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Tahoe Area, 3/4-8

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

The Backstory

 

I don’t much care for exposition so this will be short. Met up with two of my brothers in Reno on Sunday night. None of us had ever been to Tahoe for skiing before. We’re all black diamond-competent, but none of us are super-experts (or particularly young). Stayed at Grand Sierra in Reno for $31/room/night; rented a front-wheel drive Dodge Avenger for $23/day. I skied with my brothers for two days before they headed home, then freeloaded off a non-skiing buddy in Sparks for the rest of the week.

 

Monday, March 4: Heavenly

 

Paid: $93 (bought at Sports Authority in Reno the night before)

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 5/10

Weather: Absolute Bluebird (my bro’s thermometer read 42 degrees on our way up Sky Express the one time)

Would Return?: Definitely

 

Given the advice I’d read on EpicSki, we chose a side and ended up spending almost the entire day skiing Dipper Express (we took a couple of runs on the California side since it seemed obligatory). No complaints about traverses. I think they’d had some snow the day before, so things weren’t too scraped and, in the trees at least, conditions could be described as soft. Our favorite run was in the trees alongside Big Dipper and Meteor – left us with a long, blue run-out, but I like hard-packed bombing runs, so all was good by me.

 

Top of Dipper Express

 

 

California-side views.

 

 Can't remember what run this was, but it definitely looked like this.

 

Relatively soft snow in the trees.

 

The crowds on Sky Express

 

Other observations:

 

  • The pulled pork sandwich at East Peak Lodge was huge, but otherwise merely okay. Barbecue baked beans were generous, but I would have preferred a sweeter sauce with a little more vinegar and somewhat less chili powder. #yelp
  • To me, the oddest thing about the layout was that we were kind of “trapped” on the upper mountain. If any of us had left anything down at the car (we parked at Stagecoach), it would have been a blue square-and-slush hassle trying to retrieve it.
  • Stopped at the Red Hut (Kingsbury Grade) on the way up the hill. The bacon there is something to write home about.
  • Plenty of people there, but the Nevada side was pretty roomy and lift lines were close to non-existent (things were decidedly more crowded California-side).
  • People here had a somewhat disturbing penchant for making high-speed, lane-shifting entries into the lift lines. I imagine they learned that on the 880 somewhere around Hayward.
  • The ski patrol dude who rode up the lift with us should probably be friendlier toward people who paid $93 just to be there for the day.

 

In the net, I loved Heavenly. The price is silly, but the views were awesome, the tree-skiing was fun, and there were plenty of places to roam even without entering California. Just for the price, I can’t imagine going there more than once a year, but next time I’m in Tahoe to ski, it will be on the itinerary.

 

Tuesday, March 5: Mt. Rose

 

Paid: $49 (weekday full-time student price at window)

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: N/A

Weather: Sunny with high winds at the top.

Would Return?: Probably

 

Mt. Rose was exactly as advertised: unpretentious, locals-centric, solid vertical and elevation, and windy (although I think everywhere was probably windy that day). In terms of attitude and vibe, Mt. Rose was night-and-day compared to Heavenly (and Squaw) and, ceteris paribus, I preferred Rose’s relative easy-goingness – not that ceteris ever is paribus. Conditions were pretty firm (not icy) on-trail, while off-trail was cruddy (this included the tree areas unfortunately). Mogul runs were carved deep with pretty inconsistent snow (thanks to the warm weather, lack of recent significant snowfall, and wind I’m sure). Spent all day on Northwest Magnum 6 (heckuva lift name) after hearing that the east-side runs were more scraped.

 

The base was a little melty.

 

Skies were nevertheless blue. Mostly. Until later.

 

Scraped-up view from the top of Aida.

 

Big views of Carson Valley -- we could see our hotel and almost catch a whiff of the casinos' cigarette smoke.

 

 

 

Also:

 

  • Rose had the one of the best-looking lifties I’ve seen in a long time. FWIW.
  • Wish they’d had some better snow, obviously. The chutes looked like they’d be fun, but we saw (from a distance) one person who ventured in there all day and, based on his form, he didn’t look too happy.
  • Was also sad that the trees down the lift-line weren’t more skiable (I tried twice).
  • Didn’t understand why they wouldn’t run the little triple chair off to the right of us. There’s not a ton of skiing at the very top and the triple looked like it would at least be out of the wind. The wind absolutely howled at the top.
  • Not very crowded – we didn’t share a lift ride all day.
  • I liked that the ticket booth woman barely even blinked when I requested the student rate (I’m 41; yes, I’m a full-time student with the ID to verify it).
  • It’s cool that there’s one resort around Tahoe that offers such intense discounts.
  • Conditions were definitely a little firm that day. That said, it was hilarious listening to locals complain about how terrible the “ice” was. At Blue Knob that’s called straight-up powder.

 

Thursday, March 7: Squaw Valley

 

Paid: $60 (bought someone’s voucher off Craig’s List a month in advance)

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 6/10

Weather: OVERCAST with light snowfall throughout.

Would Return?: Maybe

 

This was the big powder day of the week with it having snowed all day Wednesday. I heard from one random lift stranger that she’d had an even better time of it on Wednesday, in spite of the high winds and closure of the upper mountain, since there was plenty of untracked available and not many hardy souls there with whom to share it. On Thursday: plenty of souls. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper from I-80 to the parking lot. The gondola line (funitel line, whatever) was long in the morning and Shirley Lake and Granite Chief queues were no-doubt aggravating to the non-single. Visibility was very difficult and I ended up spending a lot of time on Shirley Lake where at least I could see while trying to figure out how to ski powder (only partially successful in both endeavors).

 

 

I like that the ski patrol is going after the guy before he's even finished hiking to the top.

 

Top of Siberia looking, I should think, not unlike actual Siberia.

 

 

Top of Emigrant iirc.

 

 

 

 

  • Siberia Express had no line. Also no visibility on the top section.
  • The shear number of chairlifts at this place is incredible. They seemed to start and end everywhere; around every corner was another chairlift (or two).
  • The rock outcroppings were cool. With those and the relative absence of trees on the upper mountain, I figured this must be what skiing in Europe is like.
  • Had lunch at Fireside Pizza down in the village on the hunch that ski resort food follows the same pricing principles as does dining at Disneyland. At least in this case it did – paid $18 (incl. tip) for a very good pizza and 32-oz. (!) soda in a glass (!!) rather than spending $15 for faster, price gougey-er, and inferior cafeteria-style fare. Would recommend. (Next time you’re at Disneyland, try the same strategy – you’ll see.)
  • As a service to fellow acrophobes, I’ll note that the Red Dog lift is the most fear-inducing lift I’ve ever ridden. There are a couple of long, *very high* gaps on that one and the relatively slow speed of the lift means that the shear terror wasn’t just fleeting.
  • Had been worried about needing chains for the drive up. Didn’t need them, despite Nevada DOT’s website stating that there was a chain check station on the 80 east of Truckee (the agriculture inspection station apparently had confused them).

 

Especially in the morning, the whole place had a sort of hyper-focused, manic air to it. I’m assuming it was all the expert-skiing locals who were super-determined to find the remaining stashes. No one was rude or anything, just – it wasn’t much of a kick back-and-enjoy vibe going on.

 

I talked to a lot of more-experienced skiers the following day at Diamond Peak and had a couple of them offer up criticisms of Squaw based on weather issues and lay-out.  I can see why expert skiers would love the place, especially on a powder day, but I sympathized with the criticisms. For me, I wanted there to be more trees to ski around and to help with visibility. I also wanted there to be something groomed somewhere so I could take a few relaxed runs once I got tired of feeling like half an idiot on the by-midday chopped-up powder on the blue squares. It’s not like I didn’t have fun – I had a great time at Squaw. But with the powder dumps, I think I expected some sort of transcendent mega-experience that never quite materialized. Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe it was cloud-induced seasonal affective.

 

Friday, March 8: Diamond Peak

 

Paid: $49 (Reno Sports Authority)

Quality of Random Lift Strangers: 9/10

Weather: Overcast with some eventual light snowfall.

Would Return?: Definitely

 

I’m probably just a sucker for ski resorts with lake views, but I loved Diamond Peak, despite its shortcomings and quirks. I liked the laid-back vibe. The unpretentiousness caught me off guard (I figured Incline Village’s hill would be a more uppity), parking was easy, and the random lift strangers were unusually friendly and engaging. The skiing was also pretty good. Spent most of the day on Crystal Express sampling the diamonds with occasional forays on Lakeview. Snow was chopped powder most places, with some fun in-tree, un-tracked around Eagle Bowl and a few other gladey places elsewhere on the mountain.

 

A little foggy up on the ridge.

 

View at the bottom of Eagle Bowl.

 

 

 

Showing off my slow-skiing skills for the lift-riders.

 

  • Diamond Peak’s biggest shortcoming was pretty obvious: south-facing and with a lower elevation than some of its competitors, there were a lot of bare spots and some closed runs.
  • The views of the lake were fantastic; the lake is more than occasional scenery here, it’s a constant companion.
  • Visibility was tough up on the ridge before about noon, but got better during the day. Everything coming down off the ridge offered good visibility (even at the top).
  • I bought a sandwich at Wal-Mart in Reno on my way up so I have no idea how the Diamond Peak food is. However, I now know that the sandwiches at the Reno Wal-Mart are bland.
  • Crystal Express doesn’t ski as weird as it looked like it would from the map.
  • I liked that there was always something easy to bail out onto and something harder to bail back into on just about every run and gladed middle-ground.
  • The conveyor belt on-loading on Lakeview (and Lodgepole) was a new experience for me.

 

The place would probably start feeling small after a few visits in a season, but I liked Diamond a lot.

 

Finally

 

The trip turned out to be phenomenal. I like spring skiing days and I liked getting to experience powder conditions that I haven’t seen since I decided to start skiing again last season. At the risk of igniting an east coast-west coast debate, by Monday afternoon I’d decided my next year’s ski trip destination wouldn’t be Vermont again after all. Even if Squaw wasn’t as transcendent as hoped, the trip overall was generally very nearly euphoric. I was mad when the lifts closed down every day and when I skied my last off Diamond on Friday, it felt like I was, I dunno, being sent back into some sort of dungeon or something.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

o

post #2 of 23

Nice report, i like your quality of random lift strangers ratings lol.  Anythings gotta be better than wallyworld sandwiches even little ski areas i would think.
 

post #3 of 23

Glad you enjoyed it. The triple at Rose typically only runs when it is too windy to run Northwest or as an overflow.  Trust me, you dont want to ride it i you dont need to.  It takes > 10 minutes and when the wind is blowing it gets cold!!!

post #4 of 23
Quote:

Originally Posted by outlier View Post

 

For me, I wanted there to be more trees to ski around and to help with visibility. I also wanted there to be something groomed somewhere so I could take a few relaxed runs once I got tired of feeling like half an idiot on the by-midday chopped-up powder on the blue squares. It’s not like I didn’t have fun – I had a great time at Squaw. But with the powder dumps, I think I expected some sort of transcendent mega-experience that never quite materialized. Maybe I did it wrong. Maybe it was cloud-induced seasonal affective.

 

The lack of grooming at Squaw is a huge part of the appeal.  It's not a groomer zoomer kind of place.  It's really an advanced / expert's mountain.  It sounds like you were expecting an amazing day because of all the powder, yet you aren't actually comfortable skiing powder?

 

Anyway, I was there that day (last Thursday) and it was particularly a madhouse even more than usual on a powder day because it's the first decent storm we've had literally since Christmas.  Our group bailed mid-day and went to Northstar to avoid the crowds (and flat light).

 

Given your tastes based on your reviews, next time you come out to Tahoe you should seriously check out Homewood.  It's underrated.

post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by JayT View Post

It sounds like you were expecting an amazing day because of all the powder, yet you aren't actually comfortable skiing powder?


I wanted to be converted :).

 

Thanks for the recs!

 

o

post #6 of 23

Sorry we missed you. Glad you had a nice trip. Tahoe is great. 

post #7 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by outlier View Post


I wanted to be converted :).

 

Thanks for the recs!

 

o

 

If you haven't done it in a while, it takes some time to get used to it.  I like the whole "quality of random lift strangers" thing - funny - all resort reviews should include that.

post #8 of 23

If you liked Diamond Peak, I think you'll find Homewood even better. It has a better view of the lake, and it's bigger than Diamond Peak, so you won't get bored quickly.

 

Re: Squaw, have you tried KT-22 or Headwall chair ? Or were they closed on 7th ? If you didn't have a chance to ride KT or Headwall, I think you missed the huge part of Squaw, and I'd revisit Squaw when they are open if I were you. I was up at Squaw on 8th, and the snow on all the main runs off KT and Headwall was great - Chute 75 in particular had excellent snow.

post #9 of 23

Really nice TR!

I was there with Philpug and JayT on Thursday.  Too bad we missed you. 

 

Skispark, We skied mostly Shirley Lake and Granite Chief due to visibility.  KT22 didn't have a lift line so we skied off of it for a run but the light was really flat. 

post #10 of 23
Bonus points for the Blue Knob mention!
post #11 of 23

Friday probably was a better day to be at Squaw in your case. Mainline opened early followed by Palisades. It would have been fun for a first timer to watch while riding lift.

post #12 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trekchick View Post

I was there with Philpug and JayT on Thursday.  Too bad we missed you. 

 

I assumed that you were the one on the lift who told me how good the lower mountain was on Wednesday. And that Philpug was the guy on the funitel blasting the hardcore rap on his headphones :).

 

Quote:
Friday probably was a better day to be at Squaw in your case. Mainline opened early followed by Palisades. It would have been fun for a first timer to watch while riding lift.

 

Yes. That. Definitely. Would have been great. Maybe next year.

 

o

post #13 of 23

2nd on Really Nice Trip Report comment. Another bonus point, that I must now look up "ceteris paribus".

v

post #14 of 23

great write up. I've been day dreaming about Tahoe area ever since I first read about it on this website. You just gave me more to think about. 

post #15 of 23

Great Trip report. I agree about the best looking lifties at Mt Rose! One of the first places I ever skied, back then there were two ski hills, Slide Mountain and Mt Rose., The Chutes at Mt Rose are pretty steep and fun. Now Squaw Valley thats another story, love it and hate it, Hands down one of the best resorts and terrain around, just way to crowded. The KT Chair acesses one of the most challenging areas anywhere. If you want to test your skills thats the place. I always leave there feeling humbled after skiing that a few runs but it always brings me back for me. Gives me something to think about on the long drive home.

post #16 of 23

F'ing awesome trip report with a catchy, curmudgeonly tone. Dig it. 

post #17 of 23

Great trip report, thanks for sharing.  I know that same feeling at the end of a trip.

post #18 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by skispark View Post

If you liked Diamond Peak, I think you'll find Homewood even better. It has a better view of the lake, and it's bigger than Diamond Peak, so you won't get bored quickly.

 

 

Here's a little glimpse of what Homewood is like  smile.gif

 

post #19 of 23

good tr.  nice to read about tahoe from a different POV.

post #20 of 23

"As a service to fellow acrophobes, I’ll note that the Red Dog lift is the most fear-inducing lift I’ve ever ridden. There are a couple of long, *very high* gaps on that one and the relatively slow speed of the lift means that the shear [sic] terror wasn’t just fleeting."

 

You really wanna pucker your shorts, just gaze for a moment at the return line of Red Dog, freed of connection to those silly towers, scores of additional feet above your head while your skis are 100+ feet above the snow and rocks.  Then imagine riding down.  Suddenly, casually leaving the safety bar up doesn't seem so cool...

 

True, Red Dog is not for the faint of heart; breathtaking, in fact, the first few times.  You have to trust their lift mechanics a lot.  Its companion lift on Snow King, Squaw Creek, has a couple of similar nosebleed reaches.  Look over at those treetops nearby, then look down at how tall those trees are.

 

The old Siberia double had its own adventure with a clear span from the bottom of the bowl to the ridge.  The Siberia Express has towers on the face.

 

Word has it around the mountain that Squaw will rebuild Red Dog next summer as an express, which may mean more towers and a lower cable height over Poulsen's Gully.  Now, guys, get to working out a deal to connect Squaw and Alpine via White Wolf.  It's only money (and probably some perks and ego-strokes for the White Wolf owner and club members...).  I wanna ski from Sherwood base to the top of Granite Chief and back.  Or vice-versa.  Whatever.  Do it.  Second only to Whistler-Blackcomb in North American skiable area, with Sierra Crest snowpacks, Tahoe views, and California weather?  Priceless.

post #21 of 23
Good TR. you do need to go your way around Squaw on a powder day (hint- Shirley and Siberia are probably the worst places to be on those kinds of days). But that's why Epic has unofficial guides on the resort pages.

Also "black- diamond worthy" means different things at different areas. I hope you can come back for another try.
post #22 of 23
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DanLassen View Post

"... that the shear [sic] terror wasn’t just fleeting."

 

 

Referring to the terror caused by potential wind shears of course wink.gif.

 

o

post #23 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by outlier View Post

 

Referring to the terror caused by potential wind shears of course wink.gif.

 

o

Good one!beercheer.gif

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