South Shore ski resorts to unveil new features |

South Shore ski resorts to unveil new features

Jim Grant / Sun news serviceA Sikorsky-64 helicopter was used on the new Olympic chairlift project at Heavenly last month.

A new lift, terrain park improvements, early rides on powder days and a variety of environmental initiatives are among the new features snow sport enthusiasts can expect from the three South Shore ski resorts this winter.

Heavenly Mountain Resort anticipates one of the first major projects from its recently approved master plan amendment, the replacement of its two-person Olympic Chair with a high-speed quad, to be complete by Dec. 7, according to a press statement.

The new chair will shave approximately 7 1/2 minutes off the ride time and provide skiers and snowboarders access to three new trails in the resort’s North Bowl.

On selected powder days at Sierra at Tahoe this winter, season passholders will have the opportunity to head onto the mountain 30 minutes earlier than the scheduled opening time.

Kirkwood has dedicated a season-long skier/boarder cross course this year on Mokelumne trail, located off Chairs 5 or 6. To be used during the Kirkwood Cup series and for team training, the course is scheduled to be scaled down for the general public when races aren’t going on.

All three resorts are including environmental initiatives among their new offerings this year. Sierra will offer up-front parking spots for hybrid vehicles and is using eco-friendly cleaning products resort-wide, and hopes to cut overall energy usage at the resort by 10 percent.

A carpool blog on Kirkwood’s Web site is designed to help Kirkwood customers coordinate rides with one another. The resort will also match the purchases of “Green Tags” at the resort to promote the development of wind-power generation facilities this year.

While retrofitting snowmaking guns to improve efficiency, Heavenly resort also purchased five new low-emission groomers during the off-season.

— Heavenly expects to open three new ski trails from the Olympic lift. One, “Cloud Nine” is described as a groomed intermediate run “perfect for wide-open cruising,” according to a Heavenly press release.

One new groomed intermediate run, “The Pines,” and one new ungroomed advanced run, “Bohemian Grove,” accessible from the lift have been left with some of their trees to give users varying levels of tree-skiing difficulty.

— A fourth ski trail, called Nova, is an intermediate trail running along the Dipper Express chair line in order to connect Orion to the base of Dipper Express.

— Also new this winter is the Heavenly Sky Flyer at Adventure Peak. This zip line will take guests on a 50 mph ride from the top of Tamarack Express to the top of the Gondola, a vertical drop of 525 feet. At 3,100 feet, the Heavenly Sky Flyer will be the longest zip line in the lower 48 U.S. states, according to a press release.

— Heavenly has also purchased 11 more fully-automated fan guns for its snow-making operations. These fan guns will be placed on elevated towers in selected locations to provide more consistent snow coverage.

— Sierra at Tahoe is looking to incorporate approximately 320 acres at the top of the Grandview Express lift, known as Huckleberry Canyon, into its boundary.

The area is currently accessible through five gates and is designated “backcountry” terrain.

If the plan is finalized by the forest service, the expansion will increase the amount of expert terrain available within Sierra’s boundary.

A decision on the expansion is expected this month and the boundary could be extended as soon as November, according to the Eldorado National Forest Web site.

— Specially trained instructors will offer private group lessons to teach multiple ability levels at the same time, with a focus on families.

— A “Mellow Yellow” program will designate entire runs as “go slow areas” and encourage on-mountain safety by clocking speedy skiers and riders with radar guns and catching up with them on the mountain. The program hopes to encourage responsible skiing and riding by offering prizes to riders who can guess their speed correctly.

— Sierra’s Web site will also offer an interactive trail map this year, allowing users to design a customized plan based upon a set of criteria, such as groomed or ungroomed trails and ability level. In addition, guests will be able to share and upload their videos to pinpoint locations on the map.

— Kirkwood’s Expedition Lodge is expected to break ground on Oct. 1.

“South Shore’s only slopeside luxury private residence club” is expected to be completed in December 2009, according to a press release from the resort. Located in the Mountain Village near five lifts, it will host an adventure outfitters store with gear, apparel and backcountry programs.

— Timber Creek Family Center will offer ski and ride schools, a rental center, ticket windows, restaurant and sports shop this year.

— A Burton Women’s Learn-to-Ride program will provide snowboarding of all skill levels exclusively to women at the resort this year. Burton will also offer a powder progression program at Kirkwood.

— Kirkwood will be offering snow camping lessons in which guides teach proper gear selection, efficient ways to pack, pros/cons of shelters, cold- weather cooking and more.

— The resort will also offer a Backcountry Certification Program this year.

“Tahoe’s only backcountry certification program” includes avalanche, route finding, hazardous terrain recognition, and pacing and travel techniques, according to a press statement.

— Kirkwood’s Junior Expedition Teams will give kids ages 5 to 17 a chance to learn the fundamentals, as well as compete this year.

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