Opening day: Storm brings life to area resorts

Those first in line at Sugar Bowl on opening day were greeted by ideal snow conditions, according to Marketing and Communications Manager Drew Jackson.

“It was a fantastic opening day,” Jackson said.

According to Jackson, Sugar Bowl received 60 inches of snow with the perfect sticking recipe.

“The feedback from my team was that the way the storm delivered the snow could not have been more ideal, except if it happened before Thanksgiving instead of mid-December,” Jackson said.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, avalanches are more likely to happen due to weak, inconsistent layers in the snowpack, where varied temperature changes can affect snow layer bonds.

The week’s first storm, which started Tuesday night, began snowing “heavy and dense, sticky and wet,” Jackson said. “It stuck to everything.”

As the storm progressed, temperatures dropped and the powder became lighter and drier, Jackson said, creating the ideal riding conditions.

“The top of the snow it was colder, so it was light powder,” Jackson said. “It’s very fun to ski.”

Jackson said smiles were all around at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, as the mountain successfully opened Mt. Lincoln Express, the longest lift to the mountain’s highest elevation — 8,383 feet.

Jackson said the snow quality elevated season passholders’ moods. Opening day came with its usual hiccups. This year, certain season passholders who bought their tickets in a specific time frame had some trouble scanning their pass, but the issue was remedied quickly. Jackson said some troubleshooting took place opening day, given that their radio frequency identification lift access program was only 2 years old.


Palisades Tahoe reopened Wednesday morning as well, said Public Relations Manager Alex Spychalsky.

Spychalsky said sporadic snow has lead to an inconsistent season thus far, and that she was grateful to establish a 5-foot base.

“We got 3.5 feet of snow prior to Halloween weekend — enough for us to open a lot of our upper mountain lifts,” Spychalsky said. “We got a whole resort open in four days.”

Palisades Tahoe opened Oct. 29 through Halloween, Spychalsky said, “but then it got really warm.”

Plans to offer opportunities to ride on the weekends faded under the November sun, Spychalsky said, and the resort closed again. Only two of the mountain’s 29 cable cars were in operation when Palisades Tahoe reopened Nov. 26.

“I haven’t felt like we’ve been open, so (Wednesday) was the first day we expanded operations beyond those two,” Spychalsky said.

The resort was closed entirely on Tuesday, due to gusts of winds up to 48 mph on the crests.

Palisades Tahoe was able to recover from the evening dump and open lifts at 10:30 a.m.

“We’ve had 5 feet since Sunday,” Spychalsky said. “It was real powder day vibes. People were waiting in line for three hours, but they were just so excited. People were happy and it was not warm.”

The resort at Alpine Meadows remained closed due to a power outage started by the storm.

“We’re not sure what our ETA is (on that), but once it’s restored we’re ready to go,” Spychalsky said.

In the meantime, Spychalsky said season passholders and day passers can ride on some of the most entertaining chairs on the Olympic Valley side of the resort, like the Red Dog Chair, Resort (formerly Squaw Resort) Chair and Far East (Express) Chair.

Neither Palisades Tahoe’s Spychalsky nor Sugar Bowl’s Jackson specified their resorts’ attendance on opening day, but said it was what they expected on an opening day that fell midweek and was exclusive to season passholders.

Sara Roston, director of communications for Vail’s West Region, said mountain staff were “thrilled” with their Dec. 12 opening day.

Vail opened limited terrain at Heavenly and Kirkwood ski resorts Dec. 11.

“Our teams have been working incredibly hard, and the Mountain Operations team in particular has been extremely impressive, having opened a significant amount of terrain in a short period of time,” Roston said. “That’s no easy feat – it takes a lot to prep new runs with this much snowfall, ensuring safety for all on the mountain. We’re really proud of our teams at Northstar, and it’s been really great to welcome guests back to the mountain.”

Boreal/Woodward Tahoe opened Nov. 15.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at

Wednesday was opening day at Sugar Bowl.
Elizabeth White/
Fresh snow brought opportunities for resort-goers and backcountry enthusiasts.
Photo by Isaac Laredo
Traffic on Interstate 80 Wednesday after the storm.
Elizabeth White/
Opening day at Sugar Bowl Wednesday, Dec. 15.
Elizabeth White/
Fresh snow blankets Truckee.
Elizabeth White/

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