers various ticket packages, including a Music + Lift Ticket Combo Pass for three days on the slopes and two nights of music for $250. Additional concert and lift ticket packages are available; details and purchase options can be found at www.Squaw.com/LastChairFestival.

Being a college student has its benefits at Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley

College students will have unrestricted access to the slopes at Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley all season with the 2013-14 College Tahoe Super Pass. The cost is $419.

The College Pass has no holiday blackout dates, and also includes six discounted tickets for friends and family, free night skiing and discounted lift tickets to Sierra-at-Tahoe. For a list of all the benefits visit www.TahoeSuperPass.com.

Squaw and Alpine are home to some of the most diverse terrain in North America and host some of Tahoe’s most legendary events. This season, the resorts will once again be home to epic pool parties at Squaw’s mountain-top pool and hot tub, the Last Chair Festival, Mardi Squaw, Pain McShlonkey and the Cushing Crossing over at Alpine Meadows. Students also can soak up the sun at Ice Bar, located off Sherwood Chair at Alpine Meadows, or come out for the Saturday music series starting in the spring.

To qualify for the College Tahoe Super Pass, students must be registered as full-time college students (taking 12 credits or more) for the 2013-14 winter season. Students must bring a valid government issued photo ID and copy of course registration or transcripts showing full-time status at an accredited college.

Fresh powder piling up at Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley has received 10 inches of snow at upper elevations thanks to a snow storm that moved through the region through Thursday morning. Across the ridgeline, Alpine Meadows received 6 inches at upper elevations. The storm comes about a week before Squaw Valley’s planned opening date of Nov. 27.

Overnight, Squaw Valley received 6 inches of new snow in the upper elevations, and 1 inch at the base of Squaw Valley. Alpine Meadows received 3 inches of new snow overnight in the upper elevations and 1 inch at the base.

“The 10 inches of snow and the following cold temperatures are setting us up for a great winter season,” said Mike Livak, executive VP of operations at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. “Leading up to opening day, our state-of-the-art snowmaking system will be working fulltime to add to the snow that Mother Nature has brought us.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is calling for overnight lows in the upper teens and low 20s throughout the next week, which provides ideal temperatures for continued snowmaking at both resorts.

B-roll footage from the resort’s Youtube page has everything coated in white. >>>

Squaw’s $5 yoga classes benefit body, mind and the High Fives Foundation

The Wanderlust Yoga Studio at Squaw Valley will offer community yoga classes this winter with proceeds to benefit the High Fives Foundation. (Squaw Valley photo)

Wanderlust Yoga Studio at Squaw Valley will offer community yoga classes this winter, with proceeds to benefit the High Fives Foundation. (Squaw Valley photo)

Squaw Valley’s Wanderlust Yoga Studio is bringing back weekly Yoga Squaw’d community classes this winter.

Classes will be held by a different instructor each week and will feature music spun by a DJ. Classes have a requested donation of $5 with all proceeds benefiting the High Fives Foundation. The community yoga classes will be held 4:30 p.m. every Wednesday through April 30 in the Wanderlust Yoga Studio, located in The Village at Squaw Valley.

“We are thrilled with this opportunity to help the community get healthy while supporting a local nonprofit,” said Jamie Ebert, manager of the Wanderlust Yoga Studio. “Because the community classes will continue throughout the entire ski season, we are striving to have a significant impact in helping The High Fives Foundation further their great work in the community.”

The High Fives Foundation is dedicated to raising funds and awareness for athletes who have experienced a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in winter action sports. To date, the organization has helped 51 athletes since its inception in 2009.

The suggested donation to participate in the community yoga class is $5, but participants can donate more if desired.

Squaw Valley takes Thanksgiving dinner to new heights

Thanksgiving dinner with a view is on the menu at Squaw Valley. (Squaw Valley photo)

Thanksgiving dinner with a view is on the menu at The Terrace, one of Squaw Valley’s mountaintop restaurants. (Squaw Valley photo)

Turkey all the trimmings will be part of Squaw Valley’s Thanksgiving dinner at High Camp on Nov. 28. Guests can ride the resort’s scenic aerial tram up 2,000 vertical feet to feast at The Terrace, one of High Camp’s mountaintop restaurants, while taking in panoramic views of Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The buffet-style dinner will include traditional dishes such as sage roasted turkey, honey roasted ham, garlic mashed potatoes, herb stuffing, homemade cranberries and sweet potato casserole. The Thanksgiving dinner consists of two seatings, the first at 1 p.m., the second at 4 p.m. Seating is still available for the 1 p.m. dinner.

Reservations for the Thanksgiving buffet are $39 for adults and $29 for kids 12 and younger. Prices do not include aerial tram tickets for the ride up to High Camp, which can be purchased for $32 for adults and $10 for kids. Those with a season pass or lift ticket for the day can ride the tram for free.

To work up an appetite, there’s skiing and snowboarding on Squaw’s legendary slopes, along with ice skating at the resort’s mountaintop skating rink.

Squaw Valley opens for the 2013-14 winter season on Wednesday, Nov. 27. Information: www.squaw.com 

Ski/snowboard resorts are welcoming a pre-Halloween treat: fresh pow!

At Alpine Meadows, the white stuff was piling up this morning. (Alpine Meadows photo)

Alpine Meadows, on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, was a winter wonderland this morning. (Alpine Meadows photo)

If it’s cold and raining down here, it must snowing up there. And it is.

In the Lake Tahoe area, Alpine Meadows received 10 inches of snow at the base and 14 inches on the upper mountain last night, while the Squaw Valley totals were 5 and 10 inches, respectively.

Snow also is piling up near Heavenly. (Heavenly Mountain Resort photo)

Snow also is piling up near Heavenly. (Heavenly Mountain Resort photo)

Heavenly was reporting 6-8 inches of natural snow overnight on the mountain, and also was taking advantage of a drop in temperatures to make even more snow – all in preparation for the resort’s planned Nov. 22 opening.

“There is something about this time of year leading up to the winter season,” said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly’s vice president and chief operating officer. “It holds so much promise, and you can feel the anticipation building. Starting up the snow guns signifies the end of one season and the beginning of another.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration was forecasting that Lake Tahoe could receive an additional 3 to 6 inches of snow by Tuesday morning.

At Mammoth Mountain, there was 10 inches of new snow during the past 24 hours at the Main Lodge and 12 inches at the 11,053-foot summit. Opening day is Nov. 7.

In Southern California, Bear Mountain and Mountain High were both reporting falling temperatures – and snow – by mid-afternoon on Monday, but offered no additional details via the resorts’ Twitter feeds.

– Jerry Rice