High hopes come with early start to Lake Tahoe ski season

Various Lake Tahoe resorts open early
By: Jon Schultz, Journal Staff Writer
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The following is a list of opening dates for Lake Tahoe resorts.

Heavenly Mountain Resort: Open

Northstar California Resort: Open

Boreal: Open

Kirkwood Mountain Resort: Today

Squaw Valley: Today

Sugar Bowl: Saturday

Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe: Wednesday

Sierra-at-Tahoe: Nov. 22 (conditions permitting)

Homewood Mountain Ski Resort: Nov. 23

Alpine Meadows: Dec. 7 (earlier opening possible, conditions permitting)

Diamond Peak: Dec. 13


After late starts to back-to-back seasons, skiers and snowboarders are abuzz about the early beginning to this year out on the slopes at Lake Tahoe.

With Boreal, Northstar and Heavenly resorts already open, today Placer County’s Squaw Valley is scheduled to join the party and officially welcome the new season a week earlier than anticipated.

“We are genuinely thrilled to welcome winter back to Lake Tahoe,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, in a statement. “Thanks to last week’s two feet of snow and cold temperatures that have allowed us to optimize our new vast and fully automated snowmaking system.”

And yes, more snow is in the forecast. Tahoe ski areas are predicted to get about a foot of snow during the weekend, said Jim Mathews, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

It’s a welcome sight for skiers and boarders any year, but especially on the heels of a historically dry season. At the beginning of April, snow levels were so low that when it melted it would have produced just half the average amount of water content for the region, Mathews said.

“It was pretty bad,” said Mark Musial, an Auburn resident and lifelong skier. “I haven’t skied in a couple years, but I’m excited about this year. It’s looking good. Hopefully we’ll have just a whole series of storms with breaks in between so we can get up there.”

The long-term forecast isn’t as exciting. According to the Climate Prediction Center, lower than average moisture levels are predicted throughout the season, Mathews said.

“Out this far, we aren’t looking at individual storms – we’re just looking for indication if it’s going to be wetter or drier than normal,” he said. “Right now, it looks like the odds are favoring below-normal precipitation chances and therefore kind of a below-normal snowpack.”

Still, the early storms have created excitement during a crucial time for snow sports shops such as Boards N’ Motion in Auburn, said Jaiver Coupé, manager and buyer at the store.

“It gets us so stoked,” Coupé said.

Their window for sales starts to close after the New Year, when larger retail operations start rolling out the discounts and they’re forced to follow suit, he said.

“We’re so weather dependent, and we’ve had a couple late seasons, so for us to get a couple storms, it’s like a lightning bolt for us,” Coupé said. “As soon as it storms, it clicks for people: ‘I need a snowboard jacket, I might need some new boots.’ People start thinking about it.

“… Last year, it was January and it hadn’t really snowed. We were freaking out. Every day it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen.’”

Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows announced Wednesday a partnership with South Lake resort Sierra-at-Tahoe. Current and new holders of the Squaw and Alpine gold and silver season passes will be upgraded to the Tahoe Super Pass Plus, which adds access to Sierra-at-Tahoe for no price increase, according to the press release.

It is one of two trifectas of Tahoe resorts, competing for skiers and boarders with the Tahoe Local Pass that encompasses Northstar, Kirkwood and Heavenly.

As for the outlook this season? Coupe said he’s optimistic.

“No matter what, you stay optimistic. and who can really forecast it?” he said. “It’s going to come, it’s going to happen and we’re going to have a whole hell of a good time.

“And that’s what the whole thing is about.”


Jon Schultz can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Jon_AJNews