Hitting the Sierra Nevada slopes in May

Swim tops and wide-brimmed hats were the only clues it wasn't still midwinter on the slopes.

More than a hundred people with skis and snowboards lined up for the lift at the base of the Heavenly Gondola Saturday morning about 9 a.m. The only jarring note was that there was no snow on the ground. Up on the ski runs it was all white, however.

This was the last weekend of the season for Heavenly Ski Resort, reopened for the first time in living memory just for the Memorial Day holiday.

"It looks like Presidents' weekend from the size of the crowd," said one very busy Gondola loader.

"A great day," said Jamie Graser visiting from the Bay area and dressed for spring in swim top and ski pants. "Sure is," chimed in her friend, Ashley Larmore, of South Lake Tahoe.

And a great day it was for skiers and snowboarders with snow at the upper terminal of the Gondola feet thick. At the nearby Tamarack six-seat, high-speed lift snow was about 5 feet deep at the chair loading area.

Despite special low lift-ticket prices and the beautiful weather, on the slopes it was clear with the slopes wide open, well-groomed and with few hidden obstacles.

In addition to the Gondola and the Tamarack lift, the high-speed, four-seat Dipper lift was running, opening Nevada ski trails to enthusiasts.

Bud Amorfini, of South Lake Tahoe, was dressed for the day in shorts and a wide-brimmed hat. His grin said it all for him.

Picnic tables were set up on the snow at the upper terminal of the Gondola and a band played from the back of a truck. Food service was limited but nobody seemed to mind. At the East Peak lodge, limited food and beverages were also being served.

While the crowd was small by midseason standards, it probably included enough season pass holders enjoying the snow to assure a good sale of passes next season, especially with the $299 season pass offer.

Checking out the special opening was Heavenly Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Blaise Carrig, formerly boss at The Canyons in Utah.

Heavenly will remain open through Monday. Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood and Squaw Valley will close today.

Which means that any more skiing and snowboarding will have to be done by shank's mare. There'll be plenty of snow in the back country through summer and perhaps later.


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