Snowsport season's creeping up on us with Mammoth Mountain planning to open Nov. 7 and Heavenly Nov. 22.
Heavenly demonstrated the resort's snowmaking operation by blanketing nearly 12 acres with a foot of snow this week.
"We had an excellent night of snowmaking. Temperatures started dropping at 9 p.m. and the humidity had fallen to 40 percent," explained Jim Larmore, Heavenly's snowmaking manager.
"We started making snow at 10 p.m. and from then on it was a virtual blizzard on the upper California and Nevada sides of the mountain. As we typically do this time of year, we focused our attention on Ridge Run from the top of Sky Chair down to the Top of the Tram covering Maggie's, Pasty's and Ridge run in California. At the same time in Nevada we targeted Big Dipper Run from the Knob Trail down to the base of Dipper Chair."
Meanwhile, Sierra-at-Tahoe is aiming its snowmaking guns at the 17-foot Superpipe, hoping to open before any other Sierra resort. SAT has added another terrain park and a snowskate park as well as 15 new rails for boarders. Also new -- fun boxes, wooden boxes with a wide surface for easier sliding.
Back at Heavenly, a new super chef has taken over food services there, Steve Turner, late of Mammoth Mountain. Turner promises to upgrade cuisine at the resort with such as grilled fish tacos and garlic fries (a tasty dish as served at Sugar Bowl).
Also redone are all the lodges at Heavenly -- California, Stagecoach and Boulder.
And we can all look forward to trying that new run off Dipper Knob on the Nevada side.
HIT THE HILLS
With a visitor from the Bay area, it was time to hit the mountain trails last weekend. And a beautiful Sunday it was on the way up to Winnemucca Lake off Highway 88.
The trail is in fine shape and the yellow aspens still quaking. The lake itself is of surprising size, although down quite a bit. It will cool enough for gloves but a sweatshirt was enough outer wear. The sand beach at the near end of the lake is bigger than usual due to the low water but still a grand place to sit and stare at Elephant Back hulking away at the other end of the lake.
And store-bought sandwiches piled with ham or turkey aren't nearly as tasty as the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches my guest usually supplies on our hikes.
The Winnemucca trail starts at Woods Lake and is not a particularly demanding trek. And despite the dry summer there are still streams tumbling down the mountain side. Plus already snow is beginning to build up on the north side of the mountains there.
This is a nice hike for someone not up to more than 3 miles and about 800 feet of altitude gain. Another mile or so and you can reach Round Top Lake, smaller but just as pretty as Winnemucca. From Round Top a different trail leads back to the Woods Lake parking area, past the Lost Cabin Mine.
For hearty hikers the trail to Fourth of July Lake is another mile-plus, but it's another mile or so down to Fourth of July. I've done that once and once is enough. It looks easy but it isn't.
All of this is in the Mokelumne Wilderness area -- no bikes.
Earlier my guest and I did a little motor exploring, taking Clear Creek Road up to the juvenile facility. Great bursts of yellow aspens line the road. Then we tried to reach Spooner Pass via King's Canyon Road. This is not a road, after the pavement runs out, that you want to take the family SUV on. It's narrow and tilts dangerously. We were in a Ford Focus which held up fine on the tilts but couldn't get enough ground clearance to make it all the way. Turning around was a battle, but just as well as we found later at Spooner Pass cross country lodge that the road is gated and locked at the Spooner end.
Of course, as statistics indicate, most SUVs never leave paved roads. The King's Canyon road would leave most stuck and waiting for a wrecker.
Meanwhile, another guest, another hike -- good old Horsetail Falls, where the falls may not be wet.
Sam Bauman is the Nevada Appeal Diversions Editor.