Northstar-at-Tahoe, CA 3/15-16/2017 -- Blow torch

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  1. #1

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    Northstar-at-Tahoe, CA 3/15-16/2017 -- Blow torch

    As everybody knows, Tahoe have had dump after dump after dump. They've got huge base. But then, the "river of snow" stopped and temperature rise to the 50's, absolutely a blow torch!

    Northstar is the only mountain in my pass (Heavenly, Kirkwood, Squaw-alpine) that I've never skied before. Though I knew the mountain itself well because I used to do lift-served downhill mountain biking there when I lived in California. I knew it's entirely below treeline, and there're tons of sparsely spaced trees that would make for fantastic glade skiing. But for this week, the trees will not be in play due to the thaw. Still, I want to get a sense on the layout of the trails and such while there's visibility. More over, I remember there's nice view of Lake Tahoe itself off the top.

    Looking at the forecast, the temperature even at night was above freezing. So there's no "corning". It's clear it would be best to ski 1st chair till whenever the snow got too slushy. Also taking in the experience of others who had been there that it takes forever to go from parking to the lift. I also make sure I have my CatTrack for my ski boots for the unavoidable long trek through the "village".

    Wednesday had some high clouds, which helped quite a lot in keeping the snow nice and cool. Though it also obscured the view of the lake.

    So the day will be all about skiing! It's basically a game of finding the right trail in the right aspect to be in best condition at the right time. Moving on when one trail got too soft...

    Not having skied there before, I made mostly wrong choices. Skiing trails when they were icy, slick or rock hard. And moving onto trails after they've gotten slushy. Still, I soldiered on, hoping to find the right trail in the right time. The condition was such that even when a trail was in best condition up top, it was slushy and sticky at the bottom run out. Unfortunately, Northstar has quite a bit of run out. I did more skating in one day than all the rest of the season combined (or at least it felt that way)

    At least, it wasn't too hot for the body. I was able to keep my jacket and helmet on.

    After a couple hours in the front side, I moved to the back side which faces northwest. It was still hit and miss the first couple of rides. But then I share a chair with a guy who told me one of the trail Sierra Grande was in prime condition, and probably will be such for another 1/2 hr! Trusting him, I followed. And was rewarded with snow just soft enough to be edge-able, and no one was on it! We went back up a second time. We could feel it was softer than the previous run already. There's just enough time to do one more run before moving on.

    I tried a few other trails, with mixed results. Some trail were good for only one run and I could tell there'll be no going back for a 2nd lap.

    Tried to get some lunch at the top. They didn't serve soup, which was my standard lunch fare. So I tried the Lookout lodge but I got there too late. They already putting things away. I asked for some hot water. And was told they'll charge $1.25 for a cup of hot water!!! What piracy! I passed on principle.

    By 3, both my legs and the trails surfaces were equally soft to the point of almost uselessness. So I skied down to the bottom. The sprawling "village" so annoying in the morning when I was in a hurry to get to the slope, now looks inviting for a leisurely stroll in the mid-afternoon sunshine and soft breeze (albeit in ski boots). And the shops and eateries also more appealing. I stopped for some savory crepes with smoke salmon and asparagus. Surprisingly good for a make-up lunch in place of my usual boring soup.



    Now that I sort of figured out the lay of the land, I had high hope for the next day. I had in my mind which trail to hit first, followed by what etc...
    Last edited by abc; Mar 18, 2017 at 11:31 AM.

  2. #2

    Join Date
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    I choose to stay at Reno instead of Truckee or Tahoe City because I quite hunger for the buffet in the casino. But the most significant factor being, I had a early morning flight on Friday out of Reno airport. I really had to stay at Reno that night. So rather than changing hotel for the 3 days stay at the north Tahoe area, I just settled into a spacious room with view of the city for a mere $30/night. The hot tub on their top floor also has a sweeping view of the mountain.

    IMG_0885.jpg

    But I pay for it on Thursday morning, when the Nevada DOT decided to work on I-80 during morning rush hour, slowing traffic to a crawl. It took nearly an hour to get from Reno to Northstar. So I didn't get as early a start as I had planned.

    Thursday dawn clear and bright. What's not good for the snow is good for lake view and photography.

    IMG_0889.jpg

    So after a few clicks on the phone camera, I started seriously work on the "right" trails at hours close to their optimal condition.

    On the front side, Plunge was perfect except for the 2 boarders who decided to sit down in the middle of the steep section. When I question their choice of stopping spot, the father replied: "I want to take a picture of my son!". I was left speechless.

    Fortunately, when I moved to Flying Squirrel, it was very close to the right time. Then a couple on the chair mentioned the bump run on the front side was about the right condition. So I followed them over. It was a bit slushy but nonetheless fun short bump run.

    Despite the bright sun and cloudless sky, the back side remained firm till past noon time. First, I tried Burnout, which was in very good condition the day before. But unfortunately, they didn't re-groom it today. (Northstar only display what's been groom the past 24 hrs, which means it may have been groomed the day before rather than the night before). One run was enough. So I moved on.

    Challenge was in much better shape since it's been groomed overnight. But the bottom run out was long and tedious since it's starting to soften. So for the next run, I took the Follow Me cut off which has a decent pitch. And it was in such good shape I did it one more time. Then, it's time for Sierra Grande again. It hadn't been re-groomed overnight. But since it didn't get skied quite as much as Burnout, it was still skiing quite good.

    Every time i took the backside chair back up, I saw a few people coming down the trail underneath the chair, which is a full on mogul field. After I exhausted all the groomers, it's time to hammer the moguls! Boy, was it long and relentless. Fortunately, the moguls were in good shape and the soft snow made it easier than otherwise.

    Soon, it was 2:30 and the snow and my legs were again both getting too soft to continue on. So I called it a day, this time topped off with a sweet crepes of bananas+nuttelle before hitting the road back to Reno.

    Will be returning to Lake Tahoe next week. And the forecast is looking quite favorable for some refreshment of snow!
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by abc; Mar 18, 2017 at 11:36 AM.

  3. #3
    Did you get over to Lookout Mountain? I found that to be by far the most challenging terrain at Northstar. The backside was pretty mellow in comparison to the offerings over there.
    2016/2017: * = powder day
    Berkshire East [January 16, February 10]
    Bolton Valley [January 1, February 5*, February 19]
    Burke [December 17*, January 28*]
    Heavenly [March 5*, March 11]
    Jay Peak [January 29*, April 9]
    Jiminy Peak [November 26]
    Killington [December 4, December 10, April 8*, April 15]
    Kirkwood [March 8]
    Mad River Glen [February 25]
    Magic [February 13*]
    Mt Rose [March 7*]
    Mountain Snow [April 3]
    Northstar [March 10]
    Okemo [November 23]
    Pico [January 7*, February 18, March 19]
    Smuggler’s Notch [January 22]
    Stratton [February 4]
    Stowe [January 21]
    Sugarbush [January 2]
    Telluride [March 27, March 28*]
    Whiteface [February 12]

  4. #4

    Join Date
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    Location
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    Posts
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    Lookout is at lower elevation. It's too warm to even bother.

    Northstar isn't known for challenging terrain. It's more of the Stratton of Tahoe. Did you find interesting terrain at Lookout? Trails or off-piste?

  5. #5
    Well I was there just over a week ago, it was mashed potatoes on the whole mountain.

    Prosser was steep and groomed, kind of reminded me of skiing Ovation at Killington. Boca was very steep up top, I think it must have been close to a 50 degree pitch. Definitely out of my comfort zone. The lift line trail was also steep and with a gnarly double fall line kind of reminded me of Madonna Liftline.

    So yeah I would agree that Northstar is the Stratton of Tahoe-- except Lookout Mountain which is the gnar (and looks like almost nobody skis over there). It was too mushy snow to ski woods when I was there but the woods between the liftline and Boca looked very very steep up top.
    2016/2017: * = powder day
    Berkshire East [January 16, February 10]
    Bolton Valley [January 1, February 5*, February 19]
    Burke [December 17*, January 28*]
    Heavenly [March 5*, March 11]
    Jay Peak [January 29*, April 9]
    Jiminy Peak [November 26]
    Killington [December 4, December 10, April 8*, April 15]
    Kirkwood [March 8]
    Mad River Glen [February 25]
    Magic [February 13*]
    Mt Rose [March 7*]
    Mountain Snow [April 3]
    Northstar [March 10]
    Okemo [November 23]
    Pico [January 7*, February 18, March 19]
    Smuggler’s Notch [January 22]
    Stratton [February 4]
    Stowe [January 21]
    Sugarbush [January 2]
    Telluride [March 27, March 28*]
    Whiteface [February 12]

  6. #6
    Maybe this helps...

    1. Prosser
    2. Boca (crazy steep top section)
    3. crazy steep woods
    4. A fun blue square that would be a black diamond anywhere else on the mountain
    5. Steep lift line with double fall line

    Attachment 22229
    2016/2017: * = powder day
    Berkshire East [January 16, February 10]
    Bolton Valley [January 1, February 5*, February 19]
    Burke [December 17*, January 28*]
    Heavenly [March 5*, March 11]
    Jay Peak [January 29*, April 9]
    Jiminy Peak [November 26]
    Killington [December 4, December 10, April 8*, April 15]
    Kirkwood [March 8]
    Mad River Glen [February 25]
    Magic [February 13*]
    Mt Rose [March 7*]
    Mountain Snow [April 3]
    Northstar [March 10]
    Okemo [November 23]
    Pico [January 7*, February 18, March 19]
    Smuggler’s Notch [January 22]
    Stratton [February 4]
    Stowe [January 21]
    Sugarbush [January 2]
    Telluride [March 27, March 28*]
    Whiteface [February 12]

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
    Location
    Lower Hudson Valley
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    Quote Originally Posted by bdfreetuna View Post
    Well I was there just over a week ago, it was mashed potatoes on the whole mountain.
    I arrived right after you. But I was lucky that there was some cloud, so the top half of the mountain was in decent shape until about 2pm.

    My priority was to hunt for best snow. Gnarly terrain wasn't high on my agenda. Especially when it's lower down and mash patato'ish.

    Today I try to get there but missed despite 2 tries. First one I went right too early and ended up on the front side. 2nd try I veer left just before the lodge which put me on Drifter down to the back side. I found some deep untracked snow in the trees on the back side and decided that's more fun than trying to find Outlook.

    Not sure I'll be back to N* again. Will focus on south lake (Heavenly + Kirkwood) for the rest of my stay at Tahoe. I'll be meeting people who can show me the ins and out of Kirkwood, so that's my top priority.

  8. #8
    Did you consider staying in Crystal Bay to take advantage of cheap casino lodging?


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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by abc View Post
    I arrived right after you. But I was lucky that there was some cloud, so the top half of the mountain was in decent shape until about 2pm.

    My priority was to hunt for best snow. Gnarly terrain wasn't high on my agenda. Especially when it's lower down and mash patato'ish.

    Today I try to get there but missed despite 2 tries. First one I went right too early and ended up on the front side. 2nd try I veer left just before the lodge which put me on Drifter down to the back side. I found some deep untracked snow in the trees on the back side and decided that's more fun than trying to find Outlook.

    Not sure I'll be back to N* again. Will focus on south lake (Heavenly + Kirkwood) for the rest of my stay at Tahoe. I'll be meeting people who can show me the ins and out of Kirkwood, so that's my top priority.

    I've had some great days at Northstar mostly when its hammering snow and everyone else is closed but overall its easily my least favorite Vail Tahoe property and probably my least favorite Vail property that I've been too. Have fun down south wish I was there this year and I would show you what I know

  10. #10

    Join Date
    Mar 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Savemeasammy View Post
    Did you consider staying in Crystal Bay to take advantage of
    What casino? Cal-Neva is closed (it was very much a dump before it went under). Crystal Bay property is pretty expensive.

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