Here’s a ski update with an emphasis on the breathtaking snowscapes of winter.
In winter, there’s something special about standing atop a mountain. After a snowstorm, a downy white blanket erases every imperfection. It’s enough to make even die-hard skiers and snowboarders pause in their tracks.
Sierra ski resorts provide many opportunities to find these spectacular vistas. With improvements undertaken during the past year, Sierra resorts make it easier than ever to have your ski (or ride) and your view, too. This year, we present what’s new at the resorts and the runs where a camera is as much a necessity as your gear.
What’s new: For night owls, Boreal Mountain Resort is even more of a hoot, with new lighting and a snowmaking system on after-dark runs.
Best view: For a stunning sunset view, take The Cedar Ridge Chair. Look for the Pacific Crest trailhead directly below and due east, and then glide toward Castle Peak to the north. Clouds often take on colorful hues as they drift across this Donner Summit high point.
Lift Tickets: Adults $44 ($47 holidays), teens (13–18) $39, children (5–12) $12, seniors (60–69) $25, 70 and older $5, 4 and younger free. Night riding (3:30–9 p.m.): Adults $25, children (5–12) $12. (530) 426-3666, rideboreal.com
What’s new: The Saturday afternoon/evening Last Tracks program will now include a private version of this popular public program. Participants sip on wine and nibble appetizers in the lodge, then enjoy a sunset ski or ride down a freshly groomed run. Up to 25 people can reserve midmountain Snowflake Lodge for a private Last Tracks. Cost is $725; additional participants (up to 50) are $29 per person.
The resort also introduces a Burton Learn To Ride Center and celebrates the 20th anniversary of The Bee Ferrato Child Ski Center.
Best view: Traveling Crystal Ridge run, accessed via the Crystal Express, feels as though you’re skiing into a postcard of Lake Tahoe.
Lift Tickets: Adults (18–59) $48, youths (13–17) $38, children (7–12) $18, seniors (60–79) $18, 80 and older/6 and younger free. (775) 832-1177, diamondpeak.com
What’s new: Kirkwood Mountain Resort will dedicate Mokelumne Trail as a season-long skier/boarder X course. During nonrace times, Kirkwood will scale down the Mokelumne course, allowing the public to experience rollers, rhythm sections and undulating terrain. Kirkwood also kicks off its 35th anniversary celebration Jan. 5 with Master the Mountain, followed by the 6 Summit Peak Pursuit, a race ascending and descending the six peaks that punctuate Kirkwood.
Other improvements include a backcountry certification program, a full-service family facility and new terrain features.
Best view: Take Sunrise (Chair 4) and veer left at the top. Frozen lakes dot the landscape, volcanic rock formations rise out of the billowy snowbanks, and impressive canyons jagged in summer reveal their snow-covered softer side.
Lift Tickets: Adults (19 and older) $69, juniors (13–18) $56, children (6–12) $14, seniors (65–69) $38, 70 and older $15, 5 and younger $8. (209) 258-6000, kirkwood.com
What’s new: Soda Springs Mountain Resort recently introduced the Kids X Park, where the littlest skiers and snowboarders feel at home on miniature bumps and jumps.
Best view: An unintimidating ski area, Soda Springs is a good place to capture a view of big grins on children’s faces.
Lift Tickets: Adults $25, youths (8–17) $16, children (7 and younger) $10, seniors 70 and older $5. (530) 426-3901, skisodasprings.com
What’s new: Improvements to Slide Bowl include snowmaking and selective slope recontouring on Silver Dollar trail, with the primary goal of achieving early-season access to Slide Lodge. In addition, Gold Run has undergone selective blasting of larger boulders and stumps to ensure a more uniform surface on a substantially lower snow base in early season. The resort also has removed snags, stumps and dead wood from the Wild Card Bowl.
Best view: The Wild Card Bowl offers backcountry-style terrain with spectacular Lake Tahoe views to advanced skiers and riders who want to earn their turns.
Lift Tickets: Adults (18–59) $62, teens (13–17) $42, youths (6–12) $17, seniors 60 and older $42, 5 and younger free. (800) 754-7673, skirose.com
What’s new: Jerome Creek Lodge’s first phase, which includes 23 luxury condos and the Mount Judah base area expansion, will open this Christmas. The lodge is one of the final touches of the resort’s 10-year, $50 million redevelopment.
Also new: An overnight ski/board check, more parking shuttles and a snow play/tubing area at the resort’s Donner Summit Lodge off Interstate 80.
Best view: The double black diamond Silver Belt run offers views of Castle Peak. To the west, skiers also can admire a vast meadow called Van Norden and gaze up at granite spires rising 100 feet above the snow pack. From the intermediate Lake View Run, skiers can enjoy views of Donner Lake, Truckee, the Emigrant Trail, the Sierra’s eastern flank and Mount Rose.
Lift Tickets: Adults (23–59) $60, youths (13–22) $50, children (6–12) $15, seniors (60–69) $50, 70 and older $5, 5 and younger free. Holidays—Adults (23–59) $70, youths (13–22) $60, children (6–12) $15, seniors (60–69) $60, 70 and older $5, 5 and younger free. (530) 426-9000, sugarbowl.com
What’s new: Robb Gaffney, M.D., a psychiatrist who has appeared in a number of ski films, will lead one-day “ski-the-book clinics,” based on his book, Squallywood—A Guide to Squaw Valley’s Most Exposed Lines on Jan. 26 and March 8. A cinematographer will film the skiers/riders in the clinic and provide a DVD to participants. Interested expert skiers and riders can call (530) 583-6985 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also new: A Doppelmayr CTEC 2007 high-speed, six-person chairlift accessing Shirley Lake; improvements to Riviera Terrain Park, including the addition of snowmaking and a new trenched (in-ground) superpipe in the Central Park section of Riviera open for day and night access; and the opening of previously restricted backcountry terrain.
Best view: Standing atop Emigrant Peak, accessed via the Funitel, Emigrant and Gold Coast lifts, skiers observe an uninterrupted view of Lake Tahoe, the Granite Chief wilderness and the forest behind Squaw Valley. And on clear days, from atop the Siberia and Palisades runs, visitors can see the Sutter Buttes.
Lift Tickets: Adults (19–64) $73 ($55 afternoon), youths (13–18) $55, children (younger than 13) $10, seniors (65–75) $45, 76 and older free. (530) 583-6985, squaw.com
What’s new: JMA Ventures, a Bay Area real estate investment firm, purchased Alpine Meadows earlier this year; it purchased nearby Homewood last year. To celebrate, the resorts are offering a combo adult season pass for $1,299.
Alpine also has added new grooming machines for better corduroy on the slopes.
Best view: High Traverse overlooks snow-blanketed wilderness, Lake Tahoe and the Sacramento Valley fog that you’ve thankfully escaped. Another option: the top of Lakeview Chair, where a view of Lake Tahoe spreads beneath skiers’ feet.
Lift Tickets: Rates unavailable at press time. (530) 583-4232, skialpine.com
What’s new: The resort will incorporate 320 acres of Huckleberry Canyon, some of the area’s steepest and deepest terrain, into the ski resort boundary, creating additional expert backcountry terrain in an avalanche-controlled area monitored by the Ski Patrol.
Best view: When Huckleberry Canyon is added into the ski resort’s boundaries, advanced skiers and boarders can access never-ending Tahoe views. Beginners can catch jaw-dropping glimpses of Lake Tahoe, Pyramid Peak and Desolation Wilderness from the top of the 2.5-mile Sugar N Spice run.
Lift tickets: Rates unavailable at press time. (530) 659-7453, sierraattahoe.com
What’s new: The new Olympic Express will provide high-speed access to Olympic Downhill, three new intermediate and advanced trails, and Nevada Woods tree skiing. Another highly anticipated improvement: the Heavenly Flyer at Adventure Peak, an elevated zip line cable lift that will escort guests on a 50 mph thrill ride from the top of Tamarack Express to the top of the Gondola.
Off the mountain, The Chateau at Heavenly Village, an upscale condominium hotel, broke ground this summer. RockResorts International, a luxury hotel company owned by Vail Resorts, will operate the $420 million redevelopment project that also will include a 50,000-square-foot convention center, spa, 1.5-acre park, shops and restaurants.
Best view: The Lake Tahoe view from Ridge Run is so astounding, skiers often stop in awe. The top of Olympic rivals Ridge Run’s beauty and boasts views of Lake Tahoe and snow-capped mountains on one side, tawny-colored high desert on the other.
Lift Tickets: Rates unavailable at press time. (800) 432-8365, skiheavenly.com
What’s new: The 16,330-square-foot, two-story family lodge will open in December. The lodge will host the children’s snow sports school, a new child’s play program, a coffee shop and more deck space.
Best view: Boulder Creek Canyon, off Chair 8, features advanced and intermediate runs with head-on views of 8,441-foot Pinecrest Peak.
Lift tickets: Adults (20–61) $52, teens (13–19) $39, youths (6–12) $15, seniors (62–81) $20, 82 and older/5 and younger free. Military adults $39, military teens $33. (209) 965-3474, dodgeridge.com
What’s new: The arrival of the Doppelmayr high-speed, detachable quad chairlift accelerates the pace of skiing. Replacing The Quad Chair, the new Old Homewood Express Quad will transport skiers and riders from midmountain to the summit in more than triple its predecessor’s speed.
Also new: Homewood Mountain Resort and Alpine Meadows will offer a first-ever combo pass. (See Alpine Meadows entry for more information.)
Best view: Experts can cruise Glory Hole, a northeast-facing slope where Lake Tahoe is so deceptively close, visitors might wonder if they should have brought their water skis. Beginners can have their view and an easy ski, too, on Rainbow Run, where they can pause for a moment to gaze across the lake toward South Shore.
Lift Tickets: Rates unavailable at press time. (530) 525-2992, skihomewood.com
What’s new: Snowflakes Ski School for kids ages 3 to 6 has a new schedule: Classes, starting at 9:30 a.m. and
1 p.m., are now 2 1/2 hours long. The resort also has replaced its rope tow with a 400-foot conveyor lift.
Best view: The top of Eagle Rock chairlift affords vistas of Crystal Peak, Mount Watson, Prosser Lake and Martis Valley. In the distance, the Truckee River travels across a winter wonderland like a silver ribbon wrapped around a white package.
Lift Tickets: Adults $35, seniors/children $15, 70 and older/6 and younger free. (530) 587-9444, skitahoedonner.com
What’s new: Royal Gorge Cross-Country starts the season with all-new grooming combs, resulting in sleeker trails. Also, for the first time, cross-country skiers ages 70 and older can ski for free, every day.
Best view: The 18.3-kilometer round-trip Point Mariah trail leads to a lookout balanced on the edge of Royal Gorge’s 4,417-foot chasm.
Trail passes: Weekend/high season—Adults $29, children (13–16) $16, 70 and older/12 and younger free. Midweek/low season—Adults $25, children (13–16) $15, 70 and older/12 and younger free. (530) 426-3871, royalgorge.com
What’s new: Northstar-at-Tahoe has upgraded its snowmaking system on Village Run. The resort also has added four new intermediate ski runs, widened select runs off the top of the Mount Pluto bowl and graded the cross-country trails to transform a previously steep climb into a gradual grade.
Also new: Northstar replaced the majority of its rental equipment, installed the Timberline triple chairlift and expanded its three-day Women’s Ski Clinics (Jan. 9–11, Feb. 1–3, March 5–7 and March 26–28) to focus on female skiers at every level. In addition, construction of The Ritz-Carlton Highlands, Lake Tahoe, near Northstar, continued during the summer in preparation for a late-2009 opening.
Best view: Lake Tahoe is visible from East Ridge, an intermediate run off the top of the Comstock Express chairlift. From Lookout Mountain, a series of advanced runs allows skiers to admire the Carson Range, Mount Rose, Mount Pluto, the Sierra Crest and Martis Valley.
Lift Tickets: Rates unavailable at press time. (800) 466-6784, northstarattahoe.com
What’s new: Granlibakken opened The Forest Lodge, an eight-bedroom, eight-bath private house that’s available to rent. Atop the hill from the main lodge under a canopy of pines, the lodge provides a secluded retreat.
Best view: Granlibakken’s transporter will escort cross-country skiers comfortable with riding a lift to the top of the hill. From there, ski along the ridge, with Lake Tahoe’s blue expanse keeping you company as you travel to Paige Meadows.
Lift tickets: Adults $21, children $13. (800) 543-3221, granlibakken.com
What’s new: Skiers and snowboarders can fly up the mountain on Cloud Nine Express, a new six-pack chairlift. The new Doppelmayr lift replaces Mammoth’s double chair and will whisk skiers from the Eagle Lodge side of the mountain to 10,371 feet near Dragon’s Back in about six minutes, cutting the ride time in half.
Other improvements include adjustments to the Canyon Lodge terrain park and new snowcats.
Near the ski area, The Westin Monache Resort, which opens this fall, will feature 230 luxury condominium hotel suites with panoramic views of the mountains.
Best view: The top of 11,053-foot Mammoth Mountain provides one of the most dramatic views of any Sierra ski resort. Looking west, skiers and boarders gaze across the Ansel Adams Wilderness, the Ritter Range and The Minarets.
Lift Tickets: Adults $79. (800) 626-6684, mammothmountain.com
Donner Ski Ranch
What’s new: The first resort to allow snowboarding has built a mini halfpipe with jumps known as highways and tombstones. Kids can challenge the pipe while parents watch from the deck.
Best view: From 8,200-foot Signal Hill, Mount Rose shoulders the sky to the east, Castle Peak is a royal presence in the north, Red Mountain graces the view west, and Sugar Bowl sits to the south. Donner Lake also is visible.
Lift tickets: Weekends and holidays—Adults $38, young adults (13–17) $30, children (12 and younger) $10, seniors (63–69) $25, 70 and older $5. Midweek—adults $32, young adults (13–17) $25, children (12 and younger) $8, seniors (63–69) $20, 70 and older $5. On Mondays and Fridays, military and student tickets are $15 with ID. On Terrific Tuesdays, Wacky Wednesdays and Old School Thursdays, adult tickets are $15, young adults are $12 and children are $7. (530) 426-3635, donnerskiranch.com
A WINTER VACATION WITH A VIEW
Whether your idea of a good view is a lakeside restaurant, an eatery where you see your kids smile or a hotel room within sight of world-class shops and restaurants, here are suggestions for dining, lodging and entertainment. —Kimberly Prior
North and East Shores
Lone Eagle Grille, located beachside in Incline Village; Big Water Grille, near Diamond Peak; Gar Woods Grill & Pier Restaurant, at Carnelian Bay; and Jake’s on the Lake, in The Boatworks Mall, all have views of Big Blue.
Blue Water Bistro, on the Timber Cove pier, serves gourmet cuisine (much of it organic), with food presentation as pretty as the view.
Zephyr Cove Resort is known for its mountain-style breakfasts such as Trout and Eggs.
Harveys’ 19 Kitchen-Bar; the Summit at Harrah’s; Riva Grill, in the Ski Run Marina; and Edgewood Tahoe, on Lake Parkway behind Horizon Casino Resort.
Restaurants With Unique Views
At Mofo’s Pizza & Pasta, at Christmas Tree Village, Incline Village, kids delight in watching pizzas being tossed in the air.
Diners at Antoci’s restaurant at Genoa Lakes Country Club, in the Carson Valley, gaze up at the eastern Sierra’s dramatic face while enjoying Italian specialties.
Watch sweet tooths savoring decadent desserts at Don’s Bake Shop, which serves breakfast and lunch on South Shore. Pastry chef Don has baked for Jay Leno, Julia Child, the Prince of Malaysia and Japanese royalty. Dessert-aholics also are seen at Hope Valley Resort, a secret spot for housemade pie.
North and East Shores
The Cal-Neva in Crystal Bay and Sunnyside near Tahoe City both feature lake-view rooms.
Harrah’s, Harveys, MontBleu and Horizon all have rooms with dramatic lake views.
From the beachside rooms at Tahoe Lakeshore Lodge and Spa, the lake appears to lap at your feet.
Rooms with inviting vistas
Guests at the new Cedar House Sport Hotel in Truckee have a close-up view of environmentally friendly architecture. Return in summer to see the rooftop garden.
Near Alpine Meadows Road outside Tahoe City, the River Ranch Lodge and Restaurant has many rooms with balconies overlooking the Truckee River.
Three choices for visitors who want a vantage point of vibrant nightlife, restaurants and shops are the luxury condominium suites at The Village at Squaw Valley, The Village at Mammoth and Marriott’s Grand Residence Club at Heavenly Village. Many Village at Squaw Valley condos overlook the ski resort.
Peek out the windows of Sorensen’s Resort cabins in Hope Valley and you’ll see aspens, granite cliffs and a gazebo. Guests at the resort (and the general public) can enjoy moonlit views on Jan. 19–20, Feb. 17–18 and March 19 during evening cross-country skiing and snowshoe tours.
Best places to watch live music
At Moody’s Bistro & Lounge in Truckee, patrons enjoy free shows by top jazz artists. Performances are paired with seasonal food so fresh, it might have been growing in a farmer’s field that same morning.
Christiana Inn, which overlooks Heavenly, has reopened with contemporary décor, a new menu and live jazz music.