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Ski areas hope for early openings

JAMES BALL, Sierra Sun

While most people are wondering where summer went, Lake Tahoe and Truckee’s ski resorts are preparing for the 1998-1999 winter season.

To the shock of most residents and other resorts, Heavenly Valley opened a single run over the weekend, drawing a modest, if not simply curious crowd to what must have seemed like an aberration, considering the calendar, which still reads “October.”

In most years, it is Boreal which tends to be the first area resort to open.

This year, it is expected to open on Halloween, Saturday, Oct. 31, with preparations already in full swing for the coming season.

On Oct. 15, the first snowmaking machine started blowing the bare hill at Boreal, covering patches of 100 yards apiece.

And most days, the weather has cooperated. Jody Churich, spokesperson for the recently renamed Boreal Mountain Playground said the snowmakers have run four of the five nights they have been in operation, thanks to cooler evenings.

It needs to be at least 32 degrees in order to successfully blow snow and, starting Oct. 16, it dipped below 20 degrees at night in Truckee.

On the other hand, there is no natural snow in the immediate forecast, so Boreal will have to wait a little longer for nature to help its cause.

“The mountain is looking in good shape,” Churich said. “We hope to get the terrain park open soon.”

Of the 500 employees it takes to operate Boreal in an average winter, already more than 100 are at work, doing pre-maintenance on the hill and preparing the skis and snowboards in the rental shop.

Churich said workers are removing grass and rock and laying hay on the hills.

Other resorts hope to open in mid- to late-November.

Squaw Valley will open Friday, Nov. 20 – with or without snow – offering cable car rides to the top for ice skating and other amenities.

Northstar-at-Tahoe officials said they have targeted Nov. 21 for opening, while Alpine Meadows is slated to open the week of Thanksgiving.

If there is enough snow, Royal Gorge cross-country ski area will open Nov. 14. If not, the date will move to Nov. 26.

Tahoe Donner hopes to open during Thanksgiving, but has no snowmaking capability, so the resort is at the mercy of Mother Nature.

Officials at Tahoe Donner said it takes less snow to open the cross-country area than it does for the downhill portion.

At press time, Sugar Bowl and Donner Ski Ranch had not set opening dates, but expected to schedule one within a few days.

Sierra Sun E-mail: sun@tahoe.com

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