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Skiing Diamond Peak

Kevin WiserSkiers are treated to spectacular views at Diamond Peak Ski Resort.
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

A man with a camera slung around his neck stood next to a hazardous-conditions-below-sign posted at the top of Diamond Peak’s Crystal Quad chair Friday morning.

The sky was cloudless, bluer than blue, except for jet trails and the crescent moon.

But turns it out, instead of watching the sky, I should have been minding the signs.



“The story is no snow and a slow economy,” said Mike Ortman, a farmer from outside Chicago who spends winters taking pictures at Lake Tahoe.

Following a series of big storms in December that dumped up to 14 feet of snow, the Northern Sierra have been pretty much high and dry since the first of the year.




Snow guns pumped out the man-made white stuff all day long while I was at Diamond Peak Ski Resort, where much of the mountain along the Nevada side of the lake was closed for lack of snow.

“They only sold 25 tickets yesterday,” lamented Ortman, who sells photos to tourists with the magnificent lake as a backdrop.

“I shoot at Squaw, too, and have never seen it so empty as yesterday; and the skiing was great,” Ortman added.

It’s usually colder in the Tahoe Basin until it gets to March, noted Gill, a local old-timer who skis all the resorts around the lake.

“There was four people in that lift line, that’s probably the most I’ve seen all day,” he said with a chuckle as we boarded the Crystal Quad chair.

The wind was steady Friday morning, but died down to occasional gusts in the afternoon.

“Today is probably what they call windy up here, they usually don’t get wind,” Gill said.

Framed by goggles and a snowy white beard, all you could see of Gill’s face was the end of his nose.

“They’re lucky they have snow making,” he said looking down from the lift on the sparsely covered west facing slopes exposed to the afternoon sun.

But I wasn’t complaining.

Skiing in the old days back in the Utah homeland, we couldn’t wait for the lifts to open and hiked the mountains after the first storm of the year just to ski down a scant foot of snow.

Though some of the runs I’d like to have tried Friday – G.S., Corkscrew, O. God and The Great Flume – were closed, I found some great skiing on Crystal Ridge and down cruising runs like Powder and Luggi’s.

While soft snow and warm temps have been the norm in the Northern Sierra since the first of the year, the conditions at Diamond Peak were just the way I like it – cold, hard and fast.

But sometimes I forget that I’m older now and can’t ski as hard and fast as I used to.

“The mountains kind of remind me of the ocean,” said Peter Hijashino, a Maui native and novice boarder who’s been surfing since he was a kid. “The ocean is a powerful, powerful thing, just like Mother Nature up here in the mountains.”

A couple of runs later, I lost it grinding turns over a sketchy windblown stretch of snow-covered ice and ended up in a pile at the bottom after a rag-doll tumble down the mountain.

Five days later, I’m still feeling it, but that’s what it’s all about.

I don’t like to fall, but I figure I had it coming. See, I believe you have to take some risks to truly be alive and that’s why I love to ski.

Diamond Peak is touted as a community-based mountain that caters especially to families and kids.

Beth and David Ellis and Dave and Deanna Rosa, two couples from San Jose, have five children under 7 years of age between them.

“A couple of kids learned to snowboard yesterday,” said David Ellis.

“The instructors are great,” added his wife Beth.

While the dry, spring-like afternoons over the past month have taken their toll on Diamond Peak’s west-facing slopes, other ski resorts in the Tahoe Basin are still reporting great conditions and plenty of snow.

Next week, my old knees permitting, I’ll be skiing closer to home at the Donner Summit resorts Boreal, Donner Ski Ranch and Soda Springs.

This is a continuing series on skiing in the Northern Sierra by staff writer and former competitive skier Kevin Wiser. The weekly feature appears Thursdays in The Union.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

Where

Diamond Peak at Incline Village, Nev., is located on Lake Tahoe1s northeast shore.

Weather and traffic permitting, the drive from Grass Valley/Nevada City takes about an hour and a half.

Getting There

Follow Highway 20 east to Interstate 80, at Truckee take Highway 267 to Lake Tahoe, then head east to Incline Village on Highway 28.

Facilities

Diamond Peak1s base lodge and mid-mountain Snowflake Lodge offer food and drink and great views of the lake.

On the Web

http://www.diamondpeak.com

Ski Profile

Diamond Peak has a vertical drop of 1,840 feet, 655 acres of skiable terrain, 30 trails and six chair lifts.

Cost

Lift tickets for adults at Diamond Peak cost $41 for a full day and $31 for a half day. Juniors (13-18) pay $33 for a full day and $25 for a half.

Children (6-12) and seniors (60-69) ski for $15 for a full day and $11 for a half day and kids 5 and under and seniors 80-plus ski for free.

The Diamond Peak Mini Pass offers savings of up to $14 a lift ticket with the purchase of two to seven tickets all at once.


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