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Early Season in Tahoe

A slow start in the Sierra

Nice grooming at Heavenly, December 2023

Nice grooming at Heavenly, December 2023

The last 2 years spoiled us.  By this time last year we had received 143″ of snow at our house.  The year before it was an even more massive 152″.  This year we’ve had only 2 “storms” and a total of 12″!

Dodge Ridge in the central Sierra isn’t even open yet and most of the open resorts have very limited terrain available, but we’ve gotten out a few times.  Our plan to ski Sierra at Tahoe over Christmas failed again.  Last year it was too much snow and this year too little.  Resorts with a lot of snowmaking like Heavenly are doing OK and we’ve been skiing there the most.  The views of Lake Tahoe are reason enough to go up and make some turns.

Snowmaking at Heavenly, December 2023

Snowmaking at Heavenly, December 2023

The plan

With only 2 more resorts to ski it’s a pretty easy plan this year. We will be heading up to ski Marmot Basin in Jasper, Alberta in mid March for our 99th resort.  In February we will be heading back to Utah to ski Solitude again. It’s changed considerably since we last skied there 13 years ago in 2011 and the review needs an update.  We might be able to squeeze in another trip somewhere in late February depending on snowfall which has been lacking pretty much everywhere in North America so far.

Bring on the snow!

End of the 22/23 ski season

Sadly, the 22/23 winter and ski season has come to an end.  What a season it was though! Cold and snowy from beginning to end.  With only a couple days of rain at the house all winter, most of the precipitation fell as snow, and there was a LOT of it.  We measured 334″ at our house.  Nearby Sierra-at-Tahoe measured 472″ at the base and 686″ at the top — just 5 miles away from us!  We had 4 or 5 power outages and many days where we couldn’t get out of the house due to impassable roads.

Big snow banks in our neighborhood, March 2023

Big snow banks in our neighborhood, March 2023

Skiing began very early on November 12th at Heavenly.  Our last day was July 3rd at Mammoth — almost 8 months later!  It felt like endless winter.  We made the most of it, and even though both of us are still working we got the same number of days we got the year before when I (Ron) was taking a break from work: 55 days for me and 44 for AiRung.

Last snowstorm of the season at Heavenly, May 2023

Last snowstorm of the season at Heavenly, May 2023

Almost done!

We made excellent progress on the project completing another 10 resorts.  8 of them were in the Northeast which we consider to be an epic achievement resulting in a huge sigh of relief.  With 98 done, we only have Marmot Basin in Alberta, Canada and Alyeska, Alaska left.  These are both best skied in mid March so we won’t be completing the project next year.

West Bowl at Sierra-at-Tahoe, April 2023

West Bowl at Sierra-at-Tahoe, April 2023

Late season in Tahoe

As usual, the 2nd half of March to early May was the best skiing of the year because we could actually get to the resorts and the crowds started to diminish.  It kept snowing right up until the end with the last snow storm on May 6th when we were skiing Heavenly.

Perfect spring day at Heavenly, April 2023

Perfect spring day at Heavenly, April 2023

Mammoth in July

We always wrap up the ski season at Mammoth and this year it was much, much later than last year.  That meant the skiing wasn’t as good because there is no such thing as good snow when it’s close to 70 degrees out and the sun is blazing.  Still, it’s a tradition and we like the camping in the nearby forest.  This was about as late in the year we have ever skied and luckily there are only 4-5 months before it all starts again!

Main lodge area at Mammoth, July 2023

Main lodge area at Mammoth, July 2023

Do it!

If you ever thought of doing something like this project, do it!  Skiing all these resorts all over North America has been the most fun we have had in our lives.  We are getting close to the end and in some ways we wish we made the list bigger so we had an excuse to make the huge effort to reach distant resorts as long as we can ski.  Whether it’s skiing, visiting national parks, climbing mountains, or whatever you love, a bucket list project can be a blast!

"Climax" run at Mammoth, July 2023

“Climax” run at Mammoth, July 2023

The Big Trip 2023

Perfect conditions at Sugarloaf, March 2023

Perfect conditions at Sugarloaf, March 2023

We leave, it snows

It almost never fails.  We leave Tahoe for our Big Trip and the biggest storms of the year happen.  This year was beyond anything seen before.  About 90″ of snow fell on top of the 210″ that had already fallen this winter.  It made the news repeatedly as buildings collapsed and resorts were buried.  Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly were both closed for days and most of the days they were open operations were very limited. Luckily we have the best neighbors ever and they kept the driveway clear for us!  There is nothing like coming home to 3′ of heavy snow and ice blocking the driveway and they saved us from that.  Thanks Jason!

Powder day at Sugarloaf, March 2023

Powder day at Sugarloaf, March 2023

Lucky with the weather this time

Even though we regret not being in Tahoe for the historic event, it was actually the perfect time to ski the last 8 resorts in the Northeast on our list.  This was without a doubt one of the most fun and memorable trips of the project!  A few big storms came in just before we went and we caught 2 more while we were there.  Most of the resorts were 100% open, or close to that.  Temperatures were reasonable, and we didn’t hit ANY rain!  Amazing luck.  The 2 previous trips featured rain, sleet, and -40F wind chills.

Brackett Basin at Sugarloaf, March 2023

Brackett Basin at Sugarloaf, March 2023

We started the trip by flying into Boston on a red-eye and driving up to Northern Maine to ski Sugarloaf.  The last 30 miles featured pretty heavy snow, but driving through a typical storm in the northeast is not like driving through a blizzard in Tahoe.  They do a great job with the roads and the snow banks are low which leaves the road just as wide as normal.

The charming town of Kingfield, Maine - close to Sugarloaf, March 2023

The charming town of Kingfield, Maine – close to Sugarloaf, March 2023

Sugarloaf, Sunday River, Cannon, Smugglers’ Notch and Jay

We skied 6 days in a row starting with 2 at Sugarloaf, then on to Sunday River, Cannon Mountain, Smugglers’ Notch, and Jay Peak.  For Sunday River and Cannon we spent only one night nearby and then drove on to the next resort after skiing.  We tend to ski until late in the day for the review, so this gets really tiring and hectic.  Not to mention our legs which get more and more sore!  At some point you kind of settle-in to the routine and your body adjusts to the demands of skiing 25-30K of vertical a day thankfully.

Fantastic grooming at Cannon Mountain, March 2023

Fantastic grooming at Cannon Mountain, March 2023

Travel and rest day

For the 2nd half of the trip we left our excellent cabin in Jeffersonville, VT at Sterling Ridge Resort and did some winter tourist things on the way to Lake Placid, NY.  This was our only day off from skiing.  The ferry across Lake Champlain was a unique experience for us — especially on a ski trip.

Back in my birth state New York we made our way to Lake Placid and looked around the 1932 and 1980 Olympic sites and did a sled dog ride on Mirror Lake.  This was AiRung’s first time walking on a frozen lake and it was funny when I noticed she was walking gently almost as if she was afraid of falling through.

A walk on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, March 2023

A walk on Mirror Lake in Lake Placid, March 2023

Whiteface, Pico, and Killington

Whiteface was a special treat with probably the most steep grooming we have ever encountered.  Add to that rare bluebird conditions, temps in the high 20’s, and no wind!  It’s the highest resort in the northeast with the largest vertical drop and ranks 2nd on our eastern resort rankings after Sugarloaf.  We call it the “Sun Valley” of the east because the resorts are actually very similar the way they ski.

Fantastic Whiteface Mountain, March 2023

Fantastic Whiteface Mountain, March 2023

After skiing almost 30K we popped back in the car and drove several hours back to Rutland, Vermont to ski the last 2: Pico and Killington.  Rutland looks a bit like many towns in California strangely.  Our hotel had a panoramic view of the large mall parking lot LOL.

Our last resort Killington had to be skied in one day instead of 2 because a large Nor’easter was coming in and we had to get out before that happened.  We rescheduled our return flight for one day earlier.  This was a good decision because that storm made the national news with plenty of footage of mayhem on the roads shown.  We did almost 31K of vertical at Killington and really enjoyed it even though almost everyone we talked to before going there gave us a bad impression of the place.

Another perfect day at Killington, March 2023

Another perfect day at Killington, March 2023

Done!

Getting back to the airport in Boston was a reminder of why I don’t like driving in Boston.  The last 6 miles took about 1 1/2 hours and we barely made the cutoff time for baggage.  We lifted off in the exact same weather we arrived in — pouring rain.

It’s a huge relief to have pulled this trip off without missing any of the resorts on our list.  Anything could have happened, but it didn’t and the conditions were perfect for reviewing these resorts fairly.  Skiing in the northeast is really appealing and fun when conditions are good.

This is what $2,000 worth of lift tickets looks like these days. Some have multiple days on them if you are doing the math!

This is what $2,000 worth of lift tickets looks like these days. Some have multiple days on them if you are doing the math!

Northeastern resort rankings

After 3 trips across the continent and 14 visited resorts we are ready to rank them!  Note that there are a few resorts that we would have liked to have skied and reviewed like Magic Mountain, Burke, Bolton Valley, Stratton, Wildcat, Gore, Saddleback, Attitash, Waterville Valley, Okemo, and Loon, but tough decisions had to be made to keep the list at only 100 resorts.  Admittedly, we have favored western resorts due to somewhat more reliable and likable weather.

Rank Resort
1 Sugarloaf, ME
2 Whiteface, NY
3 Le Massif, QC
4 Sugarbush, VT
5 Killington, VT
6 Stowe, VT
7 Cannon Mountain, NH
8 Smugglers’ Notch, VT
9 Mad River Glen, VT
10 Jay Peak, VT
11 Pico, VT
12 Sunday River, ME
13 Mont-Sainte Anne, QC
14 Mont-Tremblant, QC
Plenty of steep stuff was skied at Sugarloaf, March 2023

Plenty of steep stuff was skied at Sugarloaf, March 2023

What’s next?

Now we will enjoy late-season skiing in Tahoe.  Palisades is planning to stay open until June and although we haven’t heard anything about Heavenly and Sierra I bet they will extend as well.  We will wrap it up as always with a skiing/camping trip to Mammoth, which plans to stay open until late July. This could end up being another year where our final ski days are on the 4th of July week!

Rare eastern snowcat skiing at Sugarloaf, March 2023

Rare eastern snowcat skiing at Sugarloaf, March 2023

The unmarked Poma Line run at Pico, March 2023

The unmarked Poma Line run at Pico, March 2023

Our first 8-passenger chair was skied at Sunday River, March 2023

Our first 8-passenger chair was skied at Sunday River, March 2023

Mid-season update: 90th resort skied!

Record Snowfall in Tahoe

West Bowl at Sierra at Tahoe, January 2023

West Bowl at Sierra at Tahoe, January 2023

Wow, late December to mid January was crazy!  As of January 19th Tahoe had received more than the average snowfall for a whole season.  We experienced power failures, 8″ of RAIN in one day, resort closures, massive traffic jams, and unplowed roads for days in South Lake Tahoe.  That much snow is actually not great for skiing since it impacts resort operations negatively.  Yes, there is such a thing as too much snow! One day we went up to Sierra and just sat in the lodge for 1 1/2 hours waiting for them to open a lift — any lift.  Later, both Sierra and Kirkwood had lifts taken down by wind on January 23rd.  Sierra’s West Bowl and Puma chairs are still down as of this writing 9 days later.  It’s also been the coldest winter in Tahoe since 1973 according to the NWS.

Neighborhood street XC skiing was about all we could do in early January, 2023

Neighborhood street XC skiing was about all we could do in early January, 2023

The Red and White trip

If you are reading this in 2023 you probably remember the meltdown of Southwest Airlines over Christmas.  We had plans to fly to Spokane to ski Red Mountain and Whitewater in British Columbia but luckily canceled them in mid December due to lack of snow.  Turns out our flight to Spokane would have been canceled anyway.  Whew!

Well, the snow finally came and we made the trip in mid January after Southwest got things straightened out.  Those were 2 of the easiest and emptiest flights we ever had.  Our flight back had 33 people on a 170 person plane!  Timing is everything…

Wait is that the sun?? Fun day at Whitewater, BC - January 2023

Wait is that the sun?? Fun day at Whitewater, BC – January 2023

Trip reports are coming later, but we had a really good time and got a good feel for both resorts.  The first day at Red was challenging with thick fog and even some rain at the bottom (again!).  The snow was good starting 1/3 of the way up though, and coverage was great.  Whitewater was fun on day 2 and is clearly loved by the local Nelson community.

There was some drama on the drive back from Nelson to Trail when a rock slide closed the road we were on.  It was dark, there was no cell service / internet for GPS, and we had no idea where we were as we followed vague instructions from the police for a LONG detour to Castlegar.  We made it though, and day 3 back at Red was clear-ish and allowed us to have a complete picture of the resort for a review.

A clear day at Red Mountain, BC - January 2023

A clear day at Red Mountain, BC – January 2023

Housing changes mean new options

We are now back to living part time in the SF Bay Area in Newark and part time in Tahoe.  Because of that we have actually skied Dodge Ridge twice this year using our Sierra-at-Tahoe pass Powder Alliance benefits.  We love it enough to make 2 day trips this year which means getting up at 5:30AM and not getting back until 6:30PM.  The 2nd trip last weekend was our best day of the season with 6″ of snow falling during the day and a great time following AiRung’s friend Nicole and her family who are lifelong Dodge Ridge skiers.  We got to see how the local community up there gathers for skiing and laughs.

Free refills at Dodge Ridge - January 2023

Free refills at Dodge Ridge – January 2023

What’s next?

With 90 resorts complete, we need to get to work on the Northeastern resorts since 8 of the 10 remaining are there.  We have a tentative plan to go back around March 1st.  If that doesn’t work due to continuing lack of snow we will redirect to Alberta, Canada and re-ski Lake Louise and hit up Marmot Basin near Jasper for the first time.  Until then we will be up in Tahoe enjoying the bountiful snow!

This is why we ski. Dodge Ridge - January 2023

This is why we ski. Dodge Ridge – January 2023

22/23 Starts off Strong

A good start

Even with the record December snowfall last year, the snow didn’t really start until the middle of December with no snow in November.  We didn’t even get our first day until Dec 11th.

This year has been very different with 97″ of snowfall at our house by December 12th, so we were able to get some really good skiing done in November and the first half of December.

Rosie breaks trail on November 9th, 2022

Rosie breaks trail on November 9th, 2022

Sierra-at-Tahoe reopens after the Caldor fire

We had some good skiing in Tahoe at Heavenly and Kirkwood with a few powder days but really enjoyed our first day back at Sierra at Tahoe after the Caldor fire. They were closed all of last year and spent the whole summer clearing standing dead/burned trees. Now they are back open with all of the lifts repaired and almost all of the named trails open.  We are so happy to have all 3 of our local resorts going again!  Sierra is special and we really missed it last year.

First day at Sierra after the Caldor Fire, December 9th, 2022

First day at Sierra after the Caldor Fire, December 9th, 2022

Big storm December 9-12

Tahoe is known for huge storms and we were treated to one December 9th-12th with 34″ of snowfall at our house.  Luckily we purchased a new Honda snowblower this year and it made clearing the driveway so much easier.  The power was out for 14 hours which is why we also own a generator.  Gotta be prepared living up here!  The neighbors and I all got together with our Hondas and cleared the whole street after freeing a stuck truck. The arrival of plows is never something you can count on.

Aftermath of a huge Tahoe storm in our backyard, December 11, 2022

Aftermath of a huge Tahoe storm in our backyard, December 11, 2022

Dodge Ridge day trip

Our Sierra passes are good for 3 days at Dodge Ridge and we may just make it an annual pilgrimage. It’s a really fun place with interesting terrain, a really good grooming effort, and light crowds even on the Sunday before Christmas. It is big enough with enough challenge to make for a great day. This year the conditions were all-time great for this early in the season with everything open and some spectacular grooming.

Great conditions at Dodge Ridge, December 18th, 2022

Great conditions at Dodge Ridge, December 18th, 2022

The Plan

This year’s plan is to get as many of the east coast resorts done as possible in late February-early March.  We will spend 2 weeks and keep it flexible with some down days in case of bad weather, which is virtually guaranteed.  The Christmas week plan was to ski Red Mountain, BC and Whitewater, BC, but when we get pounded with snow in Tahoe it usually means it’s not snowing up there, which is exactly what happened. We didn’t want to ski those 2 areas known for great snow when it was thin, so we will have to get those late this season or wait for next year.

We are looking forward to the rest of the season and especially the adventure of bagging some more resorts on the list!

End of the 21/22 ski season

Well here we are again at the end of the 21/22 ski season. Sadly the snow has melted and the long wait begins as always.  It’s only been a week since we last skied and we miss it already!

Obligatory Mammoth summit pic - May 2022

Obligatory Mammoth summit pic – May 2022

Mammoth trip

We wrapped up the season in late May at Mammoth.  This is one of the most fun events of the year for us combining camping with our dog Sammy and skiing.  We take the trailer and camp in the forest off Mammoth Scenic Loop as close as we can get to the main lodge.  In the morning we get up early and park at the bottom of the Stump Alley Express at the Mill parking area.  They open for skiing at 7:30 AM and close at 2:00 PM so we make breakfast and get out as early as we can to get the nice firm conditions before it turns to slush after about 11AM.  They do a fantastic job farming snow and preparing the groomed runs with salt in some areas to keep the snow firm.  It really is the best late-spring skiing in North America.

The Mill parking at Mammoth, May 2022

The Mill parking at Mammoth, May 2022

 

Scotty's at Mammoth, May 2022

Scotty’s at Mammoth, May 2022

Tahoe came back

Back in mid March when we had been experiencing the worst mid-season dry spell ever, we didn’t think Mammoth would even make it to May.  But the weather pattern changed in April and it ended up having above average snowfall and was colder than normal.  This led to the best ski days of the whole year in Tahoe.  Both Heavenly and Kirkwood stayed open late and we were able to ski about every-other day until Kirkwood closed May 1st.  By April most people hang up their skis so the slopes were wonderfully empty most of the time.  We ended up with 55 total days for me and 42 for AiRung.

In early April we even got 1 day of skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe.  They opened for a weekend for their 75th anniversary.  The skiing was horrendous because this was literally the last 2 days of the dry streak and almost all the snow had melted, but it was good seeing our old friend.

Palisades at Kirkwood, April 2022

Palisades at Kirkwood, April 2022

California run at Heavenly, April 2022

California run at Heavenly, April 2022

Last minute New Mexico trip

After our trip to Utah, Idaho, Montana, and Washington in late January, we kept things going with a quick trip to New Mexico.  We had received only 1″ of fresh snow at our house from Jan 1 to Feb 15th, but New Mexico was getting some good snow.  Due to earlier canceled trips we had some airline credits to use so we booked a last-minute trip to Taos and Santa Fe.  Luck was with us and we hit Taos on a 6″ powder day, and Santa Fe was probably the most fun ski day of the whole year.  We love that place and our stay right next to the square in the town really added to the experience.

View over to the Sandia mountains from Ski Santa Fe, February 2022

View over to the Sandia mountains from Ski Santa Fe, February 2022

Santa Fe historic square, February 2022

Santa Fe historic square, February 2022

Progress was made

We were supposed to get 5 more resorts done on the east coast this year, but our trip had to be canceled when our dog got sick while we were in New Mexico.  He’s OK, but it was a long road getting him better and we had to stick around close to home.

Even with that canceled trip we still made a pretty good showing with 8 more resorts done.  We only have 12 more to do and with some luck we hope to finish up in 3-4 more years.  These are some of the hardest resorts to get to and will all require flying.

View west from the top of chair 23 at Mammoth, May 2022

View west from the top of chair 23 at Mammoth, May 2022

Website changes

Some major changes were made to the website.  At the request of several people I put together an overall rankings page.  I hadn’t planned to do that because every resort on our list is already a winner and rankings are VERY subjective. But the people have spoken so I took a stab at it.  Rankings always get people worked up so we will see what happens!

I also ranked resorts by each of the stats we publish: Real Vertical, Size, Actual Snowfall, Lift Pods, and Trails.

The stats table for each resort was then updated. The rankings for each stat now shows if it is above or below average.  This helps to compare whatever resort review someone is reading to every other resort objectively.

Have a good summer and see you next fall!

Mid-season update: 8 more resorts done!

We just got back from another great Big Trip to Utah, Montana, Idaho, and Washington.  This trip finished up all the remaining resorts in the continental western US.  By the numbers: 15 days, 3,000 miles driven, 10 ski days, 9 resorts, and 8 that were completely new to us.  This was the most new resorts we’ve ever skied on a single trip.  Only 12 left to do!

Sampling the goods at Lost Trail Powder Mountain - January 2022

Sampling the goods at Lost Trail Powder Mountain – January 2022

These trips are fun, but they are a LOT of work.  Planning, scheduling dog sitting, driving in bad weather, checking in and out of many, many hotels, figuring out lift ticket strategies, and many other details keep us busy in the winter.

After last year’s COVID shut-out, we really felt like it was time to get back to work.  The forecast in Tahoe was for weeks of dry weather (which unfortunately continues), so it was a good time to head north and east where the snow was a little better.  Crossing the border is still difficult so we decided to ski every resort left that we could drive to in the US: Powder Mountain Utah, Lost Trail Montana, Ski Discovery Montana, Whitefish Montana, Montana Snowbowl, Silver Mountain Idaho, Schweitzer Idaho, and 49 Degrees North, Washington.

Beginner and Intermediate paradise at Powder Mountain, January 2022

Beginner and Intermediate paradise at Powder Mountain, January 2022

Highlights:

  • Lost Trail Powder Mountain on the Montana/Idaho border was a real hidden gem.  This was one of the most fun days we’ve ever had on the project, with 10″ of powder and empty slopes.  This day was a great example of why we like exploring new resorts.
  • The town of Whitefish is really cool with a lot of great restaurants.  We wish we could afford a ski property there!  At the ski resort we took the mountain tour and learned all about the resort and town from some dedicated locals.  The resort has a team of 22 (!) mountain hosts who give tours and educate tourists.
  • Montana Snowbowl was another hidden gem.  It’s steep, uncrowded, and has some really interesting terrain and surprisingly good lunch fare.
  • Silver Mountain is a really interesting resort starting with the long gondola ride from and back to the town of Kellogg.  The terrain is steep with a lot of steep groomers.  There is also excellent long traverse-to terrain on the backside of Wardner Peak.
  • Schweitzer is a major resort with a great lift network, plenty of snow, steeps and grooming, and we would definitely like to go back and explore the resort more on a sunny day.  Our best lunch was at the summit sit-down restaurant there.  Great food and not expensive.
  • The steepest stuff we skied was off the Limelight Chair at Discovery.  Almost every trail off that lift is legit double-black diamond terrain.  It reminded us of Taos or Crested Butte.
  • Used all 6 pairs of skis we brought with us! One of the benefits of driving vs flying is to throw all of our skis in the sky box so we can choose the best skis for the snow conditions. Powder, firm groomer, off-piste, or icy slopes, we’ve got the ski for it!
Steep terrain off the Limelight chair at Discovery, January 2022

Steep terrain off the Limelight chair at Discovery, January 2022

Yes, there were some lowlights like being woken up at 2AM by drunk and rowdy hotel guests in Anaconda Montana. We also got yelled at by the terrain park worker at 49 Degrees North for going through the terrain park TOO FAST (who knew that was a thing??). AND at the same resort getting yelled at by a guest who almost ran into us (we were downhill, having the right of way).  Working our way through thick fog with zero visibility on steep terrain at Whitefish and Schweitzer was unsettling.  Free breakfasts at hotels — gets old very quickly.  Super late lunch (2:30) at Discovery due to big crowds in a small lodge and no other food options.  Well, these were all part of the experience and we have learned to make the best of it!

Great grooming at Silver Mountain, January 2022

Great grooming at Silver Mountain, January 2022

Tahoe is in the midst of a multi-week dry spell with no snow at all, and none on the horizon.  It looks like maybe 50 days at a minimum, which is insane after what happened in December.  Our next trip is to Vermont in early March. Based on our past experience, that means it will dump in Tahoe!  The upcoming Vermont trip will be another ambitious plan to ski 5 new resorts.

Backside of Wardner Peak at Silver Mountain, January 2022

Backside of Wardner Peak at Silver Mountain, January 2022

 

 

 

 

 

From fire to deep powder – The 21/22 season begins!

Fire

Before the ski season even began for 2021/22,  we returned from a long camping trip on the Oregon coast to the Caldor fire.  Within 2 weeks it was knocking on the door of South Lake Tahoe.  On August 29th, the fire burned through one of our favorite local resorts Sierra at Tahoe.  We were evacuated from our South Lake Tahoe home for almost 3 weeks.  Although the fire spared us due to firefighting efforts and prior forest management, this was a pretty emotional experience for us having the fire only 2 miles from our house and burning one of our big reasons for living where we do.

We will miss skiing at Sierra this year but we are hopeful it will be back next year!

Smoke from the Caldor Fire, August 2021

Smoke from the Caldor Fire, August 2021

October snow

We had great hope when October brought 10 inches of water falling from the sky.  20″ of snow fell at our house and XC skiing started very early.  However, high pressure and warm weather quickly set in and our early season snow was short lived.

First Snow - October 16th 2021

First Snow – October 16th 2021

Dry November

Ironically, November became the 2nd driest month since records were kept.  It was so warm that the resorts couldn’t even make snow to open for Thanksgiving. Boo!

Camping in Death Valley instead of skiing - December 2021

Camping in Death Valley instead of skiing – December 2021

December snow

The snow finally came back on December 9th and the storm door opened.  As of this writing all of the Tahoe resorts are sitting at well over season-to-date averages.  Some are closing in on 50% of their average yearly snowfall!  Our resorts Heavenly and Kirkwood could easily be 100% open if operations allowed for it.

Our ski season started on December 11th.  Although much later than normal, the continuous storms have already given us geat powder skiing at Heavenly just before Christmas. However, great conditions also come with the usual traffic nightmares in and around South Lake Tahoe.

XC Skiing with Sammy - December 2021

XC Skiing with Sammy – December 2021

 

Challenging driving in South Lake Tahoe - December 2021

Challenging driving in South Lake Tahoe – December 2021

Plans

Due to COVID limiting our options last year, we have some catching up to do for the project. We would like to get a couple of Montana resorts done, visit our last Utah resort, and ski 4 more resorts on the East Coast.  This is somewhat ambitious given the current COVID situation. Hopefully, with some luck we should be able to make some great progress.

In between these trips we will enjoy the well above average conditions in Tahoe, which are some of the best in North America right now.  As we sit here writing this on Christmas Eve, we hear the falling snow hitting the window and strong wind gusts outside, promising more powder on Christmas day!

Storm day powder at Heavenly - December 2021

Storm day powder at Heavenly – December 2021

 

Heavenly Powder - December 2021

Heavenly Powder – December 2021

20/21 Season wrap up

As is our tradition, we wrapped up the season with a camping/skiing trip to Mammoth after our Tahoe resorts closed for the season.  This year ended up with way below normal snowfall at Mammoth, so we had to go in early May instead of June or even July 4th.  Because of that the skiing was actually somewhat better than we are used to.  We timed it just right to get nice temps for camping and no wind, but not too warm.

Skyline at Mammoth, May 2021

Skyline at Mammoth, May 2021

Camping is a big part of the fun of these trips.  We typically camp in the woods off the Mammoth Scenic loop road.  That means we have to wait until the snow melts down below but before it melts too much up on the hill.  The lifts open at 7:30AM which is a very early start.  We leave camp and park in the Main Lodge parking lot before 7AM, have a quick breakfast, walk the dog, and then get out on the hill.  Sammy is semi-happy waiting in the trailer while we ski, and we are done by noon or 1PM when it turns to deep slush in the late spring sun.  So we get to ski, camp, and hang out with our dog which is a rare treat!

Sammy the Husky hangs out in the trailer at the Mammoth Main Lodge parking, May 2021

Sammy the Husky hangs out in the trailer at the Mammoth Main Lodge parking, May 2021

Season Wrap-up

Our last update was March 20th and after that we got another month of skiing in Tahoe, mostly at Sierra-at-Tahoe and Heavenly.  It was almost all spring skiing though, because it snowed only 2 more times before the resorts closed, closing out a dry year with more sunny days.

Beautiful groomer at Heavenly, April 2021

Beautiful groomer at Heavenly, April 2021

AiRung’s family came up for several days of skiing over the kids’ spring break.  They made good use of their season passes this year and we all renewed our unlimited Sierra passes for next year.  We love that place!

Vicky, AiRung, and Abao spring skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe, April 2021

Vicky, AiRung, and Abao spring skiing at Sierra-at-Tahoe, April 2021

Total days were 72 for me, and 40 for AiRung, which is a new record.  I guess we were like everyone else during Covid.  Nothing to do except go outside and ski!

Looking forward…

Our quest for new resorts this season stalled because of COVID. Next year we plan to get as many new resorts done as we can.  We’d really like to make more progress on the project after getting skunked this year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Late Season update

It’s been a great ski season so far!

Untracked powder at Kirkwood, March 2021

Untracked powder at Kirkwood, March 2021

As of March 20th, I have 55 days and AiRung has a respectable 29.  This year in Tahoe has been far below average as far as snowfall, currently sitting at 66% of normal averaging the 3 resorts we usually ski at: Sierra at Tahoe, Heavenly, and Kirkwood.  The snow quality has been higher than average though, with many smaller but cold storms.  We’ve only had one large storm this year vs. the 3 or so we usually get, which is the main thing this season is missing.  That has dragged down the totals.  But honestly those huge storms are a huge pain and it’s hard to even get much skiing in right after a 4-foot dump.  It takes the resorts days to dig out, fix things, and open up terrain sometimes.

Trench touring after the one big storm, January 2021

Trench touring after the one big storm, January 2021

This will be the first year we actually ski more days at Sierra at Tahoe than Heavenly and Kirkwood.  We have passes to both, but Sierra has been the best option for snow quality and depth most of the season.  Plus it’s close and just really fun.  I plan to update the Sierra review to give it a higher ranking soon.  That place is incredible with great groomers on West Bowl, steeps in Huckleberry Canyon and all over the top of the Grandview chair, and tree skiing everywhere.

Sierra at Tahoe groomer, January 2021

Sierra at Tahoe groomer, January 2021

Crowds have been really bad this year on weekends, but now that I’m retired I ski mostly weekdays which are usually only bad on powder days.  Most resorts have reported that visitation is down compared to prior years, but it doesn’t feel that way.  Lines have been long due to reduced lift capacity to allow for social distancing.  This is usually worst right when the lifts open and base area lifts are jammed with people trying to get up the mountain.

Progress on The List?

We made very little progress on the project this year due to Covid.  Our plan was to get some Montana resorts done, but as the date grew closer there were a lot of anti-masker conflicts going on in Idaho and Montana.  Instead, we used our 5 included days on the Epic pass at Vail, Beaver Creek, and Park City, which had fewer mask issues going on.  Beaver Creek was the most fun of the 3, with a powder day and lots of fun revisiting our favorite runs there.

Beaver Creek powder day, February 2021

Beaver Creek powder day, February 2021

 

The only progress we made was revisiting Bear Valley.  We had skied there last 19 years ago, and had no pictures at all.  On our several prior visits the Grizzly chair was never open, which is the main attraction.  We did a day trip in early March and had a great time.  We were able to ski the whole mountain this time, got lots of pictures, and updated the old review.  It definitely deserves a place on the list and we upped our rating to 3 stars.

 

Bear Valley, March 2021

Bear Valley, March 2021

 

 

 

 

There has been one change to The List this year.  Everyone feels like Powder Mountain, Utah should be on the list.  I’ve been there and felt like so much flat terrain made “powder days” more like “plow days”.  Still, that was more than 10 years ago and we plan to give it another chance with open minds.  The dropped resort will be Montana Snowbowl.  It looks interesting, but the ancient Riblet center pole lifts, lack of snowmaking, and lack of consistent snowfall means it will be dropped.  We will probably ski it anyway in the next couple of years and if it’s awesome we will reshuffle the list again.