After hearing about the snow in Tahoe over the last few days, I got excited about the upcoming ski season and decided to research some upcoming trips ... I stumbled across my old thread and realized I never gave a follow up to our trip!
Old trip report update from last year from what I can remember (sorry for the thread revival, but hopefully it helps people) ...
The trip up from the central coast was eventful to say the least. Tahoe was getting dumped on. I-80 was closed, as was 50, so we stayed the night in Roseville (had Marriott or SPG points, so we stayed there hoping to be as far along on 80 as possible). The next morning we awoke early to try to get a good start. I-80 was still closed, so we opted to go the south route on 50. Chains on, chains off (Caltrans guy told us to take them off), chains back on ... finally got to the Cal-Neva (lost a day of skiing).
Cal-Neva: Old casino hotel. Dated, weathered and tired are the words I would use. The lobby area was smoky, dark and had some interesting features, but nothing too impressive or inviting (think old Vegas casino). The rooms were very basic and you could hear the howling wind off the lake and noisy people in the halls and adjacent rooms. We had the breakfast buffet a few times that was OK. The only good parts of the hotel were the price, the ghost/history tour (pretty interesting with Sinatra, the Rat Pack, JFK, Marilyn connections), the view of the lake, and the close proximity to Northstar and Diamond Peak. The website makes this place look a lot nicer than it is. You are there to ski, not sit in the room, so it works.
Skiing: We lost a day to the snow/travel, so the first day we met up with a friend at Diamond Peak.
Diamond Peak: (Saturday 26 Mar). The snow was really coming down (chains on the car) and the wind was howling. We parked right next to the first lift. It was such a great, small, easy access resort. After getting tickets using our snowbomb card discount tickets, we were off. Although it was snowing very hard, the approach to the chairs was very icy. This made it difficult as you waited at the gate to get on the conveyer belt to board the chair. If you have not seen one of these before, it is an interesting process. I kind of see the benefit for timing and organization, but it is kind of awkward if you aren’t used to it. Levered start gates swing open to allow you to glide onto the moving conveyer and then all you have to do is stand in place while the next chair comes up behind you. The awkward part for me was transitioning from the slick ice in the lift line to the abrupt stop on the conveyer belt (sort of like getting off a moving conveyer at the airport – you have to stick the landing and not fall forward). I saw a couple people fall and complain from the ice as well as getting poles stuck in the conveyer or forcing their way through the gates and thus falling between groups or chairs. I am not fan.
The snow was really coming down with super soft powder. Deep, waist-high snow could be found on the sides of the runs. We took a few laps on the easy runs Freeway, Penguin, Popular. They were great for my girlfriend giving her lots of confidence. This resort hardly had anyone there, so we plenty of room to explore. The runs were unspoiled and wide open. The snow was so amazing compared to the ice we skied on at Big Bear and Snow Summit in SoCal. This was our first real powder experience. After she was comfortable with those runs, we decided to head up to the top of the mountain on the Crystal Express. This was a mistake! The wind had to be over 40 knots and visibility was maybe 50 feet. The wind was blowing up the mountain face and you could barely make it down even pointing straight down the fall line. The snow was sandblasting us. We made our way down the Crystal Ridge run back down to the lower mountain to warm up at the Snowflake Lodge. The run would have been fine from a difficulty level perspective, but the weather was just unbearable at the top.
Overall Diamond Peak is a great resort if you have novice and intermediate skiers (can’t comment on expert terrain). The quick accessibility, affordable price and low crowds and good novice-intermediate terrain is great for lower level skiers like us that ski 7-10 days a year. My girlfriend really liked the size of the resort and quick access. We would like to check it out again on a day that we can see the lake.
Northstar (Sunday 27 Mar): On our second and unfortunately last day of skiing, we decided to hit up Northstar. Completely different experience here... It was a much larger resort with the full village experience. We had to park quite a ways away and take a bus to the lodge. After that, there was a lot of walking, so I would advise using ski/boot bags and getting a locker (we did). I forgot if I used the Shell gas buy one get one coupon or my free military lift ticket, but either way, I had to wait in line pass office to redeem the tickets. After going through that process, getting the boots on and everything else stored in the lockers, we made our way with the mass herd to the Gondola. This was new for us as well, but was very easy and efficient (long line though – 20 minutes). After getting off the Gondola we headed to the Arrow Express for a warm up on Main St and then over to the Zephyr Express. Here we did The Gully, Pioneer, Hoot Owl (got bumped out into some small moguls that made things interesting) and Sodergren’s. My girlfriend loved Northstar. Big, wide open runs with nice groomers and while the resort seemed to be crowded at the village and in the lines, there was plenty of room for everyone. After we burned our legs out, we took the Village Run back to the bottom. After getting out of our boots, we enjoyed some adult hot chocolates and chilled by the ice rink.
Overall Northstar was another really great resort for the novice-intermediate skier. We definitely will go back and explore other terrain. It does have that all-inclusive big resort factor which would be great if you are looking to stay at one resort and have it all (will be pricey though).
Dining: We had good food and drinks at Steamers in Kings Beach (Calzones), Wildflower Café in Incline Village (Lunch), JAX in Truckee (Breakfast). On the way into Tahoe (after getting snowed out) we stopped at Guy Fieri’s Johnny Garlic’s. There is a reason garlic is in the name! Unless you are from Gilroy or really like a spicy garlic dish that completely washes out your palate, I would pass on it.
In 2012, we will likely return to Northstar and Diamond Peak and we hope to try Homewood, Alpine Meadows and Mt. Rose as well.
I hope this trip report helps …