At the top of the list each season is the inevitable question skiers, snowboarders and anyone involved in a ski-related industry desperately wants to know: Will it be a good year for snow?
The answer for Lake Tahoe ski resorts and their visitors the past two winters has been … no – as in definitely not enough man-made snow.
Two years ago, considerable amounts of snow arrived in November, then the region hit an extended dry spell that ran into March. It was the first time since the 1800s that the Lake Tahoe region had no reported snow in December.
Last year, November and December were strong months for snow before all of Northern California experienced one of the driest January through March periods on record.
The overall consensus as ski resorts shut down early the past two seasons: snow-making saved the season.
So what will the 2013-14 season bring? We know that November came in mildly with unseasonably high temperatures and modest snow totals. For an educated guess regarding what lies ahead, consult your favorite meteorologist, storm prediction agency or astrologist.
While the weather remains an unknown, below are some things that will definitely hold true for this year’s ski season.
Sugar Bowl expansion: Sugar Bowl installed a new chairlift that will provide access to advanced and expert terrain on the west side of the resort.
The Crow’s Peak chairlift will open the Strawberry Fields area of the mountain, just below Crow’s Nest Peak. It will feature 1,000 vertical feet and include two new groomed runs, excellent tree skiing through glades, chutes and cliffs, and also provide a wind-protected area on inclement weather days.
Sugar Bowl is investing more than $20 million into widespread upgrades this season, which also include a new fitness and aquatic center, and a ski-in/ski-out campus for Sugar Bowl Academy.
Northstar final Olympic tune-up for Shaun White? Northstar California will be on the national radar in early January when some of the country’s top skiers and snowboarders descend on the Lake Tahoe ski resort.
Shaun White will be the marquee name at Northstar in the halfpipe and slopestyle events at the 2014 Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix on Jan. 9-12.
White and many of the best skiers and snowboarders will be competing at the Olympic qualifying event. The event is an opportunity to see some of the biggest names in the sport several weeks before the Sochi Olympics (Feb. 7-23).
New base area at Sierra: Sierra-at-Tahoe invested $5 million into a new facility located at the base of the mountain, transforming the current skier services area into a mecca for gathering and services.
The new plaza will include 9,000 square feet of indoor space with retail options, a demo center, and new restaurant. A 20,000 square-foot outdoor deck area will include fire pits, live music, and lounge chairs for skiers and riders to hang out and watch the action on the mountain.
Squaw adds: Squaw has installed four new electric car chargers at the resort, making it the first ski resort in California to install charging stations for electric cars.
Snow-making upgrades: Both Squaw and Alpine, two resorts under common ownership, continue to increase their snowmaking systems and grooming fleets, investing over $2 million in state-of-the-art snowmaking guns, new piping and system upgrades. They are also investing $1.4 million in five new snow cats.
Tree skiing at Diamond Peak: The family-friendly resort on Tahoe’s north shore improved its glade skiing and riding by forest thinning during the summer. The new area is between Battleborn and Sunnyside, located off the Crystal Ridge run.
Lake Tahoe ski resort openings — Boreal, Nov. 6; Heavenly, Nov. 23; Northstar, Nov. 23; Kirkwood, Nov. 24; Mt. Rose, Nov. 27; Squaw Valley, Nov. 27; Diamond Peak, Dec. 12; Alpine Meadows, Dec. 13; Homewood, Dec. 13; Tahoe Donner, Dec. 13; Soda Springs, Dec. 13; Sugar Bowl,Dec. 7; Sierra, Dec. 6; Donner Ski Ranch, reopen Dec. 18. (Several resorts closes after their official openings … check their Websites for current status).
Jeffrey Weidel can be reached at [email protected] Visit his winter website at tahoeskiworld.com