South Lake Tahoe, CA
February 12-19, 2011
(Pictures are clickable for high-res images)
The location of the Embassy Suites was great, an easy walk to almost everything in town (including the Nevada casinos) and a few blocks from the Heavenly Valley in-town lift center. Accommodations at the Embassy Suites were superb with virtually the entire group in adjacent rooms arrayed directly around the second floor atrium where breakfast and happy hour were provided just steps from our doors. And what breakfasts; buffet with everything imaginable plus custom cooked specialties each day. The afternoon 4:30 -6:30 PM “happy hour” with refreshments and snacks including unlimited wine and beer along with an open bar providing a selection of mixed drinks was a real plus. The adjacent plentiful seating in the atrium allowed our folks to gather in small or large groups over breakfast to discuss the days’ skiing plans or at the end of day happy hour over drinks to compare skiing experiences or make dinner plans. On our arrival evening we had a welcome reception with refreshments and an overview of skiing conditions at the surrounding areas.
Although the Lake Tahoe region had a great base due to heavy early season snowfalls, there had not been significant new snow for almost the last month. This meant the existing snow was hard crust which was no problem on the groomed trails, but made ungroomed slopes virtually unskiable. But a major snowstorm was predicted to be on the way (which turned out to be an understatement). The groups’ ski options were relatively flexible as most of the group took the included lift ticket package of 3 days at Heavenly (3 out of 6), 1 day at Kirkwood, and 1 day at Squaw Valley, leaving one of the six possible ski days a personal choice. Since we had included bus transportation to Kirkwood on Monday and to Squaw Valley on Thursday, it meant that most of the group skied Heavenly on Sunday and Friday with sub-groups skiing Heavenly Tuesday or Wednesday and sightseeing, shopping, gambling (or skiing on their own) the other day. Heavenly was an easy choice with the in-town lift and bus center a few walkable blocks from the hotel where you had a choice of the gondola or buses to either the California or Nevada side (Heavenly is BIG).
skiing was on a myriad selection of groomers, but basically no powder
runs. Monday morning the group took the bus to Kirkwood where it was
already snowing significantly. Although
some of the mountain was closed due to high winds, there was plenty open
for the day and the conditions were ideal with copious fresh powder. It
was ideal for everyone as those who didn’t want powder found enough
slopes being groomed to suit them. Most of the group had a fun time in
the afternoon skiing a natural half pipe which Steve Krapes had
discovered and gave pleasure either watching or skiing and accommodated
any level of ability since you could choose how high up on the walls you
wanted to go.
By Tuesday and Wednesday the snowstorm was reaching Heavenly and even down into South Lake Tahoe itself. Now there was fresh powder to be found almost everywhere, even though some lifts were closed due to wind. The powderhounds were in their glory, but some found the combination of wind, limited visibility and ungroomed slopes not skiable for them. Thursday was off to Squaw Valley and now the snowstorm was on the Sierras in full force. Most of the above treeline skiing at Squaw was closed due to high wind and virtual whiteout conditions, which was a shame since the views from upper Squaw are awesome on a clear day. But the powder was unbelievable, there were simply no groomed slopes; the snow was falling so fast that the grooming machines couldn’t keep up. Ski tracks disappeared within a run, so that even tracked powder was a rarity and untracked powder was everywhere. Friday at Heavenly Valley was similar. In all during the days of the storm 6 to 8 feet of new snow fell, a lot even for Lake Tahoe which is renowned for its “dumps”.
By departure Saturday morning the storm was abating, but there was concern about the bus to Reno airport which was late due to the necessity of installing chains. Nonetheless, we made it to the airport in plenty of time for our 11:35 AM departure which connected through Dallas back to Newark arriving about 11 PM Saturday night. The bus trip back to Piscataway was rather quiet with a tired load of skiers. Participants overall impression of the trip seemed colored by their fondness for snow (no one said they didn’t get enough, but some thought there was too much). But regardless of one’s perception of the snow conditions (which is after all a personal experience), we heard nothing but accolades for the accommodations, amenities and transportation arrangements.
John and Eric would like to thank everyone for being such a great group and making it a memorable trip for all.
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