Don't stop at Jail: It's time to get outdoors

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Almost all Tahoe mountain resorts will be open this weekend to varying degrees. This and last week's snow helped the layers of man-made snow covering many trails, with Mt. Rose, Northstar and Heavenly offering skiing and boarding. We skied Heavenly last weekend and it was just fine " limited runs off Comet and Dipper lifts on Little Dipper and Orion.

Snow cover was good, but there were plenty of brown spots. Access was via the Gondola, but that changed yesterday when Cal Base opened. Not sure if you can take the crossover to Nevada from California, but if it's open it should be a real improvement over the past with the grading having done away with the high spot, where boarders had to get out of a binding and leg it. We'll add latest news on what's open, and how much at the end of this.

This has been a late start for snowsporting, possibly an omen of times to come due to global warming. But if you think it's bad here, consider Europe, where many mountain resorts are at about 5,000 feet above sea level. Snowmaking is now common in Europe while glacier skiing is contracting. We should be happy we're as far along as we are.


California opens today with Gunbarrel and Tram acting as access lifts only. Here is a breakdown of what will be opening:

- Patsy's chair, Powderbowl Express, Canyon Express, Sky Express to access Skyline Trail (return to Nevada ) only and two Magic Carpets.

- Heavenly expects to continue opening terrain over the next week. Snowmaking has been awesome, temps are cold and more natural snow expected Friday through Monday. 


Sierra Resort off Highway 50 was open for free on Wednesday afternoon, offering beginner terrain and an eight-feature terrain park on Broadway. Then the winter season officially kicked off on Thursday morning with top to bottom skiing and riding. Grandview Express, Easy Rider Express, Rock Garden and Nob Hill began turning at 9 a.m. Thursday, accessing packed powder on beginner and intermediate trails.

An early-season terrain park on Broadway will give freestyle skiers and riders a chance to get back onto the rails, boxes and jumps.

The storm that passed through the Tahoe basin last weekend left over two feet of snow on the slopes, allowing the grooming cats to lay down 8 to 12 inches of packed snow. The cold temperatures and light winds are keeping the light, dry snow in great shape for weekend skiing and riding.


Thanks to the recent snowfall accumulation of as much as four feet, Alpine Meadows will open terrain to the top of the mountain today by operating Summit Six high speed six-passenger chair.

"We are very excited to announce the opening of the top of the mountain," said Jim Kercher, Alpine Meadows boss. "The conditions have changed dramatically in the last four days and 37 to 48 inches of dry snow supplements our snowmaking efforts," he added. In addition to opening Summit Six, other chairs will open as well. Beginning today Roundhouse quad chair, Hot Wheels triple chair, and Kangaroo and Meadow double chairs will operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Mid Mountain Chalet on-mountain restaurant will also open with a brand new full bar.


Get more this year from Sugar Bowl. It is giving you a free two-hour group lesson of any level and a free basic gear rental with the purchase of an all-day lift ticket. Free lessons and rentals for simply purchasing a midweek lift ticket at The Bowl. Call (530) 426-9000.


Kirkwood opens today with Cornice lift, ("ridiculous conditions"), Solitude No. 6 and Reut No. 11, Plenty of velvet-soft groomed packed powder, skier packed powder, and of course hundreds of acres of untouched off Chair 10. Temperatures remain very cold, single digits this morning, so dress warm, as it will stay cold all day. Once the Wood opens Chair 10, it'll move to the backside of the mountain, Sunrise Bowl and Chairs No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4, and with luck will open those by today.

Also planning to open Timber Creek and the Timber Creek Express No. 7 and No. 9 today. It'll add terrain park features, the tubing hill and an all new "Jibwood" snow skate park, open weekends and holidays in the Village beginning Dec. 27.

Ready for a snowcat ride at dusk, or in a grooming cat as it negotiates the steeps of Kirkwood? You can do it this winter, starting Dec. 27. Check the web site for details. Rental shops, ski shops open, restaurants, lodging deals at (800) 967-7500, Kirkwood Cross-Country opens Friday with 30-plus KMs.


I never put much faith in recorded ski lessons on video tape: As an instructor it seemed to me to miss the interaction point of it all. But the other day at the Carson Library I came across some tapes by Lito Tejada-Flores, which intrigued me. I checked out his "The New Skis," dealing in the shaped skis sweeping the ski world in the late '90s, and "Bumps and Powder," both skills that I have yet to truly master. Both, despite the age (shot in 1998), have a lot to offer to a skier wanting to know more about new skis or techniques.

"New Skis," was made just as these slats were becoming popular, after Elan introduced what it called "parabolic" skis. The tape has a lot to say about shaped skis, much of which could be updated but still remains valid. If you still are running on straight skis, this should convince you to update.

One peculiar aspect is something that Lito introduces as "phantom edge," in which he promotes lifting the inside or uphill ski in a turn to set a steeper edge to both skis. I don't think that is taught these days when the emphasis is to keep both skis on the snow at all times. If you recently upgraded to shaped skis, this tape can explain a lot about them to you.

The other tape on skiing bumps and powder despite being dated in time is not dated in technique. I've never been a good bumps skier and now that I have a knee which may not be right for the bumps, I may never become a real bumper. If the bumps attract but are too demanding, you might check out Lito's video. Ditto for powder, although a powder day is not common here " yes, when they do come, people tend to close their shops and head for the hills.

One problem most would-be bumpers have is keeping the speed under control. Lito has good advice about that, mainly, the old cliche, If you don't let yourself get going fast you don't have to slow down. Lito's point is make you turn on the top of a mogul where the tips and tails are in midair and then finish the turn in the gully. The more complete the finish, the slower you go.

You could always take a pro ski lesson at any resort; almost all ski instructors (including me) are certified by the Professional Ski Instructors of America organization. All use the American system for teaching, so one can go from resort to resort and pick up just where the last lesson left off.

The library has several ski tapes so you don't have to stick to Lito. But he's a good place to start.


Northstar Resort is now open top to bottom. Offering 2,280 vertical feet of terrain for skiing and snowboarding, Northstar has some of the best early season conditions in North Lake Tahoe. And through today Northstar is offering first-timers ages 13 and up the opportunity to learn to ski or ride for just $25. This offer includes a 21⁄2- hour lesson, lift ticket accessing beginner terrain and rental equipment. Participants can purchase at the rental equipment shop in the Village at Northstar. The same offer is open at most local mountain resorts.


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