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Paralyzed by choice at Lake Tahoe

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

Hi guys, I recently moved to San Francisco for grad school and I have been researching places to ski this winter. I apologize if this thread is redundant, but I would appreciate any insight from people with experience in this area.

 

Here is my situation: I raced seriously until recently, so I am plenty competent on big-mountain terrain, even though I am more used to east coast ice and groomers. I like powder, steeps, and exciting and varied terrain. Lacking that, I like fast groomers.

 

I have only skied one day in the Tahoe area, and it was a mid-week powder day at Squaw. It was probably the best day of skiing of my life. However, Squaw is pretty expensive and wanted to get some opinions on other mountains in the area (also, I get three day weekends, so the Saturday blackout dates on most of their passes are a bummer). So far, I think I have it narrowed down to Squaw, Alpine Meadows, and Kirkwood (where I can get a pass for $199), but please feel free to suggest others!

 

I appreciate any advice you guys can offer!

post #2 of 28

Don't know Squaw and AM, but Kirkwood's really, really good and you'll break even on that pass price in just a few days.  Serious gnar at Kirkwood and it has wide horizontal spread, so skis much bigger than the 2000' vertical might imply.  Relatively high base gets some of the best snow coverage in Tahoe region. 

my old Kirkwood trip report:  http://www.dcski.com/articles/view_article.php?article_id=809 , but there's better gauge by locals on this website if you search

post #3 of 28

$199 is dam cheap and I would get one for sure, at least your first year.  But I just like the north shore better.

 

Squaw has some of the best terrain and skiers in the US. I would eventually look at getting in on a house share on the north shore.

 

Alpine, Sugar Bowl, Rose are all nice hills.

post #4 of 28

You can't go wrong at any of those hills for skiing.

 

The issue is really transportation and lodging.  Squaw and Alpine both have many more (and more reasonably priced) nearby lodging choices, and 80 -- while hardly perfect -- is a far more reliable ingress and egress route.

 

At the end of the day, though, I'm assuming that you're going to be going with other people.  Find out where they ski.

 

Alpine has a $299 college pass that's blacked out between Xmas and New Years and over MLK and President's weekends.  Squaw's is $369, but has a lot more blackouts.

post #5 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the help!

I have a couple specific questions:

- Will my girlfriend (very much a beginner) murder me for taking her to Kirkwood a few times?

- I have heard that Kirkwood is not particularly challenging in terms of terrain. I assume it is not on Squaw's level in that respect, but how does it compare with Alpine?

 

post #6 of 28

Kirkwood has a real nice beginners area segregated from rest of terrain and with a couple dedicated lifts.  Caples Crest and much of the expansive Sunrise section are great for low intermediates.  Some of the steep at Kirkwood is shown in this epicski wiki on extreme  http://www.epicski.com/wiki/extreme-skiing-in-north-america

 

PS:  I have to agree with Dad that a couple hundred difference in pass price might be minor compared to favorable commute and a place to crash.

post #7 of 28

All three have fine beginner areas & you can't go wrong with your choices.

post #8 of 28

How about taking a different approach and not getting a season pass your first year skiing Tahoe?

May cost a bit more, but has the advantage that you'll get to sample all the resorts you mention.

 

My wife and I have skied Tahoe (north and south shores) for the last 12 seasons, and like north shore best.

My favorites are Sugar Bowl, Squaw and Alpine - my wife would agree, but order them differently.

 

If I was in your position and wanted to focus on a single resort, it would be Sugar Bowl.

It has a nice selection of terrain and I think it would work for both you and your girl friend.

 

Good luck with your decision,     rickp

post #9 of 28

"How about taking a different approach and not getting a season pass your first year skiing Tahoe?"

 

This is a great idea, unless you are going to be up there every weekend. Each of the different ski areas has its own personality and this way you can sample them and then decide next year which area you want to lay some roots down.

post #10 of 28

On that front, the Bay Area Ski Bus is worth considering.  They have discounted 8-trip (and season pass) deals.  bayareaskibus.com

post #11 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the input. I'm leaning towards getting a season pass somewhere rather than exploring because I am a broke grad student. If I spend the $200-400 right now, it becomes a better bargain the more I ski, whereas I would have trouble justifying more than a handful of trips if I am paying as I go.

 

At this point I am leaning towards alpine meadows because it just seems easier to get to, and is easier to finagle cheap/free housing. Kirkwood does seem to have some devout fans though...

post #12 of 28

I agree with the advice you've been getting but want to add that Squaw is unusual for beginners; it is upside down.  Unlike most resorts the beginner terrain is at the top of the mountain in a generally segregated area with really nice views of the lake.  I would encourage you to take your friend there for at least a day.  And of course you may wander off a bit if it suits you.

post #13 of 28

you will like Alpine & it also has its devout followers!

post #14 of 28

Having just learned to ski in Tahoe this last season, I also would give my vote to Squaw. Getting that awesome feeling of seeing the lake and feeling like a "real" skier on a bluebird day was priceless. Way better than my first ski trip where I was five feet from the parking lot (at Bear). Also consider the benefits of decent apres ski if taking the GF. Having a decent lodge to get a reasonably priced (and decent) meal or hot coco is not something to be scoffed at (especially for the beginner).

post #15 of 28

Can relate to your "broke grad student" comment, and think that Alpine would be a fine choice.

 

Have fun this winter,     rickp

post #16 of 28

Squaw is full of Type A people.  If that's your scene, great.  If not, look elsewhere.

 

Alpine is the next valley over and has similar terrain, but with a much more laid-back vibe. 

No on-site accommodations means fewer tourons.

 

Heavenly and Northstar are the most "touristy" so your gf might be happiest there.

 

Mt Rose has cheap cheap cheap season passes, but is the farthest away from you -

it's more of a local's hill for Reno. 

 

Sugar Bowl is the closest big hill (>1000' vertical) - if convenience is important, it

might be for you.

 

I probably like Homewood best - low key, less crowded, good variety of terrain.

 

Diamond Peak is good for a day or two, but I don't think you'd want to spend a season

there. Plus it's farther than the others.

 

Haven't been to Kirkwood or Sierra-at-Tahoe, so can't comment on those.

 

I'd take the advice given upthread and spend my first year hitting the various hills and

then making an informed decision about where to call home.  www.snowbomb.com has

some nice deals.

post #17 of 28

I live in Truckee about 15 minutes from Squaw (1 hour + on sunday afternoons).

 

If I was coming from the Bay Area with beginners I wouldn't choose Squaw first for a couple of reasons:

 

1. As mentioned above the beginner terrain isn't on the lower mountain and unfortunately this means access is tough for them.

2. Squaw has gotten into the discounted season pass game with Northstar and Heavenly. As a result the weekends are really crowded.

I decided not to get a pass there this year because of the crowds.

 

If you are really set on Squaw I would seriously consider Alpine as an alternative. It's one of my favorites.

 

Personally I think you you give serious thought to Kirkwood and Sugar Bowl.

I skied and worked at Kirkwood for 3 years when I was living in Berkeley and going to school. It has terrian tough enough for the Subaru Extreme Tour and a pretty good beginner/intermediate selection. Besides you avoid the I-80 traffic congestion all the way to the Bay Area.

 

I also suggest Sugar Bowl. Lots of improvements in the last 10 years and you don't have to travel all the way to Tahoe to ski. Between Lincoln and Judah there is some pretty challenging terrain for the experts.

post #18 of 28
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the input, everybody.

 

I decided to go with the Alpine Meadows pass. Kirkwood was tempting, but the transportation and lodging factors pushed me towards Alpine. Squaw was enticing also, but the cost was hard to justify. I haven't been yet, as I am presently on the east coast, but I am looking forward to getting out there after this ridiculous storm.

post #19 of 28

Good choice.

 

Squaw is also good.

Also Kirkwood (even though it's the site of my only ski injury-a broken leg, gasp)

post #20 of 28

Nice choice! As someone who is also of the female persuasion who was a newbie to skiing when we haunted NorCal in the 90's, Alpine was a favorite of mine. Loved Kirkwood and Sugarbowl, too. Never cared for Squaw because of the way it was laid out. Northstar was the ultimate blue skiers mountain. Have a blast!

post #21 of 28

I'm a Squaw skier, I love the place! I have been to most of the resorts North and South shore but Squaw is my favorite. AM is a lot of fun but I don' t know if it's really worthy of a season pass, you can really explore it all in a few days, where Squaw has so much to experience. That being said, I understand being a broke student and need to get out and ski! You really can't go wrong, good luck!

post #22 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bigdog68 View Post

AM is a lot of fun but I don' t know if it's really worthy of a season pass, you can really explore it all in a few days


I must be really incompetent, then, since I've got over 200 days there over the last five seasons and only now feel like I'm scratching the surface.

post #23 of 28
Thread Starter 

Update/question:

 

I've had some great days at Alpine so far this year. There are pockets of really great terrain and I like the vibe. However, squaw now has a college pass for about the same price and I am leaning in that direction for next year. Somebody please tell me that last weekend's crowds at squaw are not typical... I know the line for KT gets long on a regular basis, but can I expect 20 minute waits everywhere? Even when Alpine is half closed (which is often), the lines are never too bad.

So, is Squallywood a zoo?

post #24 of 28

Normally, lines at Squaw are not an issue.  This year isn't normal, however.  The La Nina weather has brought us too much of a good thing many weekends this season.  If the powder hounds come out and Squaw can't open the upper mountain due to wind or avalanche issues, there will be a lot of people jamming up a small number of lifts.  There's not much that can be done about it.  I had one of my best skiing days ever on a day when the upper mountain was closed and Alpine didn't even open.  No guarantees, however.

 

One other data point: over MLK weekend, Squaw had no crowds.  I heard reports of major lines at Northstar then.

 

Squaw is a big place.  Those of sufficient ability tend to spread out quite well.  I'm always amazed that anywhere I look, someone has found a way to leave tracks.  I'm also impressed with how I can almost always find short lift lines serving something fun.

 

This year's season pass prices look great to me.  I'd advise you to try Squaw.

post #25 of 28

How about Sugar Bowl?

Great resort, closer to SF, and their $349 College Pass seems reasonable.

 

Enjoy,     rickp

 

post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Xela View Post

Normally, lines at Squaw are not an issue.  This year isn't normal, however.  The La Nina weather has brought us too much of a good thing many weekends this season.  If the powder hounds come out and Squaw can't open the upper mountain due to wind or avalanche issues, there will be a lot of people jamming up a small number of lifts.  There's not much that can be done about it.  I had one of my best skiing days ever on a day when the upper mountain was closed and Alpine didn't even open.  No guarantees, however.

 

One other data point: over MLK weekend, Squaw had no crowds.  I heard reports of major lines at Northstar then.

 

Squaw is a big place.  Those of sufficient ability tend to spread out quite well.  I'm always amazed that anywhere I look, someone has found a way to leave tracks.  I'm also impressed with how I can almost always find short lift lines serving something fun.

 

This year's season pass prices look great to me.  I'd advise you to try Squaw.



Wasn't this the first year for the cheap Squaw season pass?  That may have changed the pattern.

Northstar is shooting for vacationing families --> holidays much worse than normal day.

Squaw is going for local volume --> more weather dependent, less holiday dependent.

 

(We had great days at both Squaw and Northstar, by the way.  Great in different ways, but both wonderful.)

post #27 of 28

If memory serves, it was at least the second year of cheap season passes.  This coming year will be even cheaper, at least for the gold pass.  Not that I'm complaining.

post #28 of 28

It was the second year.

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