Unique events, backcountry clinics and one of a kind offerings from Lake Tahoe

Posted By: The Ski Channel on January 18, 2011 2:48 pm

Already world renowned for its legendary terrain, unmatched variety of resorts and monstrous winter storms that deliver several feet of powder followed by sunny skies, the Ski Lake Tahoe resorts are at the top of every winter sports enthusiasts “must-visit” list this season thanks to record-setting snow, unique camps and clinics and an action-packed calendar of events. The Ski Lake Tahoe resorts are currently boasting the deepest season-to-date snowpack levels since they began keeping records more than a half century ago. Thanks to the snowiest early season on record, skiers and snowboarders have been enjoying powder conditions on almost a daily basis with over 25 feet of snow already blanketing the slopes of the Sierra. 


Storm accumulations in Lake Tahoe are typically measured in feet rather than inches and big dumps are often followed by predictably sunny skies resulting in an above average number of bluebird powder days. This winter’s bountiful snowfall has been attributed to a powerful La Nina weather pattern off the Pacific Coast with Lake Tahoe’s ideal location channeling powerful winter storms that deliver feet upon feet of powder in a highly concentrated, short timeframe. This regular occurrence is a driving factor as to why enthusiasts and top ski and snowboard athletes return season after season to have the best powder days of their lives.


Lake Tahoe features more ski resorts in close proximity than any other winter destination in North America creating a greater variety of available terrain and more options for unique experiences on the hill. As the Pacific Crest winds its way along the west coast of Lake Tahoe, it alternates between granite bedrock and volcanic outcroppings, the first providing for perfectly spaced pillow drops on a powder day and the latter forming bold couloirs that hold corny turns well into spring. Skiers and snowboarders stopping to catch their breath on a powder day are easily reinvigorated by the stunning panoramic views of Lake Tahoe itself with its brilliantly clear water and shimmering blue hues. 


This incomparable setting coupled with the region’s reliable snowfall patterns not only make Lake Tahoe a world-class choice for skiers and snowboarders, it also attracts the best the industry has to offer in the way of camps, clinics, events and competitions. From hosting the 1960 Winter Olympics to ritually appearing in the latest ski and snowboard films to providing the home training mountains for some of the elite names in the sport, Lake Tahoe continues to remain at the forefront of world-class competition and cutting-edge progression.


For the 2010-11 winter season, the seven Ski Lake Tahoe resorts continue to introduce industry-leading programs that are certain to attract the ski and snowboard enthusiasts worldwide. The following are some of the highlights.


Known for its phenomenal in-bounds terrain and open boundary policy, Alpine Meadows boasts an endless variety of “sidecountry” and “frontcountry” options including open bowls, cornice drops, steep chutes and technical couloirs with only a quick hike needed to access these areas. To get the most out of the mountain, guests can reserve an Alpine Resort Guide to take them to untracked lines and little known powder stashes with the price including backcountry safety gear and VIP lift line privileges. For those looking for more of a full immersion experience, the resort offers a number of two day Steep Camps throughout the season including women-specific offerings. The resort also plays host to a number of big mountain events such as the Telemark and Freestyle Festival slated for February 24-27, the Take the Lake Competition scheduled for March 18-20 and a stop on the new Bonzai Tour inspired by former Olympian Daron Rahlves combining the action of Skier/Boarder X with the spectator-friendly aspects of Motocross. For more details, log on to www.skialpine.com.  


Featuring stunning views of Lake Tahoe that live up to the resort’s name, Heavenly Mountain Resort is home to some of the best tree skiing on the planet and the resort boasts three backcountry gates allowing access to acres upon acres of bottomless snow with runs of over 5,000 feet possible when conditions allow. Mott and Killebrew Canyons have long been synonymous with “steep and deep” skiing since their north-facing stashes were first accessed via snowcats back in the late 80′s and expert skiers and riders cannot say they have conquered Heavenly without a trip down the dauntingly steep Gunbarrel Run, home of the annual mogul marathon event hosted by Glen Plake challenging participants to complete 25 consecutive laps down the face of the mountain. Guests can sign up for an Adventure Session to tap into the local’s perspective on how to best tackle the mountain, sniff out hidden stashes and hang with the pros. Visit www.skiheavenly.com for the complete lowdown.


Nestled along the spine of the Pacific Crest, Kirkwood Mountain Resort has long been synonymous with steep chutes, cliff drops and deep snow. For those looking to push the boundaries of mountain exploration, the resort offers a number of backcountry focused programs through its Expedition: Kirkwood program including daily mountain guide service, multi-day clinics, avalanche awareness courses and snowcat powder tours when conditions permit. New this season, the resort has relocated its E:K Headquarters to a larger storefront and recently announced its plans to begin guided skiing and snowboarding into the once forbidden runs of the Cirque. The resort will once again host the North American Freeskiing Championships from February 24-27 as well as the North Face Masters of Snowboarding on March 3-6. The resort will also be one of the stops on the former Olympian Daron Rahlves inspired Bonzai Series. Click on www.kirkwood.com for more information.


With a vertical drop of 1,500 feet and a pitch of between 40 and 55 degrees, The Chutes at Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe offer some of the most hair-raising, inbounds lines at a Lake Tahoe ski area. Beckoning the daring to enter its gates season after season, the famed Chutes draw advanced skiers and riders in and deliver 200 acres of high-walled, narrow terrain that is sure to put your heart in your throat. New for 2010-11, a ninth access gate was added to access The Chutes near the top of the Miller Time run. For the savvy backcountry skier or snowboarder, the resort also offers gated access to runs of more than 4,000 vertical feet down to Davis Creek State Park when conditions permit and AIARE certification courses throughout the season. The King of Hill competition is scheduled for February 12 with a panel of judges crowning the skier or snowboarder who lays down the best line in The Chutes. Guests can log on to www.mtrose.com for more details.


Known for its top-notch terrain parks, Northstar-at-Tahoe Resort is home to The Stash, a first-of-its-kind terrain run that was developed in conjunction with Burton Snowboards. Combining freestyle terrain with a backcountry feel, The Stash is punctuated with log rides, rainbow trees, road gaps and other hits developed from elements native to the Tahoe region such as the “Yeti Arch”, a feature that must be ridden to be believed. The resort is scheduled to host the Transworld TransAm on February 26 along with the Red Bull Butter Cup on March 26. Northstar-at-Tahoe also recently introduced five new advanced gladed runs for those who prefer the adrenaline rush of storming the trees. For further details, please visit www.NorthstarAtTahoe.com. 


Skiers and snowboards headed to Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort will find something for everyone. The resort is known for its perfectly spaced tree skiing, steeps and deeps in the recently incorporated terrain of Huckleberry Canyon and world-class terrain parks, including South Shore’s only superpipe. Along with great terrain Sierra Resort’s expanded Backcountry and Telemark Center offers the latest gear including telemark setups, splitboards and backcountry safety gear. Guests can also sign up for clinics that give skiers and riders a primer of the skills and knowledge needed to travel safely through Tahoe’s vast winter backcountry terrain. The resort also offers complimentary one hour tours for qualified skiers and riders out the five gates accessing Huckleberry Canyon every Friday afternoon when conditions allow. Travelers should mark their calendars for the 8th Annual Telegrass Festival slated for March 26-27 during which participants can free their heels and stomp their feet with daily clinics, demos, live music and seasonal brews. Visit www.sierraattahoe.com for details.


Home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, Squaw Valley USA has remained a top destination for winter enthusiasts and is a proving ground for extreme skiers and snowboarders hoping to be discovered at “Squallywood”. Heralded as one the most famous lifts in North America, Squaw’s KT-22 Express provides access to 2,000 vertical feet of advanced/expert terrain considered to be a showman’s paradise with aggressive chutes and cliff bands in full view for spectators riding the lift. Guests can sign up for the SVX: Squaw Valley Experience mountain tours led by expert guides taking participants to the nooks, crannies and secret stashes scattered around the mountain. The resort also introduced a new Dawn Patrol program that allows a limited number of skiers and snowboarders to ride the Cable Car up to High Camp (el. 8200′) for breakfast overlooking Lake Tahoe and first access to the runs of Shirley Lake Express and Granite Chief chairlifts for up to an hour before being opened to the public. And for the ultimate “Squallywood” experience, guests can sign up for legendary freeskier Robb Gaffney’s popular “ski-the-book” clinic focusing on how to tackle the terrain memorialized in his famous guidebook including a new program designed for parents and children to experience together what it is like to be in a ski movie. Log on to www.squaw.com for more information.