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Mountain resorts gearing up for weekend storm

Sam Bauman
Nevada Appeal Columnist

With snow predicted for the next couple of days, it’s hard to say which mountain resort is going to be open or to what extent.

Heavenly comes on line with the Gondola serving the Tamarack and Comet/Dipper lifts, with the Little Dipper trail open. More to come for sure, joining Mt. Rose with the beginner Ponderosa lift spinning and Northstar with a couple of lifts running.

We’ll ski Heavenly this weekend amid the expected snow. Reports to date say Heavenly has been making tons of snow and is gearing up for a full Christmas season (see below). Resort openings can’t come too soon for many of the seasonal employees already signed up and waiting for work. Certainly the liftees and ski instructors/coaches are ready to go and are living off savings until they get added to the small work force already at work.

Today is the target date for most Tahoe resorts opening; those with good snow making equipment should be well open. Much depends on how much natural snow we get so offer up some snow prayers at calm moments.

HEAVENLY UPGRADES

Three new trails, on-mountain lodge renovations, radio frequency ticket technology and a major trail re-grade headline resort improvements Heavenly Mountain Resort has made for the 2008-09 season. Under Heavenly’s 10-year master plan approved in April 2007, guests can look forward to new lifts, new on-mountain restaurants, new lodging and base villages that will greatly improve the overall experience at Lake Tahoe’s leading destination resort.

Said Blaise Carrig, Heavenly’s chief operating officer, “This winter guests will expect more improvements including new gladed trails in Ski Ways and the re-grading of Skyline Trail, which is the biggest little project at Heavenly in terms of its positive impact on the guest experience.”

With the Skyline Trail improvement, Heavenly is addressing a longtime problem. Skyline Trail is the picturesque 10,000-foot high traverse connecting the California side of the mountain to the Nevada side, and anyone who has run it knows that in the past the uphill part was a bottleneck, with boarders having to slip out of one binding and push/walk up the steep part. With its new, gentle 10-percent downhill grade, skiers and snowboarders will be able to enjoy easy views of Lake Tahoe as they slide their way into Nevada. There are some great back country type runs off this grade, incidentally ” look down at the sign marking the border with Nevada.

Three new trails will debut in California this season; two in Ski Ways glades and another in Powderbowl Woods. The runs continue the trend Heavenly began in the Olympic Express area last season; Heavenly is glading the trails, leaving tree islands far enough apart to groom the run with a snow cat and will serve upper-intermediate to advanced skiers and snowboarders, giving them a groomed, tree-skiing experience. The two trails in Ski Ways Glades will be designated as black diamonds, and the trail in Powderbowl Woods will be designated as a blue square.

On the Nevada side, Heavenly is providing more mountain indoor seating by adding 160 seats to East Peak Lodge. The new area gives guests more room to relax and recharge. The Higher Grounds coffee bar on the East Peak deck will move inside East Peak lodge this winter, and an additional Higher Grounds location will debut this winter at Lakeview Lodge. All on-mountain coffee locations will offer Starbucks blend called Serena.

Heavenly has continued its commitment to offering Lake Tahoe’s finest corduroy by adding five new low-emission Prinoth Bison groomers and one new low-emission Prinoth Bison winch cat.

Heavenly is expanding snowmaking to include Stagecoach Run from top to bottom. Over eight acres of terrain will be covered, enhancing early- and late-season skiing coverage of popular intermediate-to-advanced terrain. Heavenly has also purchased 11 fully-automated snowmaking fan guns from Snow Machines, Inc. These machines will be placed on elevated towers in strategically-selected locations to provide a more consistent, quality snow coverage. Additionally, Heavenly has retrofitted many of its air/water snowmaking guns to be more energy efficient while also making larger quantities of higher quality snow.

The California Lodge rental shop is undergoing a remodel and expansion. Also new this year is an unlimited yearly ski and snowboard rental program through Rentskis.com and Specialty Sports Venture that rewards frequent renters and diminishes the need to bring gear to the resort, eliminating airline baggage costs. For $359 skiers and riders can purchase an unlimited number of days of sport or performance rental equipment (skis/boards, boots and poles) for the 2008-09 season; the Unlimited Demo Rental Pass is available for $459 and the Junior Rental Pass for children 13 and under is $199. Rental equipment can be picked up at any Heavenly Sports location and rental passes can be purchased on-line in conjunction with Heavenly season passes at http://www.heavenlypass.com. Gear can be reserved online at Rentskis.com and can be kept for seven-day durations.

The 2008-09 Heavenly season passes have received a high-tech upgrade this season with the addition of Radio Frequency (RF)technology. A small computer chip called an RF “tag” will be embedded into all resort passes sending a radio signal to new handheld scanners. Guests will still interact with lift employees who will verify pass photos and information; however, the “easy scan” pass will not have to be presented to the scanner as it can be read through many layers of clothing.

The Ski and Ride Schools of Heavenly will introduce a variety of new lesson options. Mini South Shore Soldier Camps ” based on the world-famous South Shore Soldiers Snowboard and Freeskiing Camps ” will be offered monthly throughout the winter, focusing on progressive park riding and safety. These mini-camps will be taught by South Shore Soldiers-approved instructors and will be designed for varying levels of skiers and riders. Gunbarrel 25 Mogul Camps will be offered to improve mogul skiing and style and to prepare competitors for this year’s Gunbarrel 25 event to be held on April 5.

Also, the Women’s Clinics will be revamped to attract women who are interested in top-level ski and snowboard instruction in the company of other women. For more information on any of these programs, visit http://www.skiheavenly.com/schools_clinics/adults/. The ski school will debut a new magic carpet in the California learning area, making learning to ski and snowboard easier. It will also provide first- and second-time learners more frequency with less fatigue.

NORTHSTAR SKIING, RIDING

We tried Northstar last Sunday and despite the long walk from parking through the now extensive village the skiing was pretty decent. All man-made snow, of course, which tends to be firmer and granulated, but the coverage was fine. Only problem was that the crowd was large for the limited runs that were open. And as usual in early days of the season, the snowboarders outnumbered skiers by at least three to one. Not that that’s bad; most snowboarders have been at it long enough to know the rules. Didn’t see any over-the-top antics by boarders or skiers at Northstar last Sunday.

Northstar is running the Vista Express giving access to five trails ” Skid Trail, Upper and Lower Main Street, and Upper and Lower Lumberjack. Bear Paw is also open.

Early season lift tickets are available for $45 for adults and young adults, and $15 for children ages 5 through 12 (under five ski for free). Northstar is extending the deadline to purchase Lift Ticket Six-Packs to Jan. 1, 2009. Ski or ride any day of the season for less than $50 per day, including holidays. Not a bad deal for those unsure about getting their money’s worth with a season pass. Season passes are a real winner for locals who can take off a couple of hours during the day to get to the runs.

Northstar invites 2008/2009 pass holders from other Lake Tahoe and Mammoth resorts to ski/ride for only $25 a day from now until Dec. 19. Enjoy the results of North Lake Tahoe’s largest snowmaking system at a savings of $20 off early season prices. Bring a 2008/2009 season pass from a Lake Tahoe or Mammoth Area ski resort with a picture ID to any ticket window. Also, $25 lesssons until Dec. 19 as Northstar Resort’s Ski & Snowboard School offers beginner’s the opportunity to learn to ski or ride for only $25 per day. The cost includes a beginner’s lift ticket, instruction, and rental equipment. Many other resorts are offering the same deal.

SILVER SADDLE RANCH MEETING

The Friends of Silver Saddle Ranch, in partnership with Carson City, the Bureau of Land Management, and the National Park Service invited locals to participate in the Creating a Community Vision, Silver Saddle Ranch and the Carson River, Charrette Summary Report presentation last night. The event summarized the results of more than 1 1/2 years of planning, public meetings and the May 29-31, 2008 workshop. Community members had the opportunity to identify their ideas and vision for the planning area. We’ll report on it next week.

An electronic version of the Charrette Summary Report will be be available on CDs and on the Carson City Web site. Comments on the report will be accepted until the end of December. These will then be summarized and available at a later date as an additional appendix to the report.

This is an important local project, with the Silver Saddle Ranch area becoming part of Carson City as the BLM moves out. If you care about hiking around the ranch or Prison Hill, you’ll want to keep tabs on this project as it evolves, making sure no private group usurps public rights there.