Lake Tahoe, 3/24-4/1

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  1. #1

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    Mar 2008
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    Lake Tahoe, 3/24-4/1

    After boasting how cheap I can make a western trip, I have to eat my words on AZ ... on a good sort of way though

    In a nut shell, I got "caught" with a storm every 3 days while there. And that, for some reason, blew my budget way off!

    First thing, there's a storm warning the day I arrived. So, I had to upgrade my rental econo-box reservation for a SUV! That's $400 instead $130 (for the duration of 9 days). Not bad for a SUV but 3 times the econo-box. Plus, the thing suck gas.

    I bought a snowbomb card which allows me 2 free tickets, 1 to Kirkwood and 1 to Alpine. And a $10 day to Diamond Peak. But to get to Kirkwood even on a good day, it takes a car with decent tires. With storm in the forecast every other day, there's no way I could get there without an SUV. There's shuttle bus going there. But this late in the season, they don't always run unless there's enough booking. The other area I plan to ski, Mt Rose, are on the top of the pass. Driving there in the storm is a white knuckle affair, even in an SUV.

    And with storm coming after storm, I didn't want to be driving in everyday from Reno, which has the best budget lodging. Instead, I stay down at the lake level, close to the mountains I plan to ski, at the price of $50-100 (weekday/weekend) instead of the $20/night at Reno. There's also no $9.99 all-you-can-eat prime rib buffet for dinner on the lake either.

    Enough grumbling about cost. Here's the skiing:

    Day 1 (Saturday) Royal Gorge:
    I arrive late on Friday so Saturday I took it easy. The snowbomb card came with 2 free XC trail pass, 1 to Royal Gorge, which is a very famous XC center. That's where I went on Saturday. The scenery was stunning! But the altitude, plus the relatively slushy snow, made for a tiring 3 hr ski. Storm was delayed till Saturday night so I made it back over the pass no problem.

    Day 2 (Sunday) Diamond Peak: With the storm forecast, I stayed at Crystal Bay instead of driving back to Reno. But Sunday morning dawn nice and sunny. Where's the storm? Oh, it's coming during the day. So I went to Diamond Peak, a small area right off Incline village, saving the big mountains for after the storm. Good decision. It's just boiler plate all over. The tardy storm finally started to arrive around 3 o'clock. Just in time for me to get back to the hotel!

    The hotel I was staying the night before, Cal Neva, had a broken furnace. So the water was only warm the night before and frigid the morning. They gave me a $20 breakfast voucher and I moved to South Lake Tahoe. I was ready for Kirkwood.

    Day 3: (Monday) Homewood:
    By the time I went to bed, snow flakes were flying around. This was lake level. So I went to bed with dreams of fluffy snow up high.

    In the morning, I had to switch cars. They didn't have a 4 wheel drive at Reno at the time and I was picking one up Monday morning. Except the car wasn't there! So 1/2 hr later, the agent found the car been returned as promised and turned it over to me. Now it was a bit late for the long drive to Kirkwood. And besides, Homewood got 6" and it's a low key resort with very light skier traffic. So I changed plan to went there instead (I got a free voucher also). The drive over the Emerald Bay section of SR 89 was pretty scary to say the least (chain or 4WD required). I was glad I wasn't going to Kirkwood which involves TWO passes!

    I got to Homewood not very early. But there're maybe 50 cars in the lot. So have the mountain all to myself. It's not a small mountain by northeast standard! The groomers indeed got about 5-6" on top of scratchy boiler plate underneath. On the steeper black trails, one would hit the bumps beneath the snow. Not fun. So I lap the smooth groomer a few times and moved into the glades. That's where the skier heaven is! The trees were not that tight. So it's pretty relaxing. Lunch...what lunch? I skied till my legs were about to fall off! (it's about 3 o'clock).



    Drove back to SLT and gorge myself in the buffet at Harrah's. Hot tub, bed, and more dream of soft snow...

    Day 4 (Tuesday): Kirkwood today! It's high, it's steep, it's vast! And it's a long drive with 2 mountain passes. But Caltran had cleared the road of the snow the day before. So it's an easy drive. Park pretty close to the village. It's just not a very crowded mountain either.

    I started in the main area and plan to move over to the ridge on the left (of the map) in the afternoon. But I never made it there...

    Similar to Homewood the day before, the steeps were still scratchy under the 8-9" new snow they got the day before. And the light was flat. So the bowl up top weren't terribly inviting. Found some nice snow in a hidden run between the trees and lap that a couple times before moving higher. At one point, I was following some nice soft snow and wondering why it hadn't been skied despite in plain view. And it kind of roll off gradually. Saw a sign nearby and decided to take a look... "Cliff Area!". Geeze, no wonder the snow were so pristine! Remind myself, this is Kirkwood, don't just ski everywhere without looking...

    After lunch, I was moving to the valley I plan to explore but was a bit surprise the access lift had no one on it (still spinning). Turned out the wind had picked up and that side of the mountain is more exposed so the lift stopped. Bummer. Well, it's not like I had a lack of terrain with the remaining lifts! So wasn't too disappointed and just skied till my legs gave out. This time, drove back to Reno. The next 2 days, I'll be skiing Mt. Rose, which is easiest from Reno. Much happier to have the $20/night hotel with hot tub and cheap buffet too.

    Day 5 (Wednesday) Mt Rose: Another storm came in while I slept (the same storm that shuts the Kirkwood lifts). This time, a foot to a foot and a half on Mt Rose! One more benefit of the snowbomb card is a free ski rental. I upgraded it to a demo of a fat plank: the Salomon Geisha (it's a women's ski). 97mm underfoot and something like 120 at the tip. For a change, I was going to see what it feels like to ski on some waterskis!

    The drive up was pretty exciting. That is, from Reno side, it's already the shorter version. Following a school bus up the pass, not sure if I wouldn't put my own kid into that bus...

    Mt Rose is very much a "local's mountain". But it's high, it's pretty big and got some pretty exciting terrain (for me anyway). But first, I had to get a bit more familiar with those fat planks first. I clanked them together a few times before I learned to keep my feet apart ALL the time. Those fat boys REALLY make it easy on the heavy Sierra Cement! No worry about tip dive, and with such a wide platform, I got out of any mistake I made without a fuss.

    Around noon time, riding on the lift up, saw the patrol came to drop the rope on "the chutes"! Those are not actually chutes, just wide passages lined by trees. But compare to the rest of the wide open bowls, they're a bit more constrictive. With so much snow, all the rocks were well covered it was easy cruisy! There's so much space on the bowl, no need to compete for lines. Just pick a fresh patch and go! Probably the best day of all my skiing (helped by the fat planks too)

    About 3:30, at the bottom of the bowl (Nevada side base), a crowd gathered by the lift. The previous ride up was pretty windy. In fact, they implemented a "no singles" rule on the lift ride. You have to ride up with at least one other person (the mountain is soooo uncrowded you actually have to WAIT a few minutes for someone to join you!). Now, the lifts were on wind hold, which doesn't look good, given the forecast was for increasing wind. So about 5 minutes later, someone asked how we got back to the California side where we parked. Oh! The lifty ask "you want me to call the shuttle?". Erhh, we're not walking, if that's what you mean... So 5 minutes later, we cramped into the shuttle and back on the Cali side of the mountain. All the upper mountain lifts were close at that point. I debated about skiing the lower mountain till closing but decided my legs needs a rest...

    More hot tub and buffet and gone to bed.

    (I forgot, the shop offered me a deal on the ski I demo'ed. I was very much tempted. But I don't have room in my bag to bring it back... So the trip cost didn't get any more out of hand!)

    Day 6 (Thursday) Alpine Meadow: Now, after such fantastic days, things start to go wrong. First, I called Alpine and asked if my Alpine voucher allow me to ski at Squaw now that they're one and the same. Yes, I was told. And I should be able to just present the voucher at Squaw and got my ticket. Wrong! Not only wrong, but I made the mistake of trying to do it at a "satellite" ticket office. The lady in there had problem with every person, and the line stretches out the door! So, 3/4 hr later, I was back at Alpine when they issued me a dual mountain ticket. But it'd be silly to drive another 15 minutes back to Squaw again. So I skied at Alpine Meadow that day, thinking I have another Alpine voucher which I could use to ski Squaw (but first get the ticket from Alpine ticket window).

    There's still a lot of left over powder from the day before. But it was warming up fast. Since I've wasted nearly an hour in the morning, I was forced again, to ski lunch and ski straight till my legs couldn't take it any more. Although by then, the snow at the bottom of the mountain were so soft I actually had to pole to get to the lift, even though it's clearly downhill. So, it was a good ... half day.

    Day 7 (Friday) Alpine Meadow: Sadly, the voucher I presented to the window netted me a "Alpine Only" ticket instead of one that's good for both Squaw and Alpine. Had I knew that, I would have used this one yesterday and saved the other one for today when I intended to ski at Squaw! It's really warm day. And Alpine doesn't have too many upper mountain only lift. The best terrain are serviced by a lift from the very bottom. So a lot of boring (and tiring) going through the slow section at lower mountain. The runs I did at the upper mountain were good but quickly I ran out of terrains.

    I'm pretty disappointed by Alpine Meadow this time around. I used to like them a lot. I'm not so sure I like them as much after this experience.

    Day 8 (Saturday) Tahoe XC: Another storm warning! With extreme high wind this time. Given the experience of the past 2 storms being rather tardy, I decided to XC on Saturday instead. (used up the second free XC voucher on the snowbomb card) Though the snow did came on time, the wind did too. So almost all the upper mountain lifts on all areas were closed. I felt like I made a good decision. As I was getting ready in the lodge, I saw streams of alpine skiers came in to rent XC gear...

    The wind was so strong is stink when it hit my face! But at least I was skiing in the protected woods, not high up on the mountain or worse, sitting in a chair. The snow was actually nice and soft. So it was a lovely day.

    Day 9 was a decision day. I was flying out midday. I could ski half day and still made the flight. But when I went back to the hotel, my legs were screaming for rest. So for the first time in a long while, I decided to sleep in and have a leisurely breakfast before heading to the airport. Also, I'm out of coupons and/or vouchers. So it would had to be a $50 half day of skiing. Given the condition my legs were in, it's not going to be worth it.

    All in all, a great trip, especially in terms of timing of hitting 3 storms! But I pay for such luck. Also, if I were to ski 8-9 straight days in heavy Sierra Cement in the future, I probably should get that fat girl Geisha before I go again!
    Last edited by abc; Apr 2, 2012 at 6:10 PM.

  2. #2
    March has been a snowy dream here in Tahoe. I'm assuming you got the goods yesterday? That was one of the best of the year for me, especially in the am.

    Kirkwood has some scary stuff that I've gotten into trouble a few times getting to know the mtn this year.

  3. #3
    thetrailboss's Avatar
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    Jun 2004
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    Nice! We liked Homewood as well when we visited two years ago. They got their plan approved, so big changes are in store for them.
    Live, Ski, or Die!


  4. #4
    Sounds like a good trip, great timing! Sorry to hear about your experience at Alpine Meadows, did you get to ski Munchkins while you where there?

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by vdk03 View Post
    Sounds like a good trip, great timing! Sorry to hear about your experience at Alpine Meadows, did you get to ski Munchkins while you where there?
    No, actually I'm not sure where that is.

    I didn't seek out expert area specifically. Nor did I do much hiking. Fortunately for me, it being midweek, there's plenty of untracked within sight of lift, or with just a bit of traverse. The only problem is the weather. Snow got really heavy fast, particularly in the bottom. I tried to stay high by lapping Scott and the Lake View chair. Especially the second day, I really could use the extra height of Squaw. Wish I had played my "cards" smarter.

    Quote Originally Posted by thetrailboss View Post
    Nice! We liked Homewood as well when we visited two years ago. They got their plan approved, so big changes are in store for them.
    Yeah, I really like Homewood. Probably have something to do with my finding my own "private" glade area where, when I skied it the second time, I only saw one set of tracks!

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