Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the western US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.
Tue Jan 02, 2018 4:48 pm
I skied over 19K vertical which was pretty good for getting on tram (which I didn't count as downloading was required) at 8:40 and being back at the cabin at 12:20. Even more impressive was that my son and his friend were with me on the tram, even though they walked home after attending Snowglobe music festival, then celebrating the New Year at the casinos. My wife and friends and I watched the good band, gondola drop and fireworks at Heavenly Village which they have on New York time so we were back at cabin by 10.
We would have been done skiing earlier, but had to take another lap on Stagecoach as patrol had connector road between there and upper NV closed to bring someone up it on a sled behind a snowmobile. We also had a short delay when they held tram we downloaded for a lady who thought she broken her collarbone. Most open runs were low to mainstream intermediate with a mix of beginners, some going very slowly, and more advanced skiers, some going very fast.
Groomers were very good, especially early. Big Dipper run was probably the best, especially compared to the ungroomed, firm bumps with poor visibility we found there a little over two weeks earlier. I also had three more challenging runs, Twice, I went down Jack's which was filled with firm bumps and had roped entry marked as advanced. The second time down I found a clean line on left side. I also skied edge of Aries Woods trees skiers right of Little Dipper run. By keeping speed way down, I was able to do it without hitting any rocks. Due to lack of snow, Heavenly does not have connector in from top of Sky chair to Ridge run. If you go up Sky, you are going to NV.
- My son who turned 26 last week getting some air in terrain park on Comet
- Little Dipper run to lookers right of Comet chair. I came down in trees to left in this picture which may have been the only trees marked caution and not closed.
- Ridge Run on our last lap just before noon.
- Groove run under Groove chair usually has a terrain park. Not yet open, even though over 8K' elevation
- View of the very calm Lake from the Tram dock.
- On our way home via 88, we stopped at mostly frozen Silver Lake to let our girls have a walk. They spent the morning at the cabin with my wife who has not yet skied this season.
Wed Jan 03, 2018 12:50 pm
WOW, that is not much snow. Especially for Tahoe.
Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:17 pm
Heavenly boasts about how huge their snowmaking capacity is but I'm sure not impressed. As in 2011-12 and 2013-14 there is so little terrain open by New Year's. Why are basic connector runs like Ridge, surely plenty high enough to blow snow, not open by now? And yes Groove should be open to let people load the Gunbarrel tram.
Wed Jan 03, 2018 10:22 pm
Groove chair is open which allows you to ski to where you can download Gunbarrel chair or tram. We took it as it runs a little faster and stops less than Patsy's chair. We parked by tram and rode it up and down as we did not want to make long walk across parking lot to Gunbarrel chair.
The only way up the mountain from CA base includes Patsy's run from top of Tram/Gunbarrel chair to Powder Bowl 6-pack which was in good shape before 9 AM, but must have gotten sticky at some of it faces SE. The only way down Powder Bowl chair (middle level of CA), unless you are going to Canyon/Sky is Maggies, a beginner's run.
While Heavenly has a lot of snowmaking capacity, they and most other ski areas who want to maximize profits limit their spending on it. They probably figure that they have access from all four base areas, even if you have to download in CA or take a shuttle from/to Boulder, so that is what you get if you walk up and pay $156 (or $179 or whatever they charge). Heavenly exceeded my expectations and from recent reports skied better than Northstar where snow is disappearing as temps were very warm due to lower elevation and also probably skied better than Kirkwood where base and surface has mostly been on a slow decline since Nov. While Kirkwood has more challenging runs open and claims over 1600 acres open, you are going to damage your skis if not your person as they also claim a base of 18" with season snowfall of 42".
Wed Jan 03, 2018 11:34 pm
Sure, Sierra areas will shut down the snowmaking once there is a natural base. But the whole point of the investment is as an insurance policy against lean early seasons. I'm sure Mammoth was blowing snow every chance they had in 2011-12 and they had 400 acres open by Dec. 15, essentially all manmade. I noticed in December 2015 that the snowmaking was not as robust despite a decent base up high, and discovered that Mammoth's well water had been depleted during the drought. Presumably that is not an issue now.
If Heavenly's snowmaking were as good as they say, they would have a competitive advantage in years like this. All the groomers on Sky, Ridge, Canyon, Dipper, Comet are high altitude and at least partial north facing. They should all be open by Christmas with much better skiing than Northstar or Kirkwood. Groomer skiing is Vail's forte. I'm really surprised not to see that exploited effectively at Heavenly.
Vail Resorts should send some execs over to Austria or the Dolomites to see how snowmaking can be applied on a large scale. Heavenly being well leeward of the Sierra Crest should have a major league snowmaking system. Sun Valley tends to get its snow on the same storm tracks as Tahoe and to little surprise had a meager 3 inches of snowfall in December. But Sun Valley takes snowmaking seriously and has 47% of trails open now.
Thu Jan 04, 2018 8:33 am
My reply may be informed only by rather old information (I did work for heavenly once upon a time). Certainly at that time the snowmaking system was already extensive, as in pipes are run on quite a few trails. But it suffers from two things.
The first is the gallons per hour/cfm of air they can put up the mountain is far less than you might think which means the amount of time to open trails is longer than you might expect. The second was I was always surprised how frequently Heavenly did NOT make snow on nights where temps were in the upper 20s at lake level. I recall snowmakers saying that temps on mountain were warmer. So the vaunted system could only be run much less often than you would think. The location of Heavenly is somehow less than ideal to make snow in anything close to marginal weather.
One of these problems is solvable, and I have not paid much attention to if they have tried to install more pump capacity over the years or if they are environmentally limited in what they are allowed to pump (a couple places in Colo are limited by agreement - A Basin being one of those).
Thu Jan 04, 2018 12:01 pm
In the West we all know that snowmaking coverage and snowmaking capacity are not the same thing. The comparison between Big Bear and Mt. High is like night and day due to massive difference is capacity despite similarity in coverage.
Given Lake Tahoe's stringent environmental rules it would not surprise me if Heavenly's snowmaking capacity is limited in some way that is not obvious except by its meager results. I have seen inversions at Lake Tahoe but they seem far less common than in places like Utah and Jackson. Logically leeward of the Sierra Crest at 9,000 feet should be good for snowmaking. I know it is at Mammoth. Perhaps Lake Tahoe adds some unwelcome humidity to the air.
Sat Jan 06, 2018 11:25 pm
I'm almost to the point where I don't want to deal with man made snow at all, its such garbage. Im lucky to live in Park City so i'm not a vacationer and get why its needed. Vail here in Park City seemed a bit slower then say Deer valley this year in producing the snow as well. The saw tooths east and north faces looked kinda snowy from Rexburg Idaho side this week but I'm sure Sun Valley drops the hammer with snowmaking
Sun Jan 07, 2018 10:36 am
There is a competence level required with snowmaking to create and maintain good surfaces. Sun Valley is one of the best. I got a tour of their facilities with NASJA in 2010. viewtopic.php?t=8842
I have read elsewhere that the manmade skiing at Deer Valley was much better than at PCMR in December.
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