Those first in line at Sugar Bowl on opening day were greeted by ideal snow conditions, according to Marketing and Communications Manager Drew Jackson.
“It was a fantastic opening day,” Jackson said.
According to Jackson, Sugar Bowl received 60 inches of snow with the perfect sticking recipe.
“The feedback from my team was that the way the storm delivered the snow could not have been more ideal, except if it happened before Thanksgiving instead of mid-December,” Jackson said.
According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, avalanches are more likely to happen due to weak, inconsistent layers in the snowpack, where varied temperature changes can affect snow layer bonds.
The storm that started Dec. 14 began snowing “heavy and dense, sticky and wet,” Jackson said. “It stuck to everything.”
As the storm progressed, temperatures dropped and the powder became lighter and drier, Jackson said, creating the ideal riding conditions.
“The top of the snow, it was colder, so it was light powder,” Jackson said. “It’s very fun to ski.”
More snow is expected today and into the weekend in the Truckee-Tahoe area.
Jackson said smiles were all around at 1:30 p.m. Dec. 15, as the mountain successfully opened Mt. Lincoln Express, the longest lift to the mountain’s highest elevation — 8,383 feet.
The snow quality elevated season passholders’ moods, he added. Opening day came with its usual hiccups. This year, certain season passholders who bought their tickets in a specific time frame had some trouble scanning their pass, but the issue was remedied quickly. Jackson said some troubleshooting took place opening day, given that their radio frequency identification lift access program was only 2 years old.
‘POWDER DAY VIBES’
Palisades Tahoe reopened Dec. 15 as well, said Public Relations Manager Alex Spychalski.
Spychalski said sporadic snow has lead to an inconsistent season thus far, and that she was grateful to establish a 5-foot base.
“We got 3.5 feet of snow prior to Halloween weekend — enough for us to open a lot of our upper mountain lifts,” Spychalski said. “We got a whole resort open in four days.”
Palisades Tahoe opened Oct. 29 through Halloween, Spychalski said, “but then it got really warm.”
Plans to offer opportunities to ride on the weekends faded under the November sun, Spychalski said, and the resort closed again. Only two of the mountain’s 29 cable cars were in operation when Palisades Tahoe reopened Nov. 26.
“I haven’t felt like we’ve been open, so (Dec. 15) was the first day we expanded operations beyond those two,” Spychalski said.
The resort was closed entirely the day before, due to gusts of winds up to 48 mph on the crests.
“It was real powder day vibes,” Spychalski said. “People were waiting in line for three hours, but they were just so excited. People were happy and it was not warm.”
Neither Palisades Tahoe’s Spychalski nor Sugar Bowl’s Jackson specified their resorts’ attendance on opening day, but said it was what they expected on an opening day that fell midweek and was exclusive to season passholders.
Sara Roston, director of communications for Vail’s West Region, said mountain staff were “thrilled” with their Dec. 12 opening day.
Vail opened limited terrain at Heavenly and Kirkwood ski resorts Dec. 11.
“Our teams have been working incredibly hard, and the Mountain Operations team in particular has been extremely impressive, having opened a significant amount of terrain in a short period of time,” Roston said. “That’s no easy feat – it takes a lot to prep new runs with this much snowfall, ensuring safety for all on the mountain. We’re really proud of our teams at Northstar, and it’s been really great to welcome guests back to the mountain.”
Boreal/Woodward Tahoe opened Nov. 15.
Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun and The Union, a sister publication of the Sun. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org