Lake Tahoe skiing: Projected opening dates and what’s new for the 2019-20 season
On Sept. 17, Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe posted to Instagram a 5-second video clip of some of the region’s first flurries of snow dusting the resort.
In two days, the clip of mid-September snowflakes had more than 6,000 views and 60 comments — mostly, “YASSSS!” and snowflake emojis.
That’s right, winter is on the horizon, and the anticipation for the 2019-20 ski season at Lake Tahoe has been piling up for months like powder in the backcountry.
Just ask Mike Pierce, director of marking at Mt. Rose, typically one of the first resorts in the region to open due to its area-high base elevation of 8,260 feet.
“Social media is always a quick gauge of the anticipation,” Pierce said. “People are posting about it because, ‘Oh look, it snowed!’ And September is always a good time for season passes because people have kind of had their fill of summer to a degree and they are looking forward to their next adventure.”
Also helping matters: The ski resort located between Reno and Incline Village is on the heels of one of its strongest snow seasons, receiving 493 inches during the 2018-19 campaign.
Same goes for Sugar Bowl Resort. Perched atop Donner Summit west of Truckee, the ski area saw a whopping 623 inches of snow last season, highlighted by a record-high February of 281 inches alone — the epitome of “Febru-buried.”
“It was relentless. The snow came and it just kept coming,” recalled Jon Slaughter, director of sales and marketing at Sugar Bowl. “February wasn’t without its challenges with road closures and things like that. But, man, when people got here, the conditions were just outstanding. It was some of the best snow conditions I’ve seen in Tahoe in a long time.”
Ditto for Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, one of the largest ski areas in the U.S. at 6,000 skiable acres. Last season, Squaw Valley recorded 719 inches of snow at its upper mountains — smashing its annual average of 450 inches.
“Last season spanned nine calendar months, so we are diving right back into winter on opening day,” said Liesl Hepburn, public relations director at the dual resort located a few miles northwest of Tahoe City.
With that in mind — and considering the recent dip in temperatures across the Sierra — check out what’s new for the 2019-20 season at some of the Tahoe region’s biggest downhill ski resorts, as well as their projected opening dates (all are depending on snow conditions):
Located at Donner Summit, Boreal is adding radio-frequency identification (RFID) access systems and automated self-ticket kiosks for hands-free ticketing, ease of access for guest arrival, and direct-to-lift capabilities.
Off the hill, Boreal and Woodward Tahoe, its indoor training facility, will be opening “The Hub & Spoke,” an action sports-themed bar that will feature healthier fast-casual food options.
Opening day: Nov. 8
The Incline Village-based resort (which aside from Mt. Rose is the only other downhill resort fully in Nevada) is rolling out a brand new PistenBully 400 ParkPro snowcat and unleashing four new TechnoAlpin TR8 snow guns “to help ensure its snow quality is top notch,” said marketing manager Paul Raymore.
In addition, Raymore said Diamond Peak’s Village Terrain Park — which was unveiled last year to rave reviews — is adding “more fun features” this winter thanks to feedback from skiers and snowboarders who rode the park.
Opening day: Dec. 12
Set high above the glistening blue waters of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly, which straddles the California/Nevada state line on the South Shore, is giving guests staying a Sunday evening at Gondoloa Vista, Lakeland Village or Zalanta Resort a unique opportunity.
Guests are invited to ski a run with the Heavenly Ski Patrol after the resort closes and attend an exclusive après at Lakeview Lodge, where they’ll receive a free beverage and sample appetizers.
Opening day: Nov. 22
Kirkwood, tucked 35 miles southwest of South Lake Tahoe, is giving adventurers the chance to explore its ski area beyond what’s marked on the map through Expedition: Kirkwood. Programs are designed to teach advanced skills and provide personalized experiences in the backcountry. Skiers and riders with Expedition: Kirkwood have priority lift access.
In addition, Kirkwood is now offering fat biking on its 37 miles of groomed cross-country trails in the scenic Alpine Valley.
Opening day: Nov. 27
MT. ROSE SKI TAHOE
The ski area often referred to as “Reno’s local resort” invested $1.5 million in on-mountain improvements over the summer. This includes the resort’s new ticketing and lift gate system, which gives skiers and riders a simplified process for lift access.
Specifically, they no longer need to take their ticket or pass out of their pocket when in a lift line. The resort also added nine snowmakers to its already robust system as well as upgrades to their snow grooming fleet.
Opening day: Oct. 25
Northstar, located six miles north of Lake Tahoe between Kings Beach and Truckee, has partnered with internationally acclaimed restaurateur, Michale Mina, who’s bringing reinvented pub fare to the base of the Big Springs Gondola in the heart of the Village at Northstar.
Bourbon Pub Northstar will offer upscale pub food — from truffle tater tots to fennel stuffed salmon — to the après ski crowd this winter.
Opening day: Nov. 22
Sierra-at-Tahoe, one of the resorts closest to Sacramento and the Bay Area, is providing quicker access to its 2,000 acres and 2,212 vertical feet of terrain with a slick new ticketing and lift gate system. Simply put, guests can leave their lift tickets or season passes in their pockets their entire stay on the slopes.
Opening day: Mid-to-late November
SQUAW VALLEY ALPINE MEADOWS
The famed Tahoe area resort is unveiling a new $10 million Treeline Cirque chairlift at Alpine Meadows. The detachable, high-speed quad chair will transport skiers and riders from the base area to the Sherwood ridge in a total of five minutes.
The lift will feature a mid-station for access to some of Alpine’s best low-intermediate terrain. From the top terminal, skiers and riders can drop into expert terrain on the frontside or venture into the back bowls of Sherwood.
Moreover, the Tram Car Bar — a restored 70s era Squaw Valley tram cabin — will make its home on the Olympic House deck.
Opening day: Nov. 15
SUGAR BOWL RESORT
Sugar Bowl wrapped up phase one of a multi-year, $8 million snowmaking project that will double its snowmaking output on the mountain. The resort is also investing in its terrain park with the addition of 13 new features and new 13-foot mini-pipe.
Additionally, the resort added a new surface lift for beginners, made lift safety improvements, and completed the remodel of rooms in the Sugar Bowl Hotel.
Opening day: Nov. 29
Tahoe Donner, located in the town of Truckee’s northernmost boundaries, is giving season passholders for both the Tahoe Donne Downhill and Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center four days of skiing at Diamond Peak and two days at Homewood.
Opening day: Dec. 13