Spring Up to Tahoe

The second season is on at this ski mecca

By: Bill Becker

California has always been known for its endless summer but high in the Northern Sierra, there’s a nearly endless winter, too. Spring brings sunshine and beach barbeques to low-lying areas but, in Tahoe, it is the beginning of the spring ski season. This means warmer weather, more sunshine and lots of fun activities. Puddle jumping, half-pipe contests, rail jams, festivals, concerts and discounted lift tickets are just a few of the many advantages to skiing in March, April and May.

Lake Tahoe, as a resort , spans two states and reigns as one of the premier ski areas in the U.S., averaging 450 inches of snowfall annually and boasting the deepest snowpack of any North American ski destination. The lake itself, the world’s third-largest Alpine lake, has an average elevation of 6,225 feet and remains supremely pristine. Tahoe’s location, less than an hour’s drive from Reno or three hours from San Francisco, lends itself to weekend getaways as well as weeklong, ski-centered family holidays.

Snowfall often begins well before Thanksgiving auguring a long, congenial season. Several major resorts remain open through May allowing agents to book clients on ski vacations through Memorial Day. Many of the resorts plan for spring with exciting events and discounted packages.

The last few seasons have been especially wet with snow leaving resorts with a 160-inch base for the 2005 spring season and more snow is expected. Tahoe’s Terrain includes some of the steepest and longest runs in North America, with powder stashes, corduroy, wide-open bowls, natural chutes, hot new terrain parks and challenging half-pipes ready for those who want to brave them. Squaw Valley is the self-proclaimed spring skiing capital of North America.

Spring at Squaw blends the best of both worlds, California sunshine and abundant snowpack. Late-season skiing or riding at the resort also means more elbow room on the slopes and shorter lift lines.

One of the many attractions during Tahoe’s spring season is the High Camp Swimming Lagoon and Spa at Squaw Village. Here, guests can combine a great day on the slopes with a dip in a mountain-top swimming pool and a soak in a giant slopeside Jacuzzi. The swimming lagoon is heated to a comfortable 80 degrees and perfect for cooling off after a strenuous day on the slopes. The 25-foot-in-diameter Jacuzzi is a relaxing 103 degrees and is surrounded by expansive decks and an umbrella bar. This year’s lagoon opening was March 19, the official beginning of the spring ski season at Squaw Valley.

Heavenly, the largest and most visited of Tahoe’s roughly 15 ski areas, boasts 4,800 acres of patrolled terrain, 79 runs and 25 lifts, not to mention the longest vertical drop in the Tahoe Basin a mountain descent over five miles long. Heavenly also has one of the largest snow-making systems in the world, capable of opening 66 percent of the resort’s trails. This year’s SpringLoaded event is a month-long celebration with free concerts, pond-skimming and other wacky on-mountain activities. The festival kicks off on March 19.

With 2,420 acres, more than 70 runs, 240 acres of backcountry and an abundance of terrain features, Northstar is another reason Lake Tahoe is so attractive in the spring. The resort rewards spring skiiers with free skiing and events like the Reggae Spring Fling, featuring a ‘limbo contest’ and the Nikita Chickita Snowdown, an all-female snowboard competition.

In addition to Northstar, Heavenly and Squaw Valley, Tahoe numbers five other sizeable, downhill ski resorts: Sierra at Tahoe, Alpine Meadows, Kirkwood, Diamond Peak and Mt. Rose with dozens more resorts nearby.


Squaw Valley
Squaw Valley is offering a spring retreat at the Resort at Squaw Creek. Packages include two nights lodging, two days skiing and free pool and Jacuzzi at High Camp Swimming Lagoon and Spa. Prices start at $456 weekends or $410 weekdays based on double occupancy.
More packages are available. Spring rates are valid from April 3 to the end of the season which is scheduled for May 30.

Take advantage of the Spring Ski Free/Stay Free Package.
Stay for two nights and two days and get the third night and ski day free. Prices start at $162 per person. Ski Free Packages are available from April 3-May 2.
Heavenly also offers the Buy One Get One Free Spring Package.
Trips start at $86 per person and are available Sunday to Thursday only. Valid from April 3 to May 1.

For its part, Northstar’s Stay and Ski Free package gives snow riders double occupancy in a studio condominium, lift tickets good for the next day’s skiing, and a free shuttle ride to Northstar Village (two-day minimum) for $92 per night. Stay and Ski Free is valid from April 3 through closing.

For information on other Tahoe stay and play packages, contact the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association.