The snow is good at Tahoe and so is the artificial stuff

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As serious snowsporters know, most ski resorts are open well ahead of the usual fall season.

Sierra-at-Tahoe was among the earliest along with Boreal. The question is, of course, "just how good is the snow cover." While there has been some natural snowfall, most resorts had to make the artificial stuff to start operations.

There's been a medium dump around Tahoe Wednesday and the slopes are in fine shape. Not that there are no rocks; of course there are, but it's much better now than last weekend. And more snow is forecast.

We decided to check out the local areas: Heavenly, Kirkwood, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Mt. Rose.

All area resorts offere discount lift tickets until more terrain is open; check in advance for details. And all open resorts offer plenty of early season fun. Here's a first-hand actually skied report:


A base of 15 to 40 inches with 13 to 29 lifts. Open 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. More runs expected to open this weekend. A distant maybe for opening the Stagecoach quad on Kingsbury if the new snow is enough.

O.K. that's the official word. What it leaves out is that the skiing here is excellent, with the usual modifier that this is still fall, after all. Both California and Nevada sides are open and the crossover trail from California Sky Chair to Nevada is in better shape than usual for now. Few rocks and few bodies sprawled on the run and little poling is needed for skiers or hopping for boarders.

Nevada offers Dipper and Comet lifts with Dipper, Orion and Comet trails open. Snow cover is surprisingly good. California side has the Tram and base lodge quad perking along, then up via Waterfall to the Sky chair for Nevada or the Ridge trail back down to Waterfall chair. Ridge run is in good shape, with plenty of room to swing.

Open trails include both Betty's and Canyon in California. On the Nevada side, Dipper run, Orion and California trail back, but from the bottom of Comet run. There's enough snow for all except those who demand back diamond runs. Neither Killebrew or Mott Canon is open, yet.

Happily, Heavenly trails don't seem to have a lot of softball-sized rocks on the runs. Those can bang up a ski or snowboard in a hurry. But yes, there are some rocks and they tend to peek out in the afternoon after the crowd has scraped the snow down. All of which means catch that first chair in the morning.


Highest base in the Tahoe area, the new detachable six-seat quad starts running today. The Lakeview and beginner chairs area are also moving. The wait at Lakeview chair was under three minutes over Thanksgiving weekend.

Kit Carson Bowl is in fine fettle. There are some rocks on the trail, but plenty of room for those who love the blue trails. Carson Bowl offers enough room to work out the kinks in the legs and improve those turns for the time when the Slide Mountain side opens. Unloading from the Lakeview lift can be intimidating to lower intermediates as it is steeper and longer than usual.

Some of the other trails were skiable/boardable, but had some tricky rolls and you had to go cross country to reach the only blue-black run open.

The beginner lifts were both running and the snow cover quite good. Yes, some rocky spots and a bit of brown here and there, but definitely worth a visit.

The new detachable lift looks quite spiffy and will add a lot of runs for a day's skiing or boarding.


This area is both popular with the early season crowd and gives snowsporters plenty for their money.

The facing Nob Hill is in excellent condition from side to side. The detachable quad serving the beginner hill is the best beginner can hope for: Easy on, easy off. And the beginner slope is just angled enough to give the beginner a pleasant ride. Tubing is already in operation on the side of the beginner slope and rawing huge crowds.

For skiing and boarding, the West Bowl is the place to go. Plenty of snow there and a variety of exits off the spine. Bumps not too serious, just enought to get the thighs working away. SAT is going to be fine this year.


The Kirk is going upscale this season with all kinds of new housing and a brand new detachable quad serving the Cornice area. Marketing communicator Tania Pilkington said that Thanksgiving day was busy, with more tickets being sold Saturday than any other holiday weekend since 1994 when there was four feet of new natural snow.

Top to bottom, skiing-boarding was possible, thanks to the snowmaking system. As the sun moved west, it brought in spring-like conditions on lower slopes and a bit of ice on the upper runs.

No waiting for the lifts, things move quickly. Of course, the Back Bowl isn't open nor was the Caples Chair, but there's enough terrain for the size of the crowd. Kirkwood will dedicate its new quad chair Saturday with a slopeside party. This is the Kirk's first high-speed detachable lift and it hoists snowsporters to the top of Cornice Run, great for advanced skiiers. Next, the Wall.

Kirkwood offers good coverage on its slopes already this season and it can only get better. A tubing park will open on weekends and holidays, something new at Kirkwood. There's lots to do for the whole family at Village Plaza.

Compared to Colorado and Utah ski areas, we're right in there. Vail, for instance, is less than half open and running 19 of 33 lifts. Beaver Creek has only four of 13 lifts in operation.

So no need to head east for better skiing. And that's good news for local snowsporters.

(Former Associated Press correspondent Rodney Angove contributed to this story).


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