Chilly, windy first day of spring

by Sam Bauman

Spring may have been delayed a day on the calendar by Leap Year, but it was the weather gods who were making it feel more like winter.

At Heavenly Ski Resort on Tuesday, the winds were so strong all of the California side chairlifts were on wind hold, and the wind chill was 16 degrees.

At the base of the Stagecoach lift, the sign read: "Winds, snow like greased lightning."

But the line at the Boulder rental shop stretched out of the lodge, and the parking lot at the Stagecoach base was packed by 10 a.m.

On Heavenly's Olympic run, Cathie Becker of South Lake Tahoe was guiding her sister, Mary Frantz, and Frantz' daughters Michelle, 5, and Nikki, 7, from Minocqua, Wisc., down the hill on what resorts term "hard pack" snow - more accurately, frozen snow.

But that didn't bother the foursome. "I'm having fun," said Nikki with a wide grin as she snow-plowed behind her aunt. "Me too," chimed in Michelle.

"It's been spring back in Wisconsin," said Frantz as the wind whipped the snow scraped off the trail around her. "It's cold here."

Some skiers were in a holiday mood, such as Jeff Gaines and Rusty Umphaneur, both of Atlanta, Ga.

"Hey, it's holiday time," said Jeff as he tugged at his yellow frizzy wig. "A lot different from Atlanta."

In the Boulder lodge, crammed with skiers and boarders seeking refugee from the wind, Deborah and John Whitecomb of Chicago, on a five-day vacation, dangled snowshoes and asked about trails.

Monday was their first adventure on snowshoes and they had braved the Rim Trail on Spooner Pass. "Lotta work," said John.

"The wind! It's really something," said Deborah, "and when someone from Chicago says it's windy, you know it's true."

There were no bikini-clad women on the slopes and few opted for shirtsleeves. Said Sharon Everly from Mountain Home, Calif., "I usually ski in shorts and T-shirts on the first day of spring, but, no, thanks, not today."

Despite the wind, a bright sun softened the snow by noon and some of the lower lifts at Heavenly opened.

Among the many skiers on the hill were hundreds of Britons who have found skiing at Tahoe as inexpensive as Europe. Besides, said Brian Moorehead of Devon, "We almost speak the same language."

Although the trials were rock-hard in places, Monic Bandows of Heavenly's marketing department was quick to point out "We got more than 10 feet of snow in April last year."


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