Lake Tahoe's first big winter storm rolled through the area Sunday night, dropping over two feet of snow on Heavenly Mountain Resort (check www.skiheavenly.com for updates) as well as most other snow sporting destinations.
Kirkwood received a real dump of more than two feet; Squaw Valley and Northstar the same amount. That's hardly news to those of us who live in the Sierra; my Carson patio got an unofficial 18 inches by actual tape measure.
So most of the resorts are up and running, with the exception of Diamond Peak (to open Dec. 17) and Homewood (Dec. 18), according to their Web sites. Mt. Rose has been open for a couple of weekends and Squaw, as of Tuesday, had three of 33 lifts spinning, but you can be sure more terrain will be ready for the weekend every place.
For Tahoe, this was a powder ski week, when local businesses often shut down for a morning on the slopes. Kirkwood was awash in the light stuff and at other resorts powder stashes were plentiful.
While on Tuesday most mountain resorts were operating on a limited basis, you can expect more terrain available this weekend. If in doubt, check the Web for resorts by name.
POWDER SKI TECHNIQUES
If you don't have a pair of the new rocker skis, you might want to remember how to enjoy the fluffy stuff. First off, you've gotta ski both skis centered all the time. Make turns in ski coordination (I sometimes lead with the uphill ski a bit) and if on traditional shaped skis don't forget extension and retraction, the up and down movements.
That helps get the skis off the snow and make the turns smoother. Notice how the experts ski those long steeps; they rise and drop on every turn.
And don't follow that age-old advice of sitting back in powder. All that does is put the weight on the tails of the skis and let the tips wander.
Of course, the rocker skis do much of this for you (more on the rocker skis below). Sometimes when I get in a crisis I do sit back but I always regret it.
MORE SNOW COMING, OF COURSE
Heavenly and Lake Tahoe have officially welcomed the El Nino winter as heavy snowfall is expected to continue throughout the week. Forecasts call for another winter snowstorm predicted to begin Thursday that will last through the weekend and could leave another three feet of snow behind it.
Heavenly and other resorts expect this snowstorm to enable the resort to continue opening more terrain throughout the week. Winter is here and with the cold temperatures, the snow quality is excellent and the conditions are phenomenal.
Heavenly season passes are on sale now for $369, but only until Sunday. Heavenly is offering a multitude of time-sensitive deals at www.skiheavenly.com, including its "Heavenly for the Holidays" vacation package, offering a deal during the busiest holiday periods.
MT. ROSE WELCOMES ALL YOU SANTAS
As part of the Reindeer Games Weekend which includes the Reno Santa Pub Crawl, Mt. Rose will host the Santa Ski Crawl on Saturday. Ski in a Santa suit and pay only $39 for a lift ticket. (Elves, Mrs. Clauses and reindeer are welcome, too).
Mt. Rose is part of the Learn More on the North Shore - learn to ski or snowboard for only $25. The First Timer package includes rental equipment, a 90-minute lesson and a beginner lift ticket (with access to Ponderosa and Galena lifts). Most other Tahoe mountain resorts will also be taking part in the First Timer program, designed to get more people on the slopes.
Have an old coat you're looking to get rid of? Drop it off at Mt. Rose - Ski Tahoe during the Salvation Army Coat Drive Saturday and Sunday before you hit the slopes. Bins will be located next to the ticket windows.
Mt. Rose will be introducing its spiffy New Winters Creek Lodge this month. The 7,865-square-foot building offers new dining options and panoramic views of Washoe Valley.
TRYING THE NEW ROCKER SKIS
David Rittenhouse is an old ski partner who has taught me as well as others as a ski and snowboard instructor at Heavenly. When he bought his new rocker skis I asked for a "tester's" report. He lives in South Lake Tahoe and will be teaching at Heavenly this season. Here's his report:
"Since the weather started to turn this fall, I've been very excited by the multitude of innovations in this year's skis and snowboards. I've drooled over all the testers' ski and board ratings for weeks, as well as detailed technical articles in magazines like Powder and Ski and on the Internet. I''ve even spoken to a few factory service technicians.
"Ultimately, I decided to cough up the considerable change for new skis. (I still haven't made up my mind about a specific snowboard). The ski I bought is a 176 Rossignol S7. It's claim to fame is not that it's just an excellent powder ski, but also respectable on groomers. No claims about edge grip on ice, which is fine with me, since the only place I like ice is in a glass at home - not on the hill.
The S7 is a twin tip ski - rockered in the front, with traditional camber underfoot. It's dimensions are 140-110-118. This ski is much bigger than the ski I'm used to and, of course, there's also the rockered front tip section. Also, the shape is like an 'S' tip to tail. The shovel starts out narrower, goes to the full 140, then back to the 110 and out to 118 before narrowing to the tipped tail.
"Monday I finally got to try my new skis at Kirkwood. Solitude was the only chair running and the grooming consisted of narrow strips down the middle of Race Course, Mokelumne, and Lower Monte Wolfe. It was puking snow bigtime and at 9 a.m., when the chair opened there was already 6-8 inches of fresh snow on the runs. On both sides of the "groomed" areas was 36 inches of dry, untracked powder.
"I stuck to the powdery groomed runs at first. The S7 seemed very stable but bulky - nowhere near as "turny" as my trusty old Metron Atomics. The S7's felt much livelier making shallower radius turns at speed, which is also what I noticed when I tried them in the deep untracked areas. And they became even livelier when I exaggerated extending and retracting. (by 'livelier' I mean rebound). I was basically popping from one turn to the next, like a porpoise. I loved the ability to literally spring into any turn shape I wanted. I also noticed that the S7 is very stable at speed in tracked out, totally variable snow.
"I went back to Solitude Tuesday and got to carve some turns on corduroy. The S7 has an 18 meter turning radius, as opposed to my old 11 meter radius Atomics. I found that the S7 wouldn't arc a deep carve if I began the turn as far forward as I'm accustomed to doing with my old skis. However, they carved impressively when I started the turn with my weight slightly farther back. As I get to know the S7, I'm sure I'll dial in carving better, and learn lots of other intricacies as steeper terrain opens, and I get more miles on my new skis.
"I bought the S7's primarily as a powder, backcountry ski. There are so many great skis on the market now that it's mind-boggling. It's probably smart, if you're looking to add a ski to your quiver, or to upgrade, to demo before buying.
• Contact Sam at 841-78718 or firstname.lastname@example.org.