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Ski season under way

A skier executes a slick cliff drop at Alpine Meadows.
Jeff Engerbretson |

The advantages of residing in western Nevada County are many — but for dwellers with a bent toward outdoor recreation, the proximity to an ample suite of world-class skiing presents one of the chief perks.

While the Lake Tahoe area boasts a wealth of top drawer resorts on the South Shore, including Sierra-at-Tahoe, Heavenly and Kirkwood, western Nevada County residents tend to focus on the hills that require a less lengthy drive.

Mt. Rose Ski Resort and Incline Village are nestled in the northeast corner of the Lake Tahoe Basin and typically serve the drive-up market from Reno.



Sugar Bowl, Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch, Northstar at Tahoe, Squaw Valley, Homewood and Alpine Meadows are all within approximately an hour and a half of Nevada County and offer varying degrees of terrain, village experience, overnight accommodations, park experience and chairlift infrastructure.

While the resorts strenuously attempt to differentiate themselves from one another, there is one thing they all have in common — a desperate need for more snow.




“We will be doing snow dances up here, that’s for sure,” said John Monson, director of sales and marketing for Sugar Bowl.

“We could use a little more snow,” said Amelia Richmond, spokeswoman for Squaw Valley.

While the large-volume storms have stayed away, the combination of cold temperatures and a few isolated modest storms have allowed most resorts in proximity to western Nevada County to open at least some terrain.

“The cold temps are great as far as blowing the man-made snow,” said Monson, adding that the unusual cold may have had adverse impacts on ticket sales during opening weekend.

Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Northstar and Sugar Bowl are generally considered to be among the best ski resorts in the world and routinely make top-20 lists put out by various outdoor recreation oriented publications.

Squaw Valley opened two weeks ago, but the recent gift in the form of 20 inches of new snow has helped the resort to open Mountain Run from top to bottom.

Alpine Meadows, which recently merged with Squaw under the auspices of a Colorado-based KSL Capital, is set to open today for the first time all year.

Sugar Bowl opened last Saturday, and managed to provide access to the Lincoln ski lift, which opens up 1,500 feet of vertical slopes to its patrons.

Homewood has opened limited beginner terrain and has vowed to make more runs available as conditions permit. While generally considered to be smaller than the “Big Four” on the North Shore, Homewood has no shortage of runs that range from beginner to intermediate, and affords some of the most spectacular views from ski terrain anywhere.

“This is the only place in Tahoe where it feels like you’re skiing right into the lake,” said Homewood Director of Marketing Paul Raymore.

Boreal is even smaller than Homewood, but has a solid reputation for a challenging terrain park, popular with skiers and snowboarders who are more interested in hucking a back flip off a rail, than deftly carving turns on an epic descent through a glade.

Closest to Nevada County, the mountain is open currently (it is typically the first) and offers night skiing (so does Squaw).

Donner Ski Ranch is another resort that is routinely left off the lists of epic resorts, but its affordable pricing and compact layout make it ideal for beginners looking to learn, or families taking young children who remain wary of the steeps.

The resort high atop Donner Summit will open on a limited basis today, Saturday and Sunday.

Sugar Bowl, which has closed through the week, will be open for the weekend.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Renda, email mrenda@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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