Last turns: Most area ski resorts wrap up the season this weekend, Squaw Alpine aims to spin lifts through end of May

Northstar California Resort will wrap up winter operations on Sunday.
Northstar California Resort
Northstar California Resort still has roughly three-fourths of its terrain open going into the final weekend of the season.
Northstar California Resort

Following a season of masks, spaced out lift lines, and other restrictions, several of the area’s ski resorts are heading into the final weekend of the year.

With a number of resorts already closed for the year, Northstar California Resort, Boreal Mountain California, Soda Springs Mountain Resort, Sugar Bowl Resort, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Diamond Peak, and Mt. Rose are each heading into the final weekend of the 2020-21 season.

Vail operated resorts close out season

With one of Vail’s resorts — Kirkwood Mountain Resort — already closed for the season, the other two locations operated under its banner are set to end the season on Sunday.

The past year brought with it numerous challenges from early snow, a fairly dry winter to revolving restrictions on operations due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in what Northstar Vice President and General Manager Deirdra Walsh called “the most challenging season we have ever encountered.

“I am tremendously proud of the entire team at Northstar,” added Walsh. “I have so much appreciation for our employees and the passion and dedication with which they do their jobs.”

The resort had planned on ending winter operations last Sunday, but with a reported 58 inches of base and roughly 76% of its terrain still open, Northstar officials announced another week of skiing and riding.

“We have added an additional week to our season, and is a nice way to say ‘thank you’ to our guests who have been supportive throughout this winter.”

Information about the number of visits and revenue compared to past years isn’t available for Northstar, Vail Resorts, Inc., which operates 37 mountain and regional ski areas. However, last month it released its earnings for the second quarter while also providing an outlook for the end of the ski season.

Vail announced it had a net income of $147.8 million for the second fiscal quarter of 2021, marking a 28.4% decrease compared to the same time period in 2020. The decrease, according to Vail, was primarily a result of COVID-19. Vail said it saw some improvement in January and February, but season-to-date total skier visits remained down 8.2% while total lift revenue was down 8.9% compared the prior year season-to-date period.

“We are very pleased with our results through this point in the 2020/2021 ski season across our 34 North American resorts,” said Vail Chief Executive Officer Rob Katz in March’s investor report. “While our results for the second quarter continued to be negatively impacted by COVID-19, total visitation across our North American destination mountain resorts and regional ski areas was only down approximately 5% compared to the same period in the prior year. The strong visitation for the quarter highlights the underlying resiliency of our business, the loyalty of our guests and the strong appeal of skiing in guests’ leisure travel plans.”

Heading into its final days of the season, Northstar reported 9 inches of fresh snow from this week’s storm, the total of 211 inches of snow for the season is well below the 350-inch season average.

While the resort has yet to release plans for next season, Russell Carlton, senior manager of resort communications and field marketing, confirmed that Northstar’s Village View and Castle Peak parking lots will remain free to guests next season.

On the other side of Tahoe, Heavenly also plans to wrap up the season on Sunday. The resort barely hit the 50% mark of its average snowfall, having had 189 inches of snow come down this season compared to an average of 360 inches.

Boreal, Soda Springs, Sugar Bowl

Perched high above and to the west of Truckee is a trio of other resorts set to end the season on Sunday.

Heading into its final weekend, Sugar Bowl is offering skiers and riders discounted tickets ranging from $49 up to $79. Sugar Bowl had initially announced April 11 as its final day, but later extended the season by a week.

“We could not have been successful this season if it were not for the hard work of our staff plus the understanding and respect shown by our guests. Our community did their part, adhering to the new COVID policies requested of them, including continued mask wearing even with warm spring conditions,” said Jon Slaughter, Sugar Bowl Resort executive director of marketing and sales, in a news release. “The decision to extend the season by an additional week is our way of showing our deep appreciation and offering our passholders and daily visitors our thanks for their continued support.”

Sugar Bowl will have live music on its village deck to close out the year.

Like other resorts in the area, Sugar Bowl has been forced to contend with COVID-19 restrictions and below-average snowfall. Sugar Bowl reported 289 inches of snow this season, compared to an average of roughly 500 inches of snowfall. Though facing much adversity, Slaughter said guests remained mostly positive about their experience at Sugar Bowl this year.

“We saw our highest guest satisfaction scores this season. I think much of that can be attributed to our disciplined approach to COVID, communicating our plans early and often and our commitment to providing an uncrowded experience,” said Slaughter. “This season provided a great opportunity to review and evaluate all aspects of our skier services from ticket and pass sales to mountain operations and think about how to operate differently in the future to preserve that high guest satisfaction. One decision we’ve already made for next winter is that we will continue to restrict our pass sales and carefully manage our daily ticket availability. Our neighbors have drastically cut season pass prices in an effort to pack more guests into the resorts. Our strategy is the opposite, capping pass sales to protect the guest experience on the mountain.”

POWDR Corporation’s two local resorts, Soda Springs and Boreal, are also set to end winter operations on Sunday.

Boreal held its final Feel Good Friday fundraiser last weekend, and, according to Vice President of Marketing and Brand Management Matt Peterson, expects to raise between $30,000 and $50,000 from its seven Feel Good Friday events this year. Funds from Feel Good Fridays go to the resort’s Play it Forward fund, which directs donations to local nonprofits. Recipients this season included The High Fives Foundation, Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe, Boarding for Breast Cancer, Chill Foundation, Revert Foundation, Sierra Watershed Education Partnerships, and the Truckee Bike Park.

Boreal received 271 inches of snow this season. The resort receives an average of more than 400 inches per year. Boreal’s sister resort, Soda Springs, will finish the season with a total of 270 inches of snow compared to an average of roughly 400 inches.

Along the East Shore

The final two of the Tahoe area’s ski resorts to close this weekend are Mt. Rose and Diamond Peak.

Sitting above Incline Village, Diamond Peak is sliding into the end of the season with the close of its annual video contest. For the third year, skiers and riders at Diamond Peak can submit their best highlights of the season for a chance to win a season pass and other prizes. The submission deadline is Sunday and a virtual awards ceremony will be held April 30.

Diamond receives around 350 inches of snow per year. This season the resort has reported 158 total inches of snowfall.

Nearby, Mt. Rose, which also averages 350 inches of snow per year, has had, depending on location at the resort, between 170 and 213 inches of snow this year.

Still spinning

While most of the resorts will have ended winter operations by Sunday, the self-proclaimed “Spring Skiing Capital,” Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows said it intends to continue spinning lifts through the end of May, weather and conditions permitting.

Squaw Valley will also host Earth Day exhibits April 21-25 at its village.

As part of the project, students from North Tahoe — in partnership with the Citizens Climate Lobby, North Tahoe, and Tahoe Youth Action Team — will be creating exhibits that feature information about global and regional effects of climate change.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643.

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