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Tell me about Northstar

post #1 of 31
Thread Starter 
Heading to Tahoe in late January and we're considering Northstar as a destination. We'll only be skiing 2 1/2 days so we're likely to ski only one resort.

A little background: Myself and the friend I'm going with are almost exclusively east coast skiers with the exception of trips to Utah (Snowbird, Alta, Solitude) and Sun Valley about 6 years ago. I'm advanced, he's upper intermediate. We have little powder or tree skiing experience, and I'm sure we'd explore both given the opportunity. We'll definitely rip up the groomers. Bumps, not so much, but not afraid to work on it.

I've done a search and read previous posts on Northstar, but thought I'd see if anyone would like to add anything. Our other considerations are Heavenly and Squaw Valley.
post #2 of 31
The weather might determine your choice.

I have only been out there once and it was mid January. We skied Northstar the first day on reccomendation from some ski shop guys, and it rained on us everywhere except the top 200 ft. of the mountain. We were actually given comp tickets as we left the mountain in a torrential rainstorm at 11:00 AM.

The next day we went to Squaw, and the skiing was OK, but really sticky. It was snowing above 8000 ft and raining below that. ...Finally there was Heavenly. The top of Heavenly was the best skiing of the trip, even if it wasn't the choicest terrain of the group.

I don't plan to go back, because there are so many better ski options available; but if I did, I would concentrate on Heavenly and Mt. Rose solely because of the enhanced chances for snow instead of rain.

I do hope you encounter better conditions than I did!
post #3 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by feallen
The weather might determine your choice.
I hadn't thought about rain. I wonder if that is typical or you were just unlucky. It sounds like we might want to wait on buying lift tickets until we're there.

We've chosen Tahoe because flights are considerably cheaper than to other western destinations right now.
post #4 of 31
Northstar is in the middle of building its new pedestrian village. It's going to be a construction zone this winter, with lots of big tents housing what would normally be in buildings. If you've never been there, this might not be the best time to go, if this kind of thing would bother you.

It's hard to say whether you'll have rain or not. So you might want to look for a resort with a higher base, plus higher summit. Alpine has a higher base, so you might be above the rain level. Squaw has a low base, but their summit is higher. When I was there one year in March, it rained below, but snowed up above. We just skied the top all day, and it was really fabulous snow up there.

Since you're considering Heavenly in South Lake Tahoe too, why not look at Kirkwood? It has the highest elevation in the entire Tahoe region (7800 feet) and the snow there is usually lighter and more reliable than the rest of Tahoe. Kirkwood would be a great place for both you and your friend, good solid intermediate and advanced terrain as well as really good terrain for pushing your enevelope. Thing about Heavenly is it's the most popular resort in South Tahoe and it can get crowded. So you should keep that in mind.

post #5 of 31
Our trips have been later in the year- april- and we have never been rained on, on 3 separate visits of say 3/4 weeks in total. On the other hand we did have have fresh snow, down to the Lake, on the first two trips. Personally I would not go to Northstar if that was the only place I was going to visit, though if I was there, as we were, for a period of days, I would spend a day there.Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are next door to each other and if I was you I would do one day at each and then do the other half day at the one you preferred. Again speaking personally I did not like Heavenly as much as Alpine/Squaw
post #6 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the tips. I think at this point we're leaning to staying in South Tahoe and waiting to decide where we'll actually ski once we're there. Leaving our options open at this point seems like the best bet.
post #7 of 31
That sounds smart. I'd plan on Kirkwood for sure, awesome hill.
post #8 of 31

Tahoe considerations

Having grown up skiing Tahoe resorts, my favorite Tahoe resorts are Squaw & Alpine Meadows, and North Tahoe has a lower key, but still fun, atmosphere compared to the casino strewn South Shore. (Look at the restaurants/bars in Tahoe City and at the Village at Squaw (i.e. Plumpjack, Balboa Cafe, Fiamma, and Jakes, and compare them to S. Shore prime rib buffets.)

The skiing at Squaw and Alpine has more varied, challenging terrain than does Heavenly. As an advanced/expert skier with 2.5 days to ski, ski Squaw for 1.5, and Alpine for a day.

If you're going to the South Shore, then you should hit Heavenly and Kirkwood. I like Kirkwood, and generally take 1-2 day trips there per year, but it's a 1 day area. That being said, Kirkwood has an 8800' base, often gets great snow, and has some good steeps. Heavenly has a lot of long cruisers, especially on the Nevada side. If one of you is a "blues only" skier, then Heavenly might fit the bill for the other 1.5 days

Keep in mind that while Heavenly is right in town (due to a new gondola), Kirkwood is about a 40 minute drive from most of the S. Shore. Squaw/Alpine are right next to each other, and 8 miles up the road from Tahoe City. Although, you might be able to stay in the Village at Squaw.

In either case, you'll want a car to drive from Reno. If you want to be on a lift by 9, not 9:40, you should also plan to leave for the slopes by 8:30, not 8:45. Seriously, on a crowded weekend, the 15 minute earlier departure can be the difference between driving right into the parking lot or waiting on the access road for an extra 10-15 minutes).

[addition here]

Weather: Rain is pretty rare in the dead of January, except if there's an El Nino AND a Pineapple Express. I haven't been rained on in Tahoe for about 10 years. On the other hand, I can tell you that you may get an epic storm in late January, and receive 4' of fresh snow. A couple of years ago, we got about 30' in 30 hours on President's Day Weekend...
post #9 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Dino, great stuff. I did book our flight this evening. We'll be arriving in Reno at 11 am on Jan 22 (Saturday).

Would that leave us enough time to catch a 1/2 day somewhere before heading to South Tahoe where we're staying? Is there night skiing anywhere?

When we started researching this trip, I had no idea there were so many resorts in the Tahoe area. I guarantee we could happily ski 2+ days at any of them considering that our local choices here (outside DC) are mostly 600-900 ft hills with more than their fair share of ice. We also figured we could avoid the worst crowds by skiing Sun-Mon instead of Sat-Sun.

In any case, can't wait to get there!
post #10 of 31
You can see Mount Rose from the airport and it would likely fit the bill- do a search on it as there was thread recently as they are opening some new terrain there which might suit you, if not your companion. You can then drive down to S Lake Tahoe, the scenic route would be to carry on to Incline Village on the Mount Rose highway and then down the lakeside. It is not a long nor difficult drive in good weather. I think there is night skiing at Squaw Valley, but that is less convenient to you from the airport
post #11 of 31
Northstar is one of my favorite mountains. I love to ski there. That said, I'll say I'm an intermediate skier and and haven't tested their black diamond runs. I'm usually there in March and have always enjoyed the snow that time of year.

They have a bunch of condos, some slope side (ski trail condos). With the ski trail condos, some are separated from the slopes by a parking lot, so ask for the ones that are really on the slope-side of the parking lot.

The ski trail condos shouldn't be effected by the new construction, but I can't be sure about that. I can't see how they could be.

It's not a big enough mountain for a an expert to be satisfied with for more that a couple of days, but how would I know that, I'm not an expert?
post #12 of 31
North Shore:
Northstar is okay but I think you might enjoy Alpine Meadows much more. It's bigger, slopes somewhat less crowded, friendly atmosphere. It is not Squalywood. Not to be omitted is Suger Bowl where DC of Epic Ski instructs.

Boreal, a small area off the North Shore has night skiing. Not sure where else.

South Tahoe
Heavenly is big but sometimes has coverage issues. Kirkwood is much better IMHO. Though smaller, it's still big enough. Sierra at Tahoe is another neat place for its size, a little retro with a genuine feel.
Just my opinion.

Tahoe is a great place because there are so many areas to choose from within close proximity, lots of sun between big storms and the Lake is beautiful. We've only touched on a few of the resorts in this thread. Have fun.
post #13 of 31
Weather is a crazy thing and anything can happen at anytime. That being said, I've been skiing and/or boarding for 20+ years and I've been to been to Tahoe at least 10 times. Maybe I've been lucky but I've NEVER been rained on at Tahoe. I've been to Whistler (3) times...once each time in January, February and March....and I've been rained on twice!! On all (3) trips, we had fog on 1 or more day that was so thick you had to ski/ride slower than walking speed for safety. Consequently, I don't agree with all the hype about the place.

On to your question...like others have said, I think 2.5 days is too much for Northstar. I think you'd have a good time but it's worth a day trip at most if you were going for a week. We always stay in North Tahoe ourselves and only go to Northstar on windy days (best protected resort in Tahoe). Based on what you said about your desires in a resort, I think that you guys will love Heavenly for it's long groomers. I'd say most of them are blue/blacks and you can really crank up the speed...safely!! The BBQ deck on the Nevada side is awesome as well. Like somebody else stated, I'd do the 1/2 day trip at Mt Rose on the way to South Tahoe. Mt Rose has some screaming black groomers that you can have a blast on and when they get a fresh dump, the "backside" is worth the price of admission.
post #14 of 31
Thread Starter 
Thanks, everyone for some really great information. I'm feeling better about the weather situation now. Besides, I think we could find other diversions if weather did become an issue (we're staying at Harrah's, after all!)

For sake of convenience we'll likely ski 2 full days at Heavenly. We're traveling a long way for this trip, so I figure the less we travel once we're there, the better. I definitely like the sound of Mt. Rose as a 1/2 day option. We really want to pack in as much skiing as possible since these trips west are rare for us.
post #15 of 31
My friend who lives in Reno loves Mt. Rose, it truly is a local's secret. I think you should go for your half day too.

For what it's worth, when I was in Tahoe in March and it rained, I didn't even care! I was so darned excited to be in Tahoe, I skied anyway! But I am not a "fair weather" skier, either (though I didn't like the frigid weather we had at Jay this past winter). It sounds like you will have a blast, no matter what the weather, because you have the right attitude.

post #16 of 31

Agree with foregoing

Yes, the backside of Mt. Rose has some nice groomers and would be uncrowded if you arrived at say, Noon on Friday. Mt. Rose is at a nice, high elevation, and the snow there should be good. [Edit: Just re-read your post stating you're arriving on Saturday. I don't think you'll hit traffic either way, but see addition on where to park at Squaw]

Depending on how fast you drive, you could get to Squaw pretty quickly (like 45-50 minutes), as it's all freeway/highway. See: http://maps.yahoo.com/dd_result?ed=x...ca&tcountry=us
The afternoon pass at Squaw entitles you to night skiing, so that might be fun, if you like night skiing. Either way, plan to ski on your arrival day. [Addition: If you go to Squaw, buy your lift ticket at the kiosk near the Red Dog Grill in the parking lot, and park at the Far East lift to save yourself some walking.]

After you ski, whether it's at Mt. Rose or Squaw, try Lone Eagle Grill across from the Hyatt at Incline. It's on the way to S. Shore, the room there is great, and you can catch a sunset with your meal.

As for Heavenly, depending on where you're staying, plan to park on the Nevada side (Stagecoach or Boulder area), instead of California. If you do that, you'll park close, get in a few extra runs and avoid some crowds. Also, since Gunbarrel (a bump run) is above the California side parking lot, you'll avoid fighting crowds of tired beginners on a cat-track type trail, or a long bump run, at the end of the day.

Finally, at Heavenly, if you hit the sundeck at the bottom of the Dipper chair for lunch, do it early or late, as the lineups after lunch are long.

Have a great time! Let us know how it goes.
post #17 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Thatsagirl
For what it's worth, when I was in Tahoe in March and it rained, I didn't even care! I was so darned excited to be in Tahoe, I skied anyway!
My feelings exactly! We're going to ski, dammit, and nothing is going to stop us!

So now for my next question. Renting a car - 4wd necessary, or no? We're fine piling into an econocar assuming it'll get us there.
post #18 of 31
The day I arrive in March, it was snowing, and so I switched my car rental to an SUV. Glad I did, they wanted chains or 4WD, and would have turned me back because the car rental was out of chains so I wouldn't have had any. But see what others have to say too, before going with just one experience...

post #19 of 31

How good are you with chains?

If there's a dump, then you'll need chains or 4WD for sure. I'd reserve the SUV.
post #20 of 31
The California "rules" are as follows

Types of Chain Controls
During the winter months motorists may encounter traction device controls in the mountain areas of California. When chain controls are established signs along side the road will be opened indicating the type of requirement. There are three requirements in California.

Requirement One (R1): Chains are required, snow tires are allowed.

Requirement Two (R2): Chains are required on all vehicles except four wheel drive vehicles
with snow tires on all four wheels.
(NOTE: Four wheel drive vehicles must carry traction devices in chain control areas)

Requirement Three (R3): Chains are required on all vehicles, no exceptions."

We have been there 3 times and there were chain controls, for particular days, on 2 out of those 3 . Generally if you have a 4wd that is good enough. They used to say that they closed the road before it reached R3
post #21 of 31
you MUST get a 4WD - you can scrounge on other stuff - with the amount of driving you are planning to do in a short period of time in the mountains - RNO to Mt rose - to heavenly - to kirkwood - you definitely need a 4WD. even if it snows just one of the days - you want to be on the mountain not on the side of the road putting your chains on.
post #22 of 31
Thread Starter 
Point taken. 4WD it is.

Thanks again for all the good info.
post #23 of 31
If you're advanced/intermediate skiers, don't be concerned about the quality of terrain at the various ski areas; you'll find plenty of challenges at any of the areas mentioned. The only one I wouldn't bother with is Heavenly because there are better areas just as easily accessed. Mt. Rose would be a good choice because it would be the closest and you can usually get there with just snow tires; whereas, if it's snowing at all, Caltrans will require chains even on a 4-wheel drive. Mt. Rose is the only one you can get to without going all the way to Lake Tahoe (and going right past Mt. Rose) or going through California. Kirkwood is definitely a world class ski area, a world class pain in the ass to get to, and world class dead at night except on the weekend when it's a world class crowded place like most of the ski areas. The drive up to Mt. Rose from Reno is a treacherous one with icy "hair pin" curves; lots of head on collisions from cars skidding accross the center line. If you drive it at a safe and sane speed, you'll have about a dozen idiots behind you blinking their headlights wanting you to get out of their way and then, when you pull into one of the turnouts, they find that, when they are leading the way, they don't dare go as fast as you were! As for the new terrain at Mt. Rose, I seriously doubt that you will attempt it but there is plenty of varied terrain anyway including some really good tree skiing after a fresh powder dump. Just one more thing: amazing as it is, on days when the upper level of Squaw Valley is closed and parts of Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl are closed because of high winds, Northstar has barely a breeze. So watch TV the night before and, if wind is a problem, head for Northstar. For advanced/intermediate skiers, you'll love it (but the parking is a pain in the butt so leave Reno no later than 8.00 in good weather or earlier if it's snowing).
post #24 of 31

South Lake Tahoe

Any of the ski areas are great. Heavenly has a big mountain feel, because it is. Best scenery in the world, miles of intermediate cruisers and enough diamonds to challenge anyone from the East. The largest snow-making capacity if the storms fail and nearly 11000 feet top elevation.

For a storm day, Sierra at Tahoe is the most protected. Rarely is a lift closed unless the Ski Patrol is out sampling the fresh, and the high speed lifts serve over 2000 vertical feet for every ride. Great laid back place 1/2 hour from Lake Tahoe. Crowded on weekends due to proximity to Sacramento and major season pass program ($289 Sierra and Northstar combined pass).

Kirkwood is a great choice and features everything from extreme shots to intermediate cruisers. It is the highest in elevation, has the most snow and best alpine mountain scenery. Often inaccessible due to road closure on 89 or 88 at Carson Pass. Best place to be stranded.
post #25 of 31
Thread Starter 
Just when you think a thread is dead it comes back to life! Thanks Cirquerider for the info.

We're sticking with Heavenly for the simple fact we can catch the shuttle from the airport to South Tahoe and not have to deal with the car rental. As I've said before we're excited just to make it out west, so I don't think Heavenly will dissapoint. For such a short stay (2 1/2 days), it doesn't make a lot of sense to drive elsewhere when we can basically walk out of the hotel to catch a lift. As far as crowds go, we're avoiding Saturday and skiing Sunday and Monday which I expect will be much better.
post #26 of 31

Crowd perception at Heavenly

Just to set the record straight, Heavenly is a relatively busy resort....Relative to some other western resorts. But lift lines are rarely more than 5 minutes even on the busy days. The mountain is huge and crowds are well dispersed. Compared to eastern skiing, it will seem like you are alone on the mountain on even the busiest day. Don't be deterred by Saturday. You can catch the Gondola right downtown, and a new 6-pack lift takes you from the top of the gondola to the California / Nevada divide.

I have a season pass at this area (only $299) and my perception of a crowd is the impact it has on finding fresh powder. Well, powder gets skiied out before noon most days here, and for most of us, that seems crowded. Other than that, and busy lodges at lunchtime, I would be very surprised if Heavenly will seem crowded to you. Take the camera!!! Have a great time. Hope to see you there.
post #27 of 31
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by Cirquerider
Compared to eastern skiing, it will seem like you are alone on the mountain on even the busiest day. Don't be deterred by Saturday.
You've pretty much confirmed my assumptions about east vs. west crowds. I've certainly had my share of crazy crowded days at many eastern resorts so I'm not too concerned about Heavenly. As for Saturday we will likely put in a 1/2 day assuming we arrive at a decent time.

Thanks again.
post #28 of 31
Thread Starter 
Cirquerider -

I'd love to get your input on how to best take advantage of our skiing at Heavenly. We're looking forward to really mixing it up in terms of terrain and are game for just about anything save the steepest, nastiest mogul runs. Can you give me an idea of trails or areas to focus on or avoid? What's the best gameplan for a newcomer? Should we stick to one area of the mountain one day and go for another the next? I'd rather be armed with some good local knowledge than just picking trails off a map at random.
post #29 of 31

Getting around

Its bad form to post local secrets on a board, but you will have time to find them. If we have good December snow, the amount of open terrain and trees increases significantly. There are lots of skiable bowls and glades off skyline trail that are not maintained runs provided the snow is good. As far as a game plan, you will take the gondola out of downtown and get on the new new Tamerack 6-pack. From there the Dipper and Comet chairs serve terrain good for everyone and provide access to everywhere. The trees next to Dipper are good for a half day on a powder day. Best scenery is from Sky Express on the California side. The brochures are all photographed here from Ellies to Ridge Run. Tourists dont often end up in Motts Canyon, and that is worth a look, especially if the mountain seems crowded. Motts Canyon gets tougher as you move southeast (left on the map), but anything off gates 4 and 5 are skiable; it gets interesting off gate 1.

Use the sectonal map here (might be a competitor for bad map award), the PDF maps are not readable. http://www.skiheavenly.com/the_mount...ap/04_05_grid/

There are some good lodging and ski pass packages you might want to check on as well. http://reservations.snow.com/promo.m...u.asp?SiteID=9

Good luck, should be a fun time.
post #30 of 31
Thread Starter 
Hadn't thought of the "local secrets" aspect, point taken. Believe me, I wouldn't think of intruding on any of your secret powder stashes! That said, I'll take what you've given me and use it as a jumping off point. Even general info is helpful, so I appreciate that.

We're all set up with our lodging package (staying at Harrah's), but thanks for the link. And I agree, the on line trail map is not particularly helpful.

Now for the waiting...
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