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Sierra winter season offers some new features for skiers, boarders

By: Gloria Young, Journal Staff Writer
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Sierra resorts are getting ready to roll out the white carpet. And skiers and boarders can expect some additions and extras on the slopes this season. Squaw Valley USA has just completed its first year of a five-year, $50 million capital improvement plan, with $15 million invested so far. That includes adding three new dining spots, two new grooming machines and signage. “We’ve named the trails on the mountain for the first time in the resort’s 50-year history,” spokeswoman Amelia Richmond said Monday. “It doesn’t change the legendary terrain. It makes it more accessible and easier to navigate around the mountain and easier to share your experience.” New information boards will provide up-to the-minute information on lift openings and there are some improvements to snow sports, too. “There are new features that help you learn how to make turns. They’ll be built into the snow,” Richmond said. The Squaw Kids area was renovated and a covered Magic Carpet added. “It’s a ‘carpet’ you stand on and it takes you up a small incline,” she explained. Terrain parks have seen an overhaul as well. “It’s pretty big for us,” Richmond said. “We’re partnering with Snowpark Technologies. They’re responsible for building features at the Winter X Games and the Dew Tour. They’ll be helping us to create premium terrain parks on the mountain. They’re the best in the industry at what they do. That’s real exciting for us.” Squaw recently announced its merger with Alpine Meadows. “The deal will close in early November,” Richmond said. “What that means for customers is they can (enjoy) 6,000 acres, 44 lifts and more than 270 trails or runs now on one lift ticket.” Alpine Meadows and Homewood resorts will be unveiling some new programs this season. Among them are the Adventure 55 ski program at both resorts and Homewood’s all-inclusive lesson option for families and friends. Homewood has also installed the Magnestick chair lift safety system for children, spokeswoman Rachael Woods said in an e-mail. Northstar at Tahoe has installed a high-speed chairlift and created two new intermediate ski trails on the backside of the mountain, according to a press release. Visitors will also find a new 500-seat on-mountain restaurant and a new 22-foot halfpipe that will be designed by two-time Olympic gold medalist snowboarder Shaun White, who considers Northstar his home mountain and primary training resort, the release said. At Boreal Mountain Resort, work is continuing in the Woodward Tahoe project, which will be completed next summer. “That’s an action sports training center,” spokesman Jon Slaughter said. “… It’s going to be a summer and winter operation. It will have trampolines, foam pits and ramps to do dry land training for skiing and snowboarding and then they take it to the snow. We’ll be hosting camps in the facility and it will be open next winter for training as well.” The 33,000-square-foot youth action sports freeride and freeski instructional center will be located at the base of the resort, according to a press release. The temperature dropped low enough for Boreal’s first snowmaking day of the season last week. “We did about six hours worth,” Slaughter said. “Everything fired up just fine — just the normal glitches. We got all guns firing and tested the system. On Saturday (the forecasting is showing) breaks in the weather. It looks like four days of really good snow-making.” In Auburn, last week’s taste of winter has skiers and boarders ready for the rides. Those looking to invest in new equipment will see some refinements, Boards N Motion sales associate Dylan Lane said. “In the past couple of years, snowboards have changed pretty radically,” Lane said. “There are all kinds of new technology out, which has helped boost sales in recent years.” One of the innovations has been the shape of snowboards. “These days, they are made more like surfboards,” he said. “The shape is friendlier to beginners and a fun new design for people who’ve been doing it for a long time.” Clothing is constantly being improved, too. “You can now have technical outerwear that will keep you warm and dry and that you can also go out on the town and feel comfortable wearing. It is not snowboard specific,” Lane said. “It has to do with cuts and materials. There’s something out there for everyone – no matter what your tastes are.” Reach Gloria Young at gloriay@goldcountrymedia.com. ------------ Opening dates and season passes: Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows — Official opening day for Squaw Valley is Nov. 23. Opening Day for Alpine Meadows has not been announced. Tahoe Super Pass (access to Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows) is $439 with blackout dates, and $799 unlimited. Price is good until approximately the end of November. Northstar at Tahoe — Scheduled opening date is Nov. 18. Tahoe Value Pass is $379 and provides seven-days-a-week access to Heavenly Mountain Resort and six-days-a-week access to Northstar. Some restrictions apply. The Epic pass is $649. Boreal Mountain Resort — Open Oct. 31 or sooner, conditions permitting. Boreal anytime season passes: Adults $279 through Oct. 31, then $399; College season pass (weekdays) $99; supersaver season pass - $229 (Sunday-Friday, non-holiday), $299 after Oct. 31 Hiring for ski season: Squaw Valley – Accepting applications online and will schedule an interview date soon. Boreal and Soda Springs job fair – 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 22 at the resort. Apply online Alpine Meadows – 2011-12 ski season job fair will be from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 11, in the Alpine Meadows Lodge, 2600 Alpine Meadows Road. Call in advance to set up an interview time. For information about jobs available, call (530) 581-8212.