By Bob Goligoski, Correspondent
I could have been playing 18 holes along the Pacific. Or biking around the bay. Or just working on a tan at the nearby beach.
But as a dedicated ski writer for 45 years, none of that would work for me. I just had to get to the Sierra to see if we still had a ski season. Recent temperatures in the 60′s on the slopes had left the perception that maybe the season was melting away in February.
It was 64 degrees on Feb 18 when I arrived in Truckee, some 10 miles from Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. But on my next day at Squaw Valley, it had probably cooled down about five degrees.
I was quite amazed at the scene at Squaw. Some 23 of the 29 lifts were operating and the snow was in superb shape.
Keeping mostly to the north-facing slopes and looking for runs where the trees protected the runs from the sun, I skied for about five hours before I noticed the first signs of soft, slushy spring-like snow. In all that time, I only scraped across one rock.
The next day at Alpine Meadows, 10 of 13 lifts were humming along but a number of runs that I favor were closed because of thin snow cover. There was plenty of skiing, some of the runs had a boiler-plate like surface while others had loose snow or were turning quite soft about noon. There were a few rocks but they were easy to avoid.
Mid-week, walk-up adult lift tickets were $119 at both resorts but Squaw was a much better buy. The two resorts are owned by the same corporation.
Melissa Matheney, public relations coordinator for the resorts, smiled as she looked at the large crowds of skiers and snowboarders. It was a semi-holiday week as there was no school for many children.
“We are still counting on more snow,” she said, “as we get about half of our annual snowfall in February and March. Business has been strong recently and the great weather here is one of our main attractions.”
Unfortunately, Squaw Valley has had to cancel a week of World Cup skicross and snowboardercross races set for March 4 – 8 because of the scarcity of snow. This was the first World Cup-level event scheduled for Squaw Valley since 1969.
The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Hole Shot NorAm and U.S. Revolution Tour skicross and snowboardcross events planned for March 9 – 13 at Squaw Valley also have been cancelled.
I asked Matheney about the rumors that Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will be merged into one huge resort with the erection of a lift between the two resorts. She responded that talks are on-going about that possibility “and we hope to make an announcement in the future.”