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Early openings for many area ski resorts

Tripp Mickle
Sun News Service

When the first snow of the season arrives, Sierra skiers and boarders can count on one Boreal to open almost immediately. The resort is almost as dependable at clearing runs for winter sports enthusiasts as Caltrans is at clearing roads for drivers.

But when the second storm of the season arrives, like this week’s 16 inch dump in Tahoe City, skiers and boarders begin to wonder what resort will open next.

For those sitting in skiing purgatory, watching the snow pile up while many lifts sit still, your wait is over. Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley USA and Sugar Bowl ski resorts turned operations into overdrive this week and plan to open Saturday and Sunday. The weekend marks the earliest opening date in all three resorts’ histories.

“This is very unusual for October,” Squaw’s mountain manager Jimmy King said. “It’s fabulous.”

Sugar Bowl plans to open top to bottom skiing on four lifts, including Jerome Hill, Christmas Tree, Silver Belt and Nob Hill. Squaw kicks off its 55th season with beginner and intermediate terrain accessible from the cable car, Funitel, Gold Coast Express, Shirley Lake Express, Bailey’s Beach and Links lifts. Alpine Meadows offers service on Kangaroo and Roundhouse lifts from 9 to 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

“The bottom line is that we want to offer what we’re here for,” Alpine spokesperson Rachel Woods said. “Snow changes everything.”

Indeed it did. After collecting three feet of snow during last week’s storm at high elevations and recording between 18 and 24 inches above 8,200 feet by the end of Tuesday, all three resorts pushed operations into overdrive in order to jump-start weekend operations.

“After the last storm, we kept getting calls – ‘When are you going to open?'” Squaw’s spokesperson Katja Dahl said. “It was a little premature to jump the gun. A place like Squaw is difficult to get going …(because) we have a priority that if we’re going to open, even if it’s six lifts, we have to provide the same positive experience.

“We said if there was another big storm, we have to open. We’re a ski resort. …We had to condense a month’s worth of work into one week. We did what we could and it was a unanimous decision by upper management to make the effort to open. It’s a Herculean effort, but it’s worth it.”

Alpine Meadows, whose lodge is currently under construction, faced a similar dilemma, Woods said. As of Tuesday afternoon, construction efforts hindered the possibility of opening. By noon Wednesday, upper management had made plans to open without the lodge, Woods said.

“We came up with a viable solution to get people on the snow,” Woods said. “The resort will open the first floor of its lodge and serve barbecue on the sun deck. “…We knew right now people just wanted to ski and board. We just wanted to give them that opportunity.”

Sugar Bowl said that its lifts were ready to go and a large contingency of year-round employees made jump-starting operations manageable.

“There’s a willingness here to jump in and do what it takes to get the mountain running,” spokesperson Kristin York said.

All three resorts said that conditions were outstanding. According to Woods at Alpine, this is the biggest October recorded snow since 1945.

“It’s going to be such good snow,” Woods said. “I’ve watched so many people hike and get powder turns. It’s really going to be amazing.”

With that in mind, Sugar Bowl anticipates close to 1,000 people on Saturday, while Squaw expects between 2,500 and 3,500.

“We’ve never had this good of a product this early in the season and people are amped,” King said. “We’re doing avalanche control already. We have that much snow.”

Other open resorts in the Tahoe Basin include: Kirkwood, Boreal and Sierra-at-Tahoe. Heavenly, Northstar-at-Tahoe and Mt. Rose all plan to open in mid-November.


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