Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the western US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.
Sat Jan 05, 2019 10:50 am
A quick post from my phone after two pre-storm days at Kirkwood and Heavenly. Good snow and crowds not bad except for parking at Kirkwood on Thurs and Dipper and Sky chair mid to late afternoon on Dipper and Sky chairs at Heavenly when sun came out and it warmed. It was cool and partially overcast in morning.
Now at Kirkwood and hoping Pass stays open until 3:30 as I have 4:30 Appt in SLT. Probably Heavenly on Sun and Kirkwood then home on Mon.
The big news is that Heavenly opened Mott Canyon gates 1-5 on Thurs. It was definitely low tide, but it seemed like everyone going down there knew what they were getting into. Maybe ski patrol wanted some compaction of the 2-3' of snow that it was usually easy to push a non-powder pile deep into. I went into gate 1 twice from Milky Way Bowl and Gate 4 once from Mott lift. I found the best snow on The Y.
Last edited by tseeb
on Thu Jan 10, 2019 12:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Wed Jan 09, 2019 3:42 pm
Adding writeup I did of the first three days and some pictures.
South Lake Tahoe, CA 1/3-1/7/2019
I’d been at South Tahoe for New Year’s Eve free outdoor concert and gondola drop with fireworks at midnight East Coast time the last two years. This year my sister let somebody sign-up for our cabin before asking me so we didn’t go. Anyway it was very cold and wind canceled the gondola drop along with all the ski area torchlight parade. So I missed skiing New Years Day and since we had company staying with us over the holidays, I did not go until 1/3 when my wife took niece to airport on her way to work.
I left San Jose at 5:10, arrived Kirkwood at 9:25 and was on Timber Creek lift at 9:45. I had a hassle parking along road as I tried to pull into a space wide enough for my SUV, but not only would truck on one side not close doors, snowboarder was tying his boots in empty parking space and would not move. After a minute or two or waiting, I found a better spot. If people parked closer together, Kirkwood could probably fit at least 10% more vehicles.
I took the two groomers on Cornice. Zacharys was in sun, but a little scraped off in places. Sentinel had better snow, but was in deep shade. Next I skied ungroomed E-facing Monte Wolfe which was OK along left edge, but had big bumps in middle and could have used more sun. I then took three laps on Wall where entrance was a little challenging, but at least there was not much danger of ski damage. My last run on the Wall I took E-facing Eagle Bowl where there was almost corn in a few spots. After waiting for a long stoppage at Caples Crest as lift operator had to climb tower to reset something after an emergency stop after a faceplant misload, I rode lift and skied to Backside.
I planned to ride slow Backside lift three times, but even with a beer and half-sandwich in my pocket, I was not sure I could do it since it had so many stoppages on my first ride. I skied the small bumps to looker’s right then tried the Wave on 2nd lap before exiting via Thunder Saddle after 3rd lift ride. Snow there was much better than my pre-Christmas run. I skied Caples Crest groomer once before exiting via Whiskey Slide to the Reut. I returned to my SUV via Cornice and Sentinel that was not as good as earlier. Not only was visibility still poor due to deep shade loose snow had gotten deeper due to traffic and was a little grabby.
After putting more charge in my phone and changing skis, I returned to Backside via The Wall where smooth gully lookers left of chair skied well. I took a lap down main Backside groomer as crowds were much lower and I let longer skis pickup a lot of speed that I carried into nearly unskied groomed alternate on right. My Thunder Saddle return included entrance of Two Man Chute and a lot of One Man Chute which had very good snow, but both still could use some filling in. I finshed my day with a couple of laps on Cornice, skiing the steeps between Lookout Janek and Olympic. Since Timber Creek was still loading, I went up it and tried to come down through small terrain park, but it was closed. I quit after 4 with over 26K vertical according to my watch. Heavenly, CA and NV 1/4/2018
I parked very close to tram at 8:15 and after booting up, found Mike and Missy from an online ski group who I’d offered to share my Buddy tickets with. They’d skied Sierra, Homewood and Mt Rose their preceding three days and skied Heavenly for $101 vs. $146 advance purchase and $164 walk-up. The tram ticket booth was closed so we walked to uncrowded main CA base ticketing and rode up cold Gunbarrel chair. It was partially cloudy in the morning which kept temps down. We skied Ridge Run a couple of times, using both Canyon and Sky chairs with me dropping into Ridge Bowl on 2nd lap. Then we went to Nevada. Since Missy was a low to mid-intermediate, it was good to see they had groomed Dipper Run as earlier in the year it had big bumps on part of easiest route from CA to NV as there was not enough snow to groom.
We did a couple laps on Dipper with Mike and I trying Dipper Bowl once and finding good snow, but a lot of challenge due to bumps and rocks. I took one lap into Milky Way Bowl and found better snow and much better (and groomed) exit than my previous Heavenly day on Dec. 11. I continued tour of Heavenly’s intermediate runs with Comet lift and top part of Comet run to Crossover. Then we went up Olympic and skied long cruiser that had a lot of traffic. Missy almost got taken out by a snowboarder who went down to avoid hitting her. Earlier from Dipper lift, we saw a skier solidly run into a snowboarder. We rode up Stagecoach, skied upper North Bowl, then rode Olympic and skied to busy at 11:15 with sight-seers and skiers Tamarack Lodge where it was not that hard to find three seats. We should have filled table better as after one person left as we were joined by two ladies with four toddlers including one who cried and screamed continually.
It seemed a lot sunnier when we came out about 12. I left the couple from Charlotte at the top of Tamarack lift and found a better route into Dipper Bowl, then rode Dipper and skied Milky Way Bowl into gate 1 of Mott Canyon, which had surprisingly opened the previous day. The very top of Bill’s and Snakepit looked like it had slid to the ground or been wind-stripped. I was able to get into Bill’s using traverse that starts at gate 3. Mott was as rocky as I had ever seen. While it’s great that it was open, I’m not sure if it was to increase options for experts or to get the two-three feet of snow compacted. That was how deep my small basket poles would sink in most places. Where they didn’t sink it was usually due to rock or logs. I survived it and next lap I couldn’t get to gate 3 as road to left at top has not been put in, so I had to enter gate 4. I skied Hully Gully and eventually crossed Widowmaker and dropped into Snakepit, below where cable with sign marking cliff area was about 40’ above the snow. Snow was OK in most of Snakepit, but it all needed to be skied more.
From top of Mott, I carried speed past top of not-running Galaxy and skied Nevada Trail and Lower Stagecoach, which was in great shape. I rode Stagecoach and skied Comstock run, also in good shape to Lower Nevada Trail, always one of my favorites, and rode slow North Bowl chair. I should have had a bigger beer as the quarter sandwich and 12 oz. IPA were gone way before the top as chair stopped a lot. I skied to very crowded Dipper chair where singles line moved well. I repeated Milky Way Bowl to Mott gate 1 and took traverse past Bill’s to The Y. The skiers left entrance was not that good as it was too soft and seemed a little hollow under snow so I got into main/skier right fork as soon as I could. There was a good smooth line down the center, maybe due to slides coming down it. It was my best Mott run of the day, although still very challenging in places.
The long singles line at Dipper moved fast. I timed it at 4 minutes. CA trail was as crowded as I’ve ever seen it with mostly low speed and skill skiers. Sky chair still had moderate line so I rode Canyon twice. First I tried Double Down and skied the big bumps under chair at bottom. Then I skied crowded Ridge Run to Ridge Bowl and Waterfall, coming down the smoother, steeper left side that was in shade. It was good enough that I repeated it, skiing the sunnier right side. I was the last person let on the Tram downloading at 3:15 so I could get back to meet plumber at cabin. He did a repair that was beyond my skills. Almost 24K without counting download.
Kirkwood, CA 1/5
Kirkwood ran everything but Backside. The Wall may have loaded early and then loaded again about noon. I skied it three times with visibility and wind getting worse each time. Wind from E moved a lot of snow improving surfaces and did not shift to SW until ~1:30. Started snowing hard about 1 PM and probably 3" on my car when I left Kirkwood about 2:50 after Cornice and Wall closed. 1 hr 40 min getting back to cabin vs. 40 min getting there. Same 23.6K as on 1/4.
Thu Jan 10, 2019 1:05 pm
Adding the last two days from library in Visalia where my wife is working today and part of tomorrow. Already lost post once after adding pictures so I will post text, then add pictures. That failed so I only added one picture so far and need a break. The latest news from Heavenly: 1. Killibrew Canyon opened yesterday 2.They announced on Facebook that Galaxy will re-open tomorrow after being closed last year and upgraded from 3. Not sure if they are letting people into North Bowl or nearby Boulder Chute. The other areas I don't think have opened are top of Ellie's where it gets wind-stripped and Gunbarrel, both above and below where Roundabout crosses it.
I'd probably be at Sequoia National Park (35 miles from here to entrance, 20 steep and winding miles more to the grove with the biggest tree in the world) on my XC skis today. Then I'd stop at Pinnacles National Park and nearby Chalone winery, where they recently re-opened for tasting after not having it for many years, on way home on Sat. but both parks are closed. (Pinnacles is open from E for campers, but W is where Chalone is located.)
Northstar, CA 1/6
My bad decision day that led to a couple of extra hours driving and missing the untracked. I should have stuck with my original plan of skiing from Stagecoach at Heavenly, but didn't want to deal with possibly closed lifts and the 16" reported by Northstar with 11 overnight seduced me vs. Kirkwood with 11/6 and Heavenly 9/8 (and mostly unskied since they only ran two lowest NV lifts on Sat.
I thought I left early enough to get there before lifts open, but traffic with the worst being left turn into N* and slow drivers on a lot of the 2-lane meant I had to park in remote lot by 1st roundabout. I got on gondola after a moderate line and evidently passed friend from Truckee who parked and caught shuttle ahead of me, but came in from wrong side of lift that had a bigger line.
It was windy at top of Zephyr all day and got worse nearly everywhere about noon. Rest of the day had a lot of good (11) and bad (12) moments (plus two I listed as neutral and one as great) that I’ll list:
Bad - Instead of getting there before lifts opened, I got had to ride shuttle from remote lot
Bad - Lookout Link drag lift was stopped and they were turning people around
Bad - Rope not dropped on Lookout Bypass alternate so I followed 5 people above it
Good - Got a little untracked on way to Lookout and blue Washoe run was OK
Bad - When I stopped to water a tree near bottom of Lookout saw snow there was only 2” deep
Bad - At top of lift, they only allowed access to lookers left and two runs
Bad - Skied Martis, the steeper open run that was not groomed. Upper Martis was good, but found a rock near left edge that caused a single eject on main part of run
Neutral - Followed another skier on flat Schwarzstrasse where patrollers were dropping rope, but run to Backside was skied and blown out
Good - Rode no-line Promised Land lift and found good deep untracked on top half
Bad - Promised Land had 10-15 minute stop that overloaded Backside. Friend had earlier reported 25 minute line on Comstock the only lift to top from front-side (although they later opened Rendezvous slow chair that covers the better 55% of Comstock’s vertical).
Good - Found decent snow off East Ridge which always has Northstar’s deepest snow
Bad - Took out phone near top of cold and windy Zephyr to try to catch a call from friend, then removed gloves again to return call and take pictures for a group so hands got cold and I decided to take a break
Good - Went into lodge and after getting table in corner, saw friend not too far away
Bad - Friend who was back on hill after a long nasty cold called it a day
Good - His friend and I went out skiing and I led him to a untracked face under Zephyr lift that dropped us to now uncrowded Comstock where we shared lift with a patroller who told us rest of Lookout had opened.
Good - Lookout Link drag lift running and found still decent snow on Washoe, then better snow on mostly groomed Prosser one of Northstar’s longest steeper runs.
Good - Skied Stampede, Northstar’s steepest run. From the chair, it looked like the right was too thin and only the lookers left was good, but the center where many little trees were sticking up held the best untracked.
Great - Run of the day between Boca run and Sugar Pine Glades with a couple of long stretches of deep untracked that went on a lot further than I remembered
Neutral - New ski buddy had to quit after we repeated untracked Face from Zephyr lift and a Comstock lap that included Tonini’s with some untracked on both sides
Good - Snow was falling so hard the everything was getting filled in dry powder. I did two more laps on Comstock where wind was howling towards top
Good - Long last run down Logger’s Loop and The Woods, where there were so few tracks it seemed like it was a closed run (not that I would know). Quit skiing about 2 with 23.7K on my watch.
Bad - On way to shuttle, saw text from person I was meeting at his work between 4 and 4:30 in Carson City to get skis, but then phone was dead for three hours even though on charger and defroster in car
Bad - One and a half hours to drive the 35 miles to Carson City. Slow getting out of Northstar where pickup truck was parked in the right turn lane and I almost had a Tesla slide into me as I squeezed by. Very slow on 2-lane to and through Kings Beach and all the way to US-50 (except for the two shortcuts I took). I-80 was closed so a lot of people were going down E side of Lake to take 50 West through South Tahoe. 50 East to Carson City was OK, but I only went 40 most of the way as it was snowing the whole way from 7100’ summit to 4500’ junction with US-395.
Bad - Found store where manager said employee with skis for me had left at 3. I asked them to call him and they said he was probably already home in Reno. I later found out he was in nearby Chili’s watching football (not plan of our plan).
Good - After eventually finding my way to nearby Costco, filled up for $2.38/gallon vs. $3.59 at SLT Safeway. Also did some shopping and had a slice of pizza.
Good - Phone came back to life near the top of Kingsbury Grade where there was snow on pavement from 4500’ base to 7344’ summit. Got to Lakeside Inn with a couple of hours to spare for 4-8 PM free drink and tripled my money on video Blackjack.
Wind gusted to almost 150 mph at 8:45 PM that night at top of Alpine and Squaw. It was also strong at cabin where it sounded like it blew all the snow off roof and covered my snow-covered car with pine needles.
Heavenly, CA and NV 1/7 - Not only did I ski in both states, I also parked in both states.
I made a better decision on Monday (although CA base would have been even better and is closer to cabin) and was at Stagecoach before lift started loading for passholders about 8:25. I was on about the 15th chair, but missed friend who is staying near there this week and was waiting for me. Maybe I missed her because she is well under 5' tall and when it's a powder day and line is forming, I get in it and then put on my skis. We connected after a couple of laps.
Heavenly reported 12" new with 8 overnight on top of 9" new the previous day. But it was very dense and crusted from wind or precipitation that fell once it got warm. I looked for better snow by going into more protected trees with varying exposures, but could not find much better so I skied the crust, looking for deepest and most untracked available. My friend was struggling as the only groomed run had a lot of loose snow and being ~90 lbs. she could not make her usual tight, precise turns. We were joined by another friend and (after 8 Stagecoach laps for me) eventually moved to and rode Boulder twice, the only NV chair Heavenly added before noon. Lower NV trail that connects from Olympic to top of Boulder had usual excellent snow. On shuttle back to my car, I heard Olympic chair had opened, but it is not very steep or wind-protected so I left about noon. After a stop at Dart to re-fill my growler with Lagunitas Hazy Memory. I stopped by cabin to re-heat some pizza and do a little more shoveling and picking up and packing. Heavenly opened everything including the Face in the afternoon. So I drove to and parked close to the Tram. I just missed a tram so I poled over to and went up Gunbarrel, then Powder Bowl and Sky chairs, getting to 10K top about 1:30. There was a sign going towards NV warning you that Dipper was not running and if Comet and Olympic both closed, you were on your own getting back to CA as Heavenly has eliminated shuttles between NV bases and gondola base.
I took high entrance to Milky Way Bowl and found some decent deep untracked. I took gate 1 into Mott and got into the main branch of The Y higher than on Friday, It was steep enough that crust was not a problem although I did have to watch for sluffing. Near bottom I cut below Rocky Point and found the usual steep and deep lightly tracked and very enjoyable. I was going to use Dipper (had just opened) to go back through higher gate into Mott, but rode chair with a boarder who wanted to know where the good trees were. I offered to show him Meteor (on map at Dipper) Woods, but after crashing together when unloading, I guess he decided not to follow me. I headed that way, but found skiers right at top of Dipper Run was untracked and somewhat wind-protected so I skied it. I eventually went across run into Dipper Bowl. Next time up I skied Meteor as run was not tracked out, then tried to get through trees to gate 3 on Mott, but without road at top of lift, I got too low and did not want to hike up to gate as snowboarder were doing so I went into untracked below it.
Anyway this has probably gone long enough...I ended up riding Mott 3x (repeated Y getting into it and exiting below Rocky Point higher) and Dipper 4x. Returning to CA base, I skied Maggie's Canyon, probably first day open, and Advanced Roundabout, which had opened on Sunday and was signed expert only. I got back to cabin at 4, was on the road at 5 and home at 9, where my wife and girls (Beagle and White German Shepherd) were all happy I had not extended my trip past 5 days. Choosing Heavenly over Kirkwood turned out to be a good call as I heard Kirkwood did not open. Carson Pass and Spur were both closed Monday morning due to avalanche control so people that tried to get there ended up back at Heavenly.
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