New on the mountains: Lake Tahoe resorts offer new technology, faster lift lines and more snowmaking

Laney Griffo
Special to Sierra Sun
Newly renovated hotel at Sugar Bowl.
Courtesy photo

The first snow of the season has already fallen and people have started to dig out their winter coats.

Ski resorts are preparing for the winter season and most have released their opening dates and are getting ready to test out new equipment and plan new events.

Skiers and riders have a lot to look forward to this year at Lake Tahoe, including faster moving lines, especially at Sierra-at-Tahoe.

A great resort for visitors, Sierra’s claim to fame is being the closest resort to Sacramento and the Bay Area. This season, Sierra has installed Radio Frequency Identification technology that can scan passes and lift tickets through people’s clothing to help move the line faster.

“Sierra-at-Tahoe is excited to provide its guests with a streamlined experience via the use of RFID technology,” said Sarah Sherman, communication and PR manager for Sierra-at-Tahoe. “This new system will allow for quicker access to lifts, less waste, and makes renewing a ticket or pass simple and fast.”

Sierra doesn’t have a proposed opening date yet but Sherman said historically, they open mid to late November.

On the topic of passes, Vail is now offering the Epic Day Pass at Heavenly, Kirkwood and Northstar. The pass can be purchased for one to seven days with or without holiday restrictions. The pass will be give guests a discount rated that the wouldn’t get at the ticket window and it allows to be flexible on which days they ski or ride.

Resorts guests won’t just experience faster lines; resorts around the basin are offering new places to get drinks, new events and more snowmaking capabilities.

Here’s what to look for this season:

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe

The ski area has invested $1.5 million in improvements. They’ve added more snowmakers and they’ve installed new lift gates equipped with RFID technology. The new system will also allow people to easily reload day tickets and upgrade their passes.

The mountain also added nine new snowmakers, including three Pole Cats and six portable snow guns. A new snowcat was also added to the fleet.

Now available, “SKI-GIF” Fridays. Tickets will cost $49 after noon and will include live entertainment and bar specials. Enjoy those bar specials on new furniture in the Timbers Bar.

Proposed Opening Day: Friday, Oct. 25

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

Lake Tahoe’s “hidden gem” offers the fourth most skiable vertical in the Tahoe Basin. Diamond Peak’s Village Terrain Park gained a lot attention last season and the team that built it spends the summer dreaming up new, fun features for every skill level.

Not only will skiers and snowboarders have new terrain park features but there will also be new snow to play on. Diamond Peak spent the summer updating their snowmaking capabilities by adding four new snow guns. These new guns will be quieter, more reliable and can make snow in all snowmaking conditions. Once the snow is made, Diamond Peak’s new ParkPro groomer will keep the snow looking nice.

Proposed Opening Day: Thursday, Dec. 12

Kirkwood Mountain Resort

While Kirkwood is known for its double black diamonds, bowls and chutes, this winter, the mountain will be accessible, not just to skiers and riders, but mountain bikers too. Kirkwood’s Cross Country and Snowshoe Center has 37 miles of groomed trails that will now be open to fat bikes. Bikes will be available to rent through the center.

Proposed Opening Day: Wednesday, Nov. 27

Homewood Mountain Resort

With beautiful views of the lake, Homewood offers a great experience for skiers and riders. This year, it will offer even more. Snowcat guide and backcountry training will be offered to the public which will teach attendees avalanche awareness, safety protocols, rescue techniques and more.

Homewood will now be able to groom its steepest peaks with its new groomer. They also have new access to water resources that will double the mountains snowmaking capabilities.

Speaking of access to water, Homewood has installed water bottle refill stations and will be selling reusable bottles in an effort to cut down on single-use plastic.

No proposed opening day but historically, they open early December

Sugar Bowl Resort

Being the closest big mountain to the Bay Area, Sugar Bowl is constantly working to provide guests with a welcoming and convenient experience. Several new changes will give guests the best experience.

The Flume Surface Lift is being replaced with a 240-foot covered surface lift to protect beginner skiers and riders from the elements. In addition to this replacement lift, drop posts were added to the safety posts on the White Pine, Christmas Tree and Nob Hill lifts.

On a different note, the resort purchased a pipe cutter they will use to construct a new 13-ft mini-pipe. There will be 21 other new terrain park features.

Guest comfort is a priority for Sugar Bowl. Renovations have been done to the Sugar Bowl Hotel and Mid-Mountain Lodge. The resort purchased two new shuttle buses to assist with parking. Finally, they’ve launched a new e-commerce platform to make trip planning easier.

Proposed Opening Day: Friday, Nov. 29

Squaw valley / alpine meadows

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are world renowned mountains and this year they’ll have more to offer their guests. Alpine Meadows has finished construction on a the Treeline Cirque chairlift, a $10 million detachable, high-speed quad chair. The lift will take skiers and riders from the base area to Sherwood Ridge.

For those guests at Squaw, Alpenglow Expeditions will offer guided snowshoe tours of Shirley Canyon or guided trips in the backcountry. After their adventures, guests can get drinks from the Tram Car Bar which will be opening on the Olympic House deck. Guests can get drinks from a restored 70’s era Squaw Valley tram cabin.

Proposed Opening Day: Friday, Nov. 15

* Opening dates are weather permitting

Laney Griffo is a reporter with the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication to the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at

Support Local Journalism


Support Local Journalism

Readers around Lake Tahoe, Truckee, and beyond make the Sierra Sun's work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.