Spring skiing in high gear at Tahoe resorts

By: Jeffrey Weidel Special to Gold Country News Service
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Although still awaiting one of those wicked spring storms that can often reignite the season with mounds of fresh power, if no additional snow arrives in early April most Lake Tahoe ski resorts won't be mourning their fate. Enough snow poured over the cavernous Sierra mountain range from mid-December through mid-February that no resort has to shut down early, unless they feel like it. Unlike some springs when the curtain comes down prematurely, that's not going to happen in 2008. Most of Tahoe's major resorts will keep operating until late April. And three of them - Heavenly, Alpine and Squaw - plan to still be running lifts in May. Squaw has plans to be the last one standing, calling it quits on May 11. Barring a wet cold front, it's spring skiing time right now and actually has been for quite a while. Following a frigid period of weather in January and more of the same in early February, the sun became appearing regularly after the Martin Luther King holiday weekend and has pretty much remained that way ever since. While many people have already switched gears and are in summer mode, preferring to bike, hike, golf and fish, ski resorts are still receiving their share of visitors. One of the favored spots in the spring is Squaw, which not only keeps plenty of lifts running this time of year, but also has the added advantage of showcasing its High Camp area. Haven't experienced a sun-drenched spring day at High Camp? Indulge yourself and give it a try. The area rests at 8,200 feet and features a large hot tub, heated pool and convenient poolside bar. It's the perfect retreat when the snow gets slushy in the afternoon. The high altitude pool and jacuzzi offers skiers and snowboarders a one-of-a-kind mountain experience, Squaw spokesperson Savannah Cowley said. Only at Squaw can guests combine a great day on the slopes with a dip in a mountaintop swimming pool and a soak in a giant slopeside jacuzzi. To entice even more skiers and boarders to extend their season, Squaw now offers a $179 spring pass that can be used for the rest of the season and applied to a 2008-09 pass. Spring pass deals are certainly prevalent. Alpine offers one for $139, Kirkwood has a $99 deal, while Sierra and Northstar provide a $100 savings for the popular Double Whammy Pass. Deals of all kinds are easy to locate this time of year. Heavenly offers some tremendous ski and lodging bargains on its web site every day. Anyone skiing Northstar on April 15 instead of scrambling to finish their taxes pays $15 for a lift ticket (must be purchased by April 13). At Sugar Bowl, for the cost of a lift ticket a person can receive a free two-hour group lesson and basic rental package. Spring can be a great time to learn because the snow is soft, there are no crowds, and people get more attention from an instructor. For the regular visitors who don't want the season to conclude, the hope of another powder day is always a lingering desire. Spring can bring sunny days, music on the deck, some great corn snow, and a few more spring powder days. They always seem to sneak their way in, said Jennie Bartlett, Sugar Bowl's marketing manager. Funky events are also customary in April. At Sierra, live bluegrass music will take place April 5-6 when it won't be unusual to see an uninhabited visitor trying to dance in their ski boots. Comical pond skimming competitions are staged, snow golf tournaments can be entered, and some professional snowboarding events also take place. Some resorts keep the gimmick days to a minimum and simply want to continue showcasing their mountain amenities. Northstar is proudly still basking in the glow of the additions to its village this winter. The village makes Northstar an even more encompassing winter destination experience, said Northstar spokesperson Kirsten Cattell. New restaurants like Mikuni's and Sushi Bar have attracted new visitors and they were able to see everything that we have to offer. Kirkwood likes to stick its chest out this time of year as well, bragging about a snowpack that annually exceeds the competition. Heading into the last week of March, Kirkwood was reporting over 460 inches of snow this year. Looking back over the entire season, the resort did encounter some unfortunate timing with larger storm systems arriving on busy weekends which impacted both roads and lift operations, said Daniel Pistoresi, the resort's marketing and communications manager. However, these challenges were a worthwhile trade-off for locals and passholders who enjoyed midweek powder days with multiple storms dropping over eight feet. “ Jeffrey Weidel is a Sacramento freelance writer with more than 25 years of skiing experience. This is his final snow story of the season.