It’s (almost) the return to normal in ski resorts this winter

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Pandemic. Drought. Fires. Smoke. Bad news everywhere. And then: SNOW! And a lot. Last month’s over 3-foot build-up shook and invigorated Tahoe resorts, which weren’t ready to hire staff and open weeks earlier.

Among the first to click on his boards: Austin Metz, 28, of Olympic Valley, who hiked and skiing right after the storm, days before the lifts even started operating at Palisades Tahoe ( the station formerly known as Squaw / Alpine). Its summary in one word: “Deep!

Palisades and Boreal Mountain Resort both opened quickly, Palisades with seven rotating lifts, Boreal with two. Both drew costumed skiers and riders with ear-to-ear smiles and sometimes outrageous clothing. It was the first year for Halloween skiing in Tahoe since 2004, and for Palisades, only the third time to open in October in its 72-year history.

It’s unclear whether the cold temperatures will persist and whether the white matter will hold up, but the outlook has thrilled snow sports enthusiasts. Most stations are expected to fully open by early December.

And there are more reasons to celebrate: The third winter of the COVID-19 pandemic brings restrictions on masking, catering, elevator loading and other operations back. You will still need to purchase tickets in advance to ski or ride at most resorts, and masks will be required indoors almost everywhere. And at Vail resorts, you’ll need advance reservations and proof of vaccination to purchase food to eat inside.

But things are looking a lot more normal before the pandemic than in the past two years. “For the most part, the mask police will be gone,” said Mike Reitzell, president of the Ski California Industry Association, referring to last year’s strict social distancing rules, which required resorts to create “lanes ghosts “to separate people, charging the elevators at partial capacity and engaging mountain hosts to implore skiers and runners to put” the masks – on their noses! ”

“It was a challenge for both the guests and the people who applied it,” says Reitzel.

“This year,” he adds, “we have worked very hard as an industry again to deliver a consistent message about what to do when you go to a resort. What’s important is that people should check with resorts on their social media and websites. There may be places where indoor meals are extremely limited or very basic to take out. Bars may or may not be open. Everything is fluid; a lot can change over the course of the season.

There is sad news mixed with optimism. Sierra-at-Tahoe, the closest Highway 50 resort to Sacramento and the Bay Area, suffered extensive infrastructure damage in the Caldor Fire, which burned down in the area for almost three months. Assessment and mitigation efforts are underway, with season pass holders being offered a “recreation” until next season. Stay tuned to sierraatahoe.com and social networks for updates.

Here’s a look at what to expect around the lake this season:

Tahoe Palisades

The resort formerly known as Squaw / Alpine has changed its name to eliminate the ‘S’ word, which is considered offensive by Native American groups (be sure to visit the Washoe exhibit at High Camp to learn more). The “palisades” refer to the iconic cliff formations of the two resorts which have long been the difficult domain of expert freeskiers.

Otherwise: Rebranding the adjacent resorts, which together offer some 6,000 acres of skiable terrain, will take some time, as will the construction of a new gondola connecting the base areas. New this year: a treadmill in the beginners area of ​​the High Camp in Olympic Valley, the return of indoor meals and après-ski activities (including live music at the KT Base Bar).

Mobile food ordering continues, a social feed has been added to the Palisades app, and many special events are on the schedule. Tickets must be purchased in advance. Unvaccinated guests should wear a mask indoors.

Find more details at palissadestahoe.com.

Palisades Tahoe, formerly known as Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, received over 3 feet of snow in late October and opened for the season on Friday, October 29, 2021, only the third time in 72 years the resort has opened in October. (Photo: Kate LeMasurier Abraham, Palisades Tahoe)

Vail Resorts (Heavenly, Kirkwood, Northstar)

No reservations will be required for Epic pass holders this year, although advance online ticket sales are required for non-pass holders. For COVID security reasons, guests will need to book a reservation to eat inside, and people over 12 will need to show proof of vaccination. Masks are mandatory but no proof of vax is required to access indoor toilets or lockers.

Coming Up: A new high-speed six-pack elevator at Northstar will replace the existing Comstock mid-mountain elevator, but it won’t be ready until next year. Heavenly also benefits from some elevator upgrades.

Look for live music and après-ski action to pick up at Heavenly and Northstar Base Villages. In Kirkwood, Expedition Kirkwood is back with guided backcountry trips.

Check out specific protocols and special events at epicpass.com, as well as the websites of individual ski resorts, including www.skiheavenly.com, www.kirkwood.com, and www.northstarcalifornia.com.

Mont Rose Ski Tahoe

A $ 7.5 million land extension will open next year. This year, employees are to be vaccinated, but while there is no vax warrant for guests, masks will be mandatory indoors.

“The essence of this sport is to be outdoors,” notes Mike Pierce, director of marketing. “This year,” he says, “we’re doing a lot of food and drink, but with a reduced menu. We always encourage people to “make your car your home base” and tailgate or eat out on the decks. ”

Improved snowmaking operations will ensure more reliable conditions this year. For experienced skiers, Alpenglow Expeditions will organize guided outings in the backcountry.

Find more information on skirose.com.

Sugar bowl / Royal Gorge

“We’re going to be opening a lot more interiors than last year, and this will be one of the biggest changes,” said Jon Slaughter, Executive Director of Marketing and Sales at Sugar. The main lodge dining room and Belt Room Bar will reopen, as will the historic Hotel at Sugar Bowl, accessible by gondola. The children’s ski school is also making a comeback.

No masks are required outside, but they are encouraged inside, Slaughter says.

At sister property Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort, the Summit Station Lodge will reopen. Greater access to snowshoes is added, as well as more dog-friendly trails.

More info: sugarbowl.com, royalgorge.com

A twilight silence settles on the slopes of the Sugar Bowl. (Courtesy of Dino Vournas)

Homewood Mountain Station

You can’t beat the views of Lake Tahoe from this west coast resort. Look for a multitude of promotions to learn to ski. For advanced skiers and snowboarders, Homewood Snowcat Adventures offers backcountry expeditions. For non-skiers, a sledging area and snow games at the base.

More info: skihomewood.com

Boréal Mountain Resort / Woodward Tahoe

Ski early in the day and pay more, later in the day and pay less – and know that Boréal is the only resort in Tahoe to offer night skiing this season. To encourage young rippers, children 8 and under get a free pass with the purchase of an unlimited season pass by an adult. Meanwhile, Woodward Tahoe is an indoor “Bunker” facility where action sports enthusiasts can learn, develop and master their sport, from skateboarding to skiing, trampoline and parkour training disciplines.

More info: rideboreal.com

Diamond Peak Ski Resort

Community-run and very laid back, DP is one of the few resorts in Tahoe that will allow drop-in ticket sales this year. Sign up for Last Tracks wine and beer tastings, departing from scenic Snowflake Lodge at 4 p.m. on weekends.

More info: diamondpeak.com


KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

• Ski California has direct links to the Covid-19 policies of California resorts at skicalifornia.org/covid19/

• You don’t have a season pass? Consider getting one soon – and come midweek to reduce waiting in lines. Remember that purchases of tickets and passes must, with a few exceptions, be made online in advance.

• Resort shuttles will be operating at full speed this season, but please wear a mask on board.

• Free, on-demand Mountaineer service returns with expanded door-to-lift service between Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows, and this year it is partnering with Placer County to connect to the TART bus service on weekend evenings. end. Information: SquawALpineTransit.org

• Consider going “old school” and bringing your own lunch to put in a locker and eat out. You can also tailgate in the parking lot (bring a lawn chair if you don’t have an actual tailgate). At Heavenly, Palisades, and Northstar, you can also head to the base village for lunch or après ski libations.

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