Wednesday, April 23, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

There is still great skiing to be found at Tahoe

By Jules Older
slopedope@sfgate.com

It was bugging the heck out of me. Sitting in San Francisco, I couldn’t tell if skiing in Tahoe was finished/gone/deplorable or brilliant/superb/remarkable. Trusted voices told these very different tales.

I had to see for myself. Canceling weekend plans and violating my policy of never skiing on a national holiday, I drove to Tahoe.

The drive up was very much on the finished/gone/deplorable side. No snow by I-80. No snow on the mountain peaks. Bicyclists pedaling down the highway. Air conditioner on… in January.

I came up intending to try three ski areas: a small, medium and extra large. One on the North Shore, two on the South. I’d planned to tell you what I experienced on Slope Dope next Thursday, and I still will, in more detail.

But what I experienced was so different from what I expected, I need to tell you now.

As I write, I’ve been to two of the three hills: Diamond Peak in the north; Heavenly in the south. Next I’ll ski Sierra-at-Tahoe in the deep south.

What I’ve experienced so far is skiing that ranges from very good to superb. I’ve seen (and, of course, managed to hit) exactly one small, rocky patch. I’ve skied a few firm and/or skied-hard slopes. The rest — the vast majority — has been beautifully groomed, skillfully made snow.

Yes, “made.” Thor has taken His flakes to Colorado, and Tahoe areas without snowmaking are singing the blues. But those making snow, if Diamond Peak and Heavenly are fair examples, are offering nearly ideal conditions.

No, not if you require cliffs and super-steeps. If that’s what you need, book now for Colorado. But for the rest of us… I was blown away, and I think you will be, too.

Here’s what I found. At both mountains, the weather was pretty much perfection. I skied in a light jacket and one layer at Heavenly, no jacket and two layers at Diamond Peak. There was no wind. The slopes on Sunday and Monday had a good number of skiers but, with the exception of a couple of trails on Heavenly’s California side, no thundering hordes.

Both mountains were full of kids taking lessons, families skiing together, and locals enjoying the snow and sunshine. And at both, there was zero snow at the base. But plenty on high.

With the few exceptions I’ve mentioned, I skied corduroy and butter. I whooped and smiled and shook my head in disbelief at what I’d been missing.

Diamond Peak had just under half the mountain open. Heavenly had skiing on more than 15 miles of trails, with new trails scheduled to open soon.

If, like me, you’ve been holding back because you think you’ll be disappointed, hold no more. I found the skiing so unexpected and so outstanding, I had to tell you about it now.

San Francisco Chronicle

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