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Sugar Bowl vs. Kirkwood?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
Hola friends! Down to the wire to purchase some of the Discount cards offered for various Tahoe resorts, so I turn back to y'all for advice (as usual...).

For Steep GROOMERS (blue/black), less lift lines (friday or saturday) and overall "great feeling", which to do if given a choice?

And, should Alpine be on this lis? I've discarded Diamond/Hwood/Sierra, and still strongly considering Rose (Heavenly and Squaw are definites).

post #2 of 23
Gpaul, my wife and I vote for Sugar Bowl. We ski that kind of terrain and have done both. Because of the remote location of Kirkwood there may be shorter lift lines there. The "great feeling" part is a matter of what you like. SB is more low key with funky amenities. Nice feel tho. More family run. KW is more resort oriented, in that the feel is more money. At least thats how it feels to us. We have enjoyed both but the feel is a bit different each from the other.It's a hard choice, we like them both.
post #3 of 23
Can't go wrong with either, they're about as far away from each other as Tahoe resorts get, so I'd probably decide based on which is more convenient to where you'll be. Both are closer to the Bay Area then Squaw/Alpine/Rose/Etc so you'll get folks up for the weekend, but I've never really seen bad lift lines at either. Kirkwood has been promoting their "high angle grooming" program and I believe I remember reading they are expanding that even more this season.
post #4 of 23
Well, I have a season pass at Kirkwood. Several years ago they embedded big eye hooks in the granite at the top of the mountain to enable high angle grooming. This is mostly done off the cornice chair. Based on what you described, Kirkwood. On the down-side, the cornice chair is still the only high speed lift at K.

By the way, you discarded Sierra. It is crowded on Saturdays, but you can have it all to yourself on weekdays. It has some of the nicest top to bottom groomed. Typically Castle off the Grandview chair and multiple runs off west bowl are groomed and both offer 1850 to 2000 feet of continuous vertical (high speed quads run from bottom to top, no segments). Sierra is better known for tree runs, but you can easily stack up over 40,000 vertical feet in a day on the groomers.

Be sure to post your itinerary in meet on the hill before you leave.
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
Ah, the Bears (friends) do it otra vez! Based on all 3 of your reviews, I'm going to SBowl, and distance is no problem (our flight alone is nearly 7 hours!!!).

Mkevenson, since we are a family (3), your thoughts hit home.
ski rick, if only 1 High Speed lift @ K, ciao amore! Yep, we're spoiled....
Cirquerider, TKS for the advice on Sierra, we'll go there instaed of the mighty K.

And, I will certainly post our itinerary before we leave, with enough time to get some firm meet-ups!

FYI, based on the 6-day Tahoe Card deal, tentatively looks like this: 12/30,31 Squaw, 1/1 Alpine, 1/2 SugarBowl, 1/3 Rose (discount day), 1/4,5 Heavenly, 1/6 ???, and 1/7 Sierra. Then 1/8-12 Mammoth! Damn, can't wait, thank God this summer went by so quickly!

post #6 of 23
Gpaul, I am a local (well only 4hrs drive) and your itinerary sounds smashing. Is 12/30 or 1/1 on a blackout? We were up last year for the week between xmas and new years, think that we will pass on that week this coming year. May see you at Sierra on 1/7 getting primed for ESA about that time. Happy skiing!!!!!!
post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 
Tks mkevenson, e-mail me your phone # so we can try to set up a meet on 1/7.

In your experience, for the dreaded 12/30,31 and 1/1, what would be your choices/dates based on crowds and hassles (of course, mother nature will be nice to us). You saw my tentative itinerary, pls point me in the right direction.
post #8 of 23
I've read a lot of your posts, and I don't think Squaw on 12/30-31 is a smart idea for you. Squaw works well on busy days by confining yourself to dedicated expert lifts and tough terrain: Silverado, Broken Arrow, Cornice II, Olympic Lady, Red Dog. Squaw is quite unpleasant from both a lift line and congestion standpoint if you're mostly skiing groomers on peak crowd days. I would look to ski the lesser known areas, Mt. Rose, maybe Sugar Bowl those 2 days.

If you're not partying late New Year's Eve, you won't have much of a crowd problem on 1/1, at least in the morning.
post #9 of 23
Where are you staying?

Keep in mind that Heavenly will be at least 45 min from any place on the North Shore. More w/ holiday traffic and snow.

Also, Christmas/New Years can be sketchy on snow, even in very good years. Sugar Bowl, Alpine and Kirkwood have the most relaible snow, w/ the 'wood being the best.

Much of Squaw starts at the 6200 level and Heavenly doesn't get as much snow. Mt. Rose is high, and gets very good quality snow, but not as much.
post #10 of 23
The last post is a key point. Be flexible and don't lock yourself into a schedule. Either too much or too little snow should make you change your day-to-day choices. While I was breaking my weekend vertical record at Mammoth last Dec. 18-19 at Mammoth, my son was at Heavenly and a close friend at Squaw, and both said conditions were mediocre. They got together a couple of days later for a decent day at Kirkwood. Tahoe was not that great last season until the big Christmas storms.

The above is not intended to plug Mammoth over Tahoe early season. Last year the early storms tracked south. They could just as easily track north, in which case Sugar Bowl, Alpine, Kirkwood would be much better than Mammoth. irul&ublo is correct that you should emphasize those 3 areas if the Sierra does not get off to a strong start next year.
post #11 of 23
Tony, 2005 was such a great year with an October 26, 2004 opener, I practically forgot the drought between Thanksgiving and Christmas. But right after the new year....Ahhhh. Snow like we have never seen.

Sierra 1/11/05
post #12 of 23
I can't resist, what a great day of skiing! Need more!:
post #13 of 23
I was at Northstar during the height of that storm the weekend of Jan. 8-9:
post #14 of 23
Thread Starter 
Irul&Ublo (just caught the meaning of this "name", cute), TKS for great advice. Probably first 4 days Reno, last 5 days S. Lake Tahoe. If I can get a good deal on the 9 days all in SLT, that would be my choice, so I'm keeping my toes crossed for good driving weather.

Tony, sorry to bore you (and all) with these questions, but I look forward to the advice y'all give since it's based on experience.

Ok, won't lock into areas until we get there, but will purchase the tahoe 6 card. No blackouts!

After a bit of further thought, the following lurking in my pea-brain (but not a locked-in plan yet): 12/30 Heavenly or Sierra, 12/31 Alpine, 1/1,2 Squaw, 1/3 Rose (discount day is Tuesday), 1/4 Heavenly, 5-7 ??? Then 8-12 Mammoth.

post #15 of 23
If you are flying into Reno and skiing th North Shore of Tahoe first -- I would not start your trip at Heavenly or Sierra. Driving around the lake is not quick. Budget at least one hour. Possibly more. There is a lot of traffic. Tahoe City and Heavenly near US 50/CA 89 are especially bad.

Frankly, if you looking for groomed steeps (blue/black), you might want to consider Northstar. The Backside of Northstar has 1800 vertical feet and a great upper intermediate pitch and Lookout Mountain has legitimate black diamond groomers for 1200-1400 feet. The entire frontside is groomed at a low/mid intermediate pitch.

Personally, Northstar is not my favorite. But for steep grooming -- it is probably better than Sugar Bowl, Alpine and Mt. Rose. For example, Alpine does not groom any of its expert slopes -- except Wolverine Bowl (which is an intermediate pitch). Sugar Bowl -- the groomers off Lincoln and Judah are not very steep, but there are a few good ones off Disney. Mt Rose's groomers have a nice mid/upper intermediate pitch, but only have about an 1200-1400 vertical rise.

Northstar's overall feel -- very purpose built, modern (7 HS lifts), woodsy, resorty with an occasionla view of Tahoe. Not funky, local or high on the 'cool factor' (which less developed resorts seem to intrinsically score on). Very good mountain on storm days. Can be quite crowded.

I do not know how that impacts your tickets, but just adding my thoughts.
post #16 of 23


I agree that Northstar's Backside and Lookout have some great blue/black groomers. And Lookout is too advanced for most of Northstar's target cliental (they're usually in one of the nice bars or restaurants talking about skiing Lookout 'tomorrow') so tends to be uncrowded, even on busy days. The Backside is busy after about 10:30 when folks start showing up (where were they for the first two, good, hours ?).

Sugar Bowl doesn't really have steep groomers but Alpine does - I've seen Waterfall groomed and there's some steeps off the chairs on the left hand side of the area.

Squaw has some silly-steep stuff that they groom from time to time - I guess the groomers get board. West Face, Tower 13, Granite Chief. Big Red is in the steeper category and some folks seem to think that Siberia is steep - they spend enough time standing at the top looking down it. I think the stuff under the high-speed lift at Rose is pretty steep too. But maybe that's just me,
post #17 of 23
I agree about Northstar's backside groomers, sounds like an excellent fit. But 12/30-31 your first priority is crowd/traffic avoidance. Based in Reno Mt. Rose seems almost automatic, especially as it's your first day. And Sugar Bowl seems a logical second choice, mostly Interstate drive, keeps you away from the North Shore/Hwy 89 gridlock on 2 of the busiest days of the year. I-80 to 267 to Northstar is an easy drive too, but Northstar's dayskier parking is a pain and it will be crowded. If you do Northstar one of those first 2 days be there VERY early (applies to Alpine/Squaw also).

I would have been inclined to do this trip Mammoth first, then Tahoe. In Mammoth you're in one place, and even though there will be a lot of people, the lifts spread people around well. IMHO the most annoying factor about crowds at Tahoe is traffic/parking. Most of the ski areas are manageable once you're on the hill.
post #18 of 23
Thread Starter 
TruckeeLocal and chrisc, tks to you Northstar will see me IF the weather is good. We fly into LAX and drive to S. Lake Tahoe or Reno, via Sacramento or 395, depnding on weather.

We usually arrive at mountains 30-45 minutes BEFORE lifts open and wait no more than 2 minutes for first ride up. Applies to Tahoe?

Tony, I'm doing the opposite of your suggestions because of Lodging costs and availability. Tahoe/Reno are full of rooms anytime, at Mammoth they're premium until after 1/2. And hopefully I can get a ski in/out in Mammoth at a good rate 1/6-12. Thanks again.
post #19 of 23
There aren't very many ski in/ski outs at Mammoth, and if you're price sensitive they aren't worth it. There are plenty of shuttles to the hill, and the short drive up there isn't that bad either with a choice of base areas.

North shore/Hwy 89 are a different story. They will grind to a halt on days like 12/30-31 or in bad weather. But as we have all said, you have lots of choices when and where to ski out of Reno.
post #20 of 23
Thread Starter 
It seems I will HAVE to stay in reno until 1/2, to avoid 89 or 50/28 to North Shore.

One other question, on Friday 12/30 will HEAVENLY be as bad as a Saturday? You see, I'll probably spend 2 days there, and it is the closest from where we'll rent equipment, somewhere in South Lake Tahoe.
post #21 of 23

North Shore

I'm not sure but I would think that North Shore is closer to Reno than South Shore. In any event it's more accessible via I-80. Mount Rose is the closest. Note that Northstar is known as a BAD WEATHER resort 'cause all the runs are tree lined and there's next to no avalanche control ('cause the majority of it's too easy). At Northstar they have something called 'Club Vertical' where folks pay extra for their own line, makes them feel 'special', and enhances their bad attitude. At Squaw folks just blantantly jump the line and the staff 'we care' do absolutely nothing about it. But generally arriving early does get one a few good runs before the masses arrive. More importantly arriving early beats the traffic and yields better/more convenient parking. Note that at many resorts you can generally pay for parking, $10-20, and get a much more convenient parking location.

Big picture. You're coming during the big holiday season. It's going to be a mess. A big mess. In bad weather a massive mess with flatlanders in their SUVS who don't realize that 4wd is for going not stopping : I hibernate and go BC skiing or snowshoeing. But that's me. So manage your expectations, put a smile on your face, sing songs, and enjoy the carnage that is Tahoe holiday traffic Incidentally during my hibernation phase I get some jollies by monitoring for area 'Truckee'. Most instructive of why to give our local law enforcement some respect :
post #22 of 23
Being based in Reno during the peak time is probably better than being based at South Shore. I'm sure you can find rentals in Reno too. Last President's weekend my son Andrew ripped his ski pants at Mt. Rose and we got a great deal on new ones (and gloves too) at the Gart Bros. in a Reno mall.

As for Heavenly, driving down 395, then up Kingsbury (207) to the Boulder or Stagecoach base areas won't be too bad. But driving into South Tahoe itself on 12/30, I wouldn't do it. And the hill itself will be a zoo. IMHO 12/30 will be just as bad as 12/31 for crowds/traffic. Take it easy on yourself the first day and do the short drive to Mt. Rose.
post #23 of 23

Basing in Reno

I'm not sure that visiting folks fully appreciate what a Sierra storm is like. No concept of feet of heavy snow dumping for hour after hour, day after day : They don't appreciate that major roads, interstates, can close down. They don't appreciate that when roads close down they can't get to the stores and restaurants, let alone ski areas. Hell even the ski resorts need to dig out their lifts At least if one is based in Reno one will have access to food. And there's some interesting stuff to do there - check out :

Mogul Mouse on Moana in Reno has a good selection of rental equipment.
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