Skiers in white-powder heaven | NevadaAppeal.com

Skiers in white-powder heaven

Sebastian Foltz | sfoltz@tahoedailytribune.com

FIRST IN LINE GETS EARLY START

For Joe Timko, opening day at Heavenly Mountain Resort started at 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning. The eager Malibu, California, resident drove up to South Lake Tahoe Friday night and was in line at the gondola in Heavenly Village by the wee hours of the morning.

"I think it was dumb" the middle-aged man wearing a disco ball helmet joked shortly before the resort's 8:30 a.m. opening. "Nobody else showed up till six."

Still, he said it was worth it, as was the speeding ticket he got on his way up.

"I really wanted to be first," he explained.

By the time 8 a.m. rolled around, Timko was joined by a few hundred eager snowboarders and skiers in a line that wrapped its way through much of the village.

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"We're so happy with all of the excited skier sand riders who showed up," resort spokeswoman Cassandra Walker said of the turnout.

By 9 a.m., however, the line was all but gone, rewarding those who may have hit the snooze button a few times with no lines.

Skiers and boarders saw mid-season conditions and spring temperatures by the time they took to the slopes under bluebird skies. Heavenly was able to open the gondola and three chair lifts, giving skiers access to beginner and intermediate terrain options.

Walker said the resort will open more terrain as conditions allow.

"The forecast is calling for more snow," she said. "We'll make as much available to the public as possible."

ALPINE MEADOWS SKI RESORT

Ben and Sophie Yiakis are supposed to be in school right now.

Instead, the two middle-schoolers and their dad are outside, sporting winter jackets, pants and skis, 100 miles from their home city of Sacramento.

The Yiakis family was not going to miss opening day Thursday morning at Alpine Meadows ski resort.

"The kids are playing hooky," said Alex Yiakis, breaking into laughter. "If my son just misses the cut-off to Harvard in nine years, he can blame that day he missed third grade."

Skiing on a cloudless, sun-soaked day? The Yiakises jumped at the chance to get on the slopes early this year.

"We're very excited to be here," Yiakis said. "It's the only activity where it's, 'You guys ready to go skiing?' and 10 minutes later everything's on, boots on — they're just ready to go."

So much so that the Yiakis trio, along with dozens of other skiers and snowboarders, made sure to be at Alpine Meadows when it opened its gates at 9 a.m. sharp Thursday.

To christen the new season, a celebratory banner was held underneath Alpine's Kangaroo Chair as the first skiers passed overhead, leaving behind a trail of echoing cheers.

With that, Alpine Meadows became the third ski resort in the Truckee-Tahoe region to kick off the 2015-16 season (Mt. Rose, in Nevada; and Boreal, west of Donner Summit, opened last week).

What's more, Alpine's opening date this season — Nov. 12, a month ahead of schedule — was its earliest start in 11 years, and second-earliest ever, behind the resort's Oct. 30 opening for the 2004-05 season.

After a string of down snow years, area skiers like Chris Lyman of South Lake Tahoe were especially eager to get on Alpine Meadows' slopes Thursday.

"I'm stoked; it's awesome to be out here," Lyman said. "Can't really ask for anything better — there's snow on the ground, which is unusual as of late. The snow is actually softening up now; it was a little icy this morning but it's great now."

Lyman said he's hopeful that Thursday was a sign of things to come for the rest of the season. In other words, he hopes the forecast of a "Godzilla El Niño" holds true.

"Everyone's just really energized," he continued. "It's the first day of the season so everyone's kind of getting loose, feeling things out, getting warmed up. Everyone's just trying to get ready for the rest of this winter; hopefully it will be a little bit better than last year."

For Aimi Xistra Rich, also of South Lake Tahoe, she's just happy to see smiles matching hers as she carves down the mountain and gets in the lift line — over and over again.

"Everybody's smiling; that's a good sign," Rich said. "The snow's awesome; we're having a great time. It's a good start to the winter."

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