High Rollers at Heavenly Mountain Resort // © 2012 Heavenly Mountain Resort
Some of the biggest news for California skiers and snowboarders is happening in Lake Tahoe, Calif., where many of the resorts are investing heavily in new infrastructure, despite the fact that last season didn’t see a lot of snowfall.
“Most destinations are being forced to downsize,” said Daniel Pistoresi, of Dispatch for Ski Lake Tahoe, “but Tahoe is benefitting from several resort mergers.”
At Heavenly Mountain Resort, Tahoe's apres ski party, Unbuckle at Tamarack, has been will appeal to a younger crowd and has been amped up with DJs, half-off drink specials and go-go dancers at the Tamarack Lodge every sunset.
On the slopes, three new intermediate runs await those who didn’t have the chance to sample the Galaxy “trail pod” that was added last season. And, Heavenly has 10 new, energy-efficient Viking V2 snow guns that were installed over the summer at the lower Stagecoach run on the Nevada side to add to Heavenly’s extensive snowmaking capacity.
The resort is also bringing back its infamous 500-foot-long, 56-foot-wide half pipe to the High Roller Terrain Park. It will also host the U.S. Freestyle Championships, March 29-31.
EpicMix, a product developed by owner Vail Resorts, is also getting an update. In addition to other social media integration, guests will now be able to time their runs and compare their results with Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn. Times can be shared through various social media outlets, as well as online. Heavenly’s photographers will continue to take portrait and action photos by scanning a guest’s RF-enabled lift ticket or season pass.
At Sierra-at-Tahoe, there are options for all levels. New Sierra Snowcat Tours will whisk skilled skiers and riders to the top of Huckleberry Canyon where they can access pristine backcountry terrain, and children can feel “the force” at the new Yoda's Riglet Park at the Burton “Star Wars” Experience, designed to help children ages 3-6 make their first snowboard turns. Jedis-in-training will learn through interactive drop-in nodes showcasing custom-made wood carvings of R2-D2, C-3P0, Chewbacca and more.
The resort also has a new package. Sierra’s new Ski, Stay and Soar winter lodging package offers two lift tickets, two 20-minute helicopter rides by Reno Tahoe Helicopters and a two-night stay in South Lake Tahoe starting at $265 per person, double occupancy.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort is celebrating its 40th anniversary this season with upgrades from its new parent company Vail Resorts. The resort will provide the EpicMix mobile app technology in addition to new special events such as the Swatch Freeride World Tour, which combines that event with the Freeskiing World Tour and The North Face Masters of Snowboarding to create one unified global championship series. The only U.S. event in the six-stop world tour is scheduled to take place Feb. 27-March 3.
Squaw Valley is also experiencing a rebirth. The destination has been undergoing a significant renovation. This year’s advancements are topped off by a new high-speed, six-person lift. It is also home to the first-ever ski-in/ski-out Starbucks.
Northstar California is also upping the ante. The resort recently added a new village and has added more high-end services for guests. There is also a new lift. The new quad chair, the Zephyr Express, takes skiers and snowboarders to the recently added Zephyr Lodge where they can enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Crest while dining on pizza, salad and more. For snowboarders, Northstar will be the place to be for riding the half pipe. Shaun White has partnered with the resort to build his own half pipe, which will be open to riders when he isn’t training.
Tahoe will also be even easier to access with the opening of the new Interstate 580 freeway. The six-lane, 65-mile-per-hour freeway is safer, more convenient and faster, cutting down drive times from the Reno-Lake Tahoe International Airport, which also received a facelift recently.
Many resorts offer packages and, currently, some of Tahoe South’s lodging options provide a variety of value-added winter packages and deals, including Lakeland Village’s Kids Stay and Ski Sierra free offer starting at just $229 per person, per night with a one-bedroom townhome with loft, two adult lift tickets to Sierra-At-Tahoe and a free child’s lift ticket with each paying adult.
Travelers can also look forward to a new cache of hotels this winter, including the contemporary Basecamp Hotel and the casual elegance of the dog-friendly Avalon Lodge.