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

4 Squaw Valley athletes heading to Olympics in Sochi

Four Squaw Valley are headed to Sochi to compete in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. Julia Mancuso, Travis Ganong, Marco Sullivan and Nate Holland will all be representing Team USA in their respective fields. They are now part of the largest U.S. Winter Olympic Team in history which consists of 230 world-class athletes.

“We are so proud of all of the incredible athletes who are representing the United States in Sochi,” said Todd Kelly, ski team director at Squaw Valley. “We will be cheering them on from Squaw Valley and hope they bring home some new hardware to show off.”

Representing Team USA in her fourth Olympic Games, alpine skier Julia Mancuso will be competing in women’s downhill, super-G, giant slalom and super-combined. Mancuso has an extensive resume that consists of three Olympic medals, seven World Cup wins and four World Championship podium finishes. Mancuso showed fans her true passion and versatility as a skier when, after winning two silver medals in Vancouver in 2010, she went on to compete in the Freeride World Tour in Verbier – winning third place for skiing a fast and fluid line.

Nate Holland will represent Team USA in men’s snowboard cross. The Sochi Winter Games will be Holland’s third Olympics, where he is expected to be a serious medal contender. Holland has won eight X Games gold medals, including his most recent X Games win on Jan. 24. Inspired by a snowboarding film shot at the mountain, Holland moved to Squaw Valley in 1999 to work as a lift operator, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Squaw Valley hometown hero Marco Sullivan, will be representing Team USA in his fourth Winter Olympic Games. The 33-year-old and former Squaw Valley Mighty Mite made his world cup debut in 2001 and has since had five World Cup podium finishes, including a gold medal in men’s downhill. Sullivan will be racing in men’s downhill and super-G. Beyond his Olympic ski racing career, Sullivan is also regularly a winner of Alaska’s legendary Artic Man race, which pairs the strength of an athlete and the horsepower of a snowmobile.

Travis Ganong will make his first Olympic appearance in Sochi competing in the men’s downhill and super-G. The 25-year-old skier is an Squaw Valley native and got his start on the slopes of Squaw Valley. Ganong topped the podium in the 2013 U.S. Championships. He also took home two gold medals in the 2010 U.S. Championships for the downhill and super-G races. When he is not ski racing, Ganong can often be found freeskiing in the Lake Tahoe backcountry.

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. >>>