North Lake Tahoe is enjoying its snowiest January in decades

Snow totals at Homewood Mountain Resort range from about 3 feet at the base to more than 7 feet at the 8,740-foot summit. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Ski Resort)

Snow totals at Homewood Mountain Resort range from about 3 feet at the base to more than 7 feet at the 8,740-foot summit. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Ski Resort)

North Lake Tahoe ski resorts have experienced an incredible start to 2017 after a week-long snow storm that coated the Sierras with not just inches, but multiple feet of fresh snow. With more than 7 feet of powder reported at Donner Summit, 136 ski lifts and 347 runs open across the North Shore, this is the snowiest January North Lake Tahoe has seen in more than 45 years.

Just in time for National Learn to Ski & Snowboard month, conditions in North Lake Tahoe will remain ideal throughout January. Beginners will enjoy discounted learn-to-ski packages as low as $39 at multiple resorts, complete with lift tickets, lessons and rentals.

Here’s a quick look at the summit snow levels at North Lake Tahoe resorts.

  • Boreal Mountain Resort: 85 inches
  • Diamond Peak: 72 inches
  • Donner Ski Ranch: 72 inches
  • Homewood Mountain Resort: 92 inches
  • Granlibakken: 20 inches
  • Northstar California: 50 inches
  • Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe: 93 inches
  • Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows: 117 inches
  • Sugar Bowl Resort: 81 inches
  • Royal Gorge: 81 inches
  • Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Area: 64 inches
  • Tahoe XC: 20 inches

Tahoe Donner Downhill
The First Timer Learn to Ski or Snowboard Month packages are offered Jan. 9-13 and 17-20 for $39. These packages are only for first timers, which include an all-day lift ticket, rental equipment, and a one hour, 45-minute group lesson for anyone ages 7 and older.

Tahoe Donner Cross Country
Discounted private lessons and private lesson packages are offered any midweek, non-holiday day from Jan. 9-31. Two-for-one private lessons and private lesson packages are available any midweek, non-holiday day from Jan. 9-31. For $59, get a friend in on the fun for an hour of private instruction. $89 includes a lesson, day ticket and equipment for two people.

Alpine Meadows
Learn how to ski or snowboard for just $99 at Alpine Meadows any midweek day for ages 13 and older. Package Includes beginner lift tickets, equipment rental (skis, boots, poles or snowboard, boots) and a two hour, 30-minute beginner lesson.

Diamond Peak
For $39 from Jan. 9-13, for ages 7 and older, the Ski and Snowboard School will have Learn to Ski and Burton Learn to Ride packages for $39. The package includes a beginner lift ticket, rental equipment and one-hour 45-minute lesson beginning at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe
All beginner packages include a lift ticket to the dedicated beginner lifts, Flying Jenny, Wizard and Galena, beginner rental equipment (ski or snowboard) good for the entire day and a two-hour group lesson. Package starts at $135. In addition, Mt. Rose offers the Flight Plan Package: a two-consecutive-day lesson with lift tickets, rentals and instruction.

Homewood Mountain Resort
Homewood Mountain Resort’s $59 Learn to Ski & Ride Package offers first-timers a half-day lesson along with all-day equipment rental (helmet not included in package but available at an additional cost) and beginner lift ticket.

Sierra ski resorts mix snow with turkey for Thanksgiving weekend

Sugar Bowl Resort, which has already received more than 6 feet of snow, opened Friday with top-to-bottom skiing and riding. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

Sugar Bowl Resort, which already has received more than 5 feet of snow, opened Friday with top-to-bottom skiing and riding. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

By Bob Goligoski

It took a last-minute flurry of minor snow bursts but many of the Sierra ski resorts got their big wish – a Thanksgiving weekend opening. And with long-range forecasts promising off-and-on snow for December, along with temperatures dropping enough to make snow, it looks like the resorts will enjoy a white Christmas.

Mt. Rose and Boreal actually opened a little earlier in mid-November. But turkey weekend was the season debut at Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Northstar, Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood. As usual, Mammoth opened in early November.

Initially, skiers and riders will not find all of their favorite lifts and runs open on their first visit. But more terrain and lifts will be opening all the time so be sure to check with your target resort as to how much of the mountain is open.

Some resorts were luckier than others. Sugar Bowl, perched at the top of Donner Pass, opened with top-to-bottom skiing and riding. Mt. Rose, with the Tahoe region’s highest base elevation at 8,260 feet, had numerous runs open early.

Some later season openings include Homewood on Dec. 9, June Mountain on Dec. 10 and Diamond Peak on Dec. 15.

Thanks to the long drought the Sierra experienced in recent years, many resorts expanded snow-making networks. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, now under the same ownership, spent $8 million on snow-making equipment over the last six years and then paid out another million to beef up snow-making even more for this season.

Sam Kieckhefer, a spokesman for the two resorts, explained that “snowmaking can occur once air temperatures drop below 39 degrees. However, as relative humidity increases, the ambient temperatures required to make snow decrease.”

The California Ski Industry Association noted that “history suggests a snowy winter ahead. For example, when the Lake Tahoe region receives more than 8 inches of rain in October, the region has above-average snowfall more than 75 percent of the time. More than 19 inches of rain fell on Tahoe in October.”

It’s been a blockbuster ski, snowboard season for Sierra resorts

Abundant snowfall this winter at Mt. Rose resulted in lots of scenes like this, which was taken on Jan. 15. The resort reported one of its best winters for skier visits in several years. (Photo by Billy Jesberg for Mt. Rose)

Abundant snowfall this winter at Mt. Rose resulted in lots of scenes like this, which was taken on Jan. 15. The resort reported a record year for visitors. (Photo by Billy Jesberg for Mt. Rose)

Bob Goligoski

Frequent snowfalls, early and late snow, well-timed storms, few highway shutdowns and pent-up demand from skiers and snowboarders added up to a blockbuster season for Sierra resorts in California and Nevada.

“We had a fantastic winter,” said Ashley Quadros, marketing content coordinator at Tahoe Donner. “This was the best season in history for both our cross country and alpine areas. Mother Nature was very good to us.”

Most Sierra resorts do not reveal visitor numbers but the California Ski Industry Association predicts that this season will far surpass the long-term average of 6.5 million visits a year at the Sierra resorts.

Association president Michael Reitzell said that the number so far this season is well past the 4.6 million visits recorded last year.

“With a number of resorts open into May, we have a chance at a record year,” he said.

The old record was set during the 2004-05 season when about 8.5 million visits were recorded by the resorts.

“We had great snow all over California,” Reitzell added. “From Shasta and Dodge Ridge to China Peak, Mammoth and the Tahoe resorts, it was a phenomenal season.”

Most of the resorts are closing around mid-April, but Mammoth, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Mt. Rose will be open into May.

“Mammoth hasn’t closed before Memorial Day in 28 years and that streak won’t end this year,” said Tim LeRoy, a resort spokesman. “With a healthy base of 200 inches (at the summit), Mammoth will remain open through at least Memorial Day and likely later. In years with similar snowfall totals, Mammoth has remained open all the way to July 4.”

I was at Northstar in March and noticed that the coverage was amazing. By that time, it had snowed more than 400 inches; as of earlier today, the total exceeded 455 inches.

Communications manager Marcie Bradley noted that “with all this snow, we are having a great season.”

So many riders and skiers had come to Mt. Rose by early April, officials there said that the resort had broken its visitor records.

“We are still enjoying mid-winter conditions on the mountain,” said Mike Pierce, Mt. Rose director of marketing. “The skiing and riding is so great, we’ve decided to extend the season into May (closing May 8), pushing the ski season to over six months and making this the longest season in Mt. Rose’s history.”

Similar comments came from Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, now under the same ownership.

“We will be Tahoe’s longest-running resort this season,” said Liesl Kenney, public relations manager for the two resorts. “And with Squaw’s High Camp hot tub and parties across the mountain, the spring skiing capital will be in full swing. With the closing date scheduled for May 30, conditions permitting, this will be the longest season we have had in the last 10 years.”

While much improved compared with recent years, Sierra resorts did not enjoy a huge snow season. Totals were pretty much close to what was average before 2010, when a multi-year span of skimpy snow seasons started.

Kevin Cooper, senior communications manager for Heavenly and Kirkwood, explained that snow fell in perfect increments, arriving at a rate of 4 to 9 inches at a time. No storm dropped several feet at once, shutting everything down.

“At Tahoe, we had the best snow in the country this season,” he added. “On Christmas Day, we had 24 inches of powder. A lot of people did not get up to the mountains in the last two or three years, so many people were quite excited to get out and ski or snowboard again.”

Sugar Bowl Resort presented a scenic winterscape in mid-January. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

Sugar Bowl Resort offered a scenic winterscape in mid-January. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

Kevin Mitchell, general manager at Homewood, said that “the snow continued to pile up all season long and gave us the ability to launch new initiatives including our snow-cat skiing operation and on-mountain drone photography program.”

Peter Avedschmidt, the marketing and sales manager at Sugar Bowl, said that the resort, which is high atop the Donner Pass, “had more powder days than we have had in years. We had high skier counts and this was our best season in the last five years or so.”

The resort caught some of the state’s best snow this winter. As of April 1, some 547 inches had fallen, exceeding the annual average of 500 inches.

Paul Raymore, marketing manager at Diamond Peak, said there is “actually a chance that we’ll break our all-time record of 163,000 skier visits by the time the resort closes.”

Marc Gendron, a spokesman for Bear Valley, noted that “it is the timing of snowfall that is most important, and this season could not have been better. We hit every holiday and most weekends perfectly.”

It was difficult to determine if this winter’s profitable season will result in capital improvements this summer. Most resorts reported that any plans about more lifts or runs had not been finalized.

One spokesperson noted that a big source of spending at many resorts is making snow, but thanks to the generosity of Mother Nature, snow-making equipment was silent much of the season, which added to the bottom line at many resorts.

North Lake Tahoe resorts primed for MLK weekend skiing, snowboarding

Mother Nature helped set up Lake Tahoe resorts perfectly for skiers and snowboarders before the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Northstar, for example, received 18 inches of fresh powder. (Photo courtesy Northstar)

Mother Nature helped set up Lake Tahoe resorts perfectly for skiers and snowboarders before the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. Northstar, for example, received 18 inches of fresh powder. (Photo courtesy Northstar California)

Conditions couldn’t be better for skiers and snowboarders in anticipation of the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend. North Lake Tahoe ski resorts are reporting more than a foot of new snow in the last 24 hours, while a storm system is headed toward the region late Friday into Saturday morning followed by yet another possible system moving in Sunday.

All resorts are reporting 100 percent open terrain, weather conditions permitting. So far this season the region has received about 19 feet of total snowfall at the upper elevations, sitting at 142 percent above normal according to the Nevada Natural Resources Conservation Service.

Here are the latest 24-hour snow totals at North Lake Tahoe resorts:
Alpine Meadows: 13”
Boreal Mountain Resort: 16”
Diamond Peak: 12”
Donner Ski Ranch: 12”
Granlibakken: 11”
Homewood Mountain Resort: 14” at the summit
Mt. Rose: 13” at the summit
Northstar California: 18”
Soda Springs: 11”
Squaw Valley: 11”
Sugar Bowl / Royal Gorge: 13” at the summit
Tahoe Donner: 12″

Out of the bindings, children and kids at heart have access to sledding hills at North Tahoe Regional Park, Soda Springs Snow Park and also have tubing opportunities at many ski resorts. Information: www.GoTahoeNorth.com/sledding

For last-minute deals at North Lake Tahoe resorts during Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, visit www.GoTahoeNorth.com/deals.

North Lake Tahoe resorts are decorated in a fresh coat of white

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Thanks, Mother Nature.

A snowy weekend has resulted in a wealth of skiing and snowboarding opportunities at North Lake Tahoe resorts. Seven locations in the area have opened a combined 230-plus runs – with excellent conditions reported on terrain ranging from beginner to expert.

Here are the numbers for each of the resorts:

Alpine Meadows
Storm total: 16 inches
Lifts: 7
Runs: 36

Boreal Mountain Resort
Storm total: 15 inches
Lifts: 4
Runs: 23

Diamond Peak Ski Area
Storm total: 22 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 15

Mt. Rose Ski Resort
Storm total: 30 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 40

Northstar California Resort
Storm total: 19 inches
Lifts: 13
Runs: 70

Squaw Valley
Storm total: 23 inches
Lifts: 14
Runs: 23

Sugar Bowl Resort
Storm total: 18 inches
Lifts: 3
Runs: 31

For information about snow conditions in North Lake Tahoe visit, www.gotahoenorth.com. For lodging, activity and ski deals, visit www.gotahoenorth.com/cooldeals.

Sugar Bowl is rated a sweet place to tie the knot on the slopes

While offering skiing and snowboarding in the winter, Sugar Bowl also is a popular wedding venue throughout the year. (Sugar Bowl Resort photo)

While offering skiing and snowboarding during the winter, Sugar Bowl also is a popular wedding venue throughout the year. (Sugar Bowl Resort photo)

Sugar Bowl isn’t just a place for skiing and snowboarding. It’s also for weddings, as the resort recently earned three awards – including its fourth consecutive “Best of Weddings” award – from The Knot, the nation’s most visited wedding planning website.

Sugar Bowl also was inducted into The Knot’s Best of Weddings Hall of Fame, making it one of only six venues the Sacramento/Lake Tahoe/Reno area to earn the distinction.

Wedding experts at The Knot select the annual award from top venues nominated by the site’s brides. Venues selected for a Best of Weddings award four or more times receive an honorary place in the Hall of Fame.

Sugar Bowl’s wedding venue, a secluded mountain lodge with an adjoining private lake, is just hours from the Bay Area, and run by expert staff noted for their attention to detail and personalized approach to wedding planning, according to the resort.

In addition to being recognized by The Knot, Sugar Bowl also was selected for a 2015 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Award, ranking it among the top 5 percent of venues listed on the website. The recognition is given based on reviews by couples who chose Sugar Bowl as their wedding venue. Dozens of brides and grooms gave Sugar Bowl high ratings for attributes such as “responsiveness,” “professionalism” and “value.”

Tahoe Unveiled also included Sugar Bowl in its Top 5 Receptions of 2014 for “Venue with the Best View.” Tahoe Unveiled was impressed by photographs of a wedding reception at Sugar Bowl that illustrated the rich depth of the scenery experienced by a newlywed couple and its party.

The resort’s High Sierra location features blooming wildflowers, a rolling creekside lawn, and large, open-air fire pits. Sugar Bowl also offers unique details like a private chairlift ride to the top of Mt. Disney for drinks and appetizers on a mountaintop sundeck.

“Sugar Bowl is honored to be selected numerous times this year as an award-winning wedding venue by the brides who have been married here,” said Meghon Shrewsbury, wedding and event manager for Sugar Bowl Resort. “Wedding parties choose Sugar Bowl because of the resort’s unmatched natural beauty and the secluded and intimate setting, but also because our wedding staff is dedicated to getting each detail perfect.”

Sugar Bowl is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a ski resort. On Feb. 14, the popular destination will host its anniversary celebration at Mt. Judah Lodge. There will be live music, numerous activities, and giveaways.

Information: www.sugarbowl.com/weddings

Season finale nears for Sugar Bowl, as the Lake Tahoe area resort plans ahead

Winter skiing and spring kite flying combine for a day of fun on the snow at Sugar Bowl Resort and Royal Gorge.

Winter skiing and spring kite flying combine for a day of fun on the snow at Sugar Bowl Resort and Royal Gorge.

With Sugar Bowl’s snow season coming to an end this Sunday, skiers and snowboarders can get their final runs in for free with the purchase of a 2014-15 season pass, the resort has announced.

Sugar Bowl Resort has lowered prices for most season passes and expanded pass privileges, including limited free skiing at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, plus Sun Valley and Grand Targhee when booking lodging. In addition, pass options also include special pricing for Sugar Bowl-Royal Gorge combo passes, accessing 200-kilometers of groomed XC trails across 6,000 acres at North America’s largest cross country resort.

Royal Gorge XC standalone season passes also are available.

New this season, Sugar Bowl Unrestricted season passholders will get four free lift tickets to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows; Slightly Restricted season passholders will get three; Midweek passholders will get two. Lift tickets are valid Sunday-Friday, non-holiday, during the 2014-15 ski season.

Season passholders also are automatically entered into the CORE rewards program, where skiing and food and beverage purchases add up to rewards.

Information: www.sugarbowl.com/seasonpass

Sugar Bowl selling discounted lift tickets when purchased online

Sugar Bowl Resort is launching its own online ticket sales portal, complete with deeply discounted rates.

Lift tickets are available for purchase at www.sugarbowl.com/tickets. The site displays various prices based on the day. Skiers and riders can purchase tickets for the following day, or for use months ahead. The price of an adult lift ticket online is about $67 regular season while a holiday lift ticket at the window is $88. After purchasing, print a confirmation and redeem printed confirmation at the Mt. Judah Special Tickets office.

The option to purchase tickets online for next-day use is only available at a few ski resorts in the Lake Tahoe area. This allows skiers and riders to take advantage of discounts when it accommodates their schedule or after a strong storm blows into the area.

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.

Fresh snow means new terrain opens at Sugar Bowl

Thanks to 13 inches of new snow on Wednesday night and Thursday, Sugar Bowl Resort will open its Mt. Disney chairlift on Saturday, Feb. 8, adding new terrain for skiers and riders.

The Donner Summit resort plans to operate seven lifts for top-to-bottom skiing and riding over the weekend, as heavy snow from a powerful storm continued to fall on the resort on Friday. Forecasters expect the highest elevations of Sugar Bowl Resort to be coated in more than 4 feet of new snow by Monday morning.

Sugar Bowl Resort plans to operate Mt. Disney, Mt. Lincoln, Jerome Hill, Christmas Tree, White Pine and Nob Hill chairlifts, as well as its gondola, over the weekend.

Information: www.sugarbowl.com