Meteorologists in the region are predicting that this winter at Lake Tahoe will be a mild El Niño, an "average" winter season for the lake that is hinting at a bit more snow than last season. If you've noticed the indicators (early frosts, bright golden aspen leaves, dropping acorns and fat bears), so have the ski resorts. Many of the resorts in the Tahoe area are updating their ski programs and some of the resorts are making big plans for the season.
Boreal and Soda Springs are already starting to make snow and are predicting an opening before the first of November, and Soda Springs has an expanded Tube Town tubing area. The Ritz-Carlton at Northstar will be opening a new slope-side restaurant this winter that will offer ski-in/ski-out outdoor dining. The Backyard Bar & BBQ will feature blues, brews and BBQ with traditional favorites including St. Louis smoked ribs, brisket and pulled pork platters cooked over an on-site smoker, wood-fired pizzas, burgers, brats, local craft beer and saloon-inspired cocktails. At Kirkwood there's also a new, sheltered, outdoor “K-Bar” with food and beverage service opening up on the Village Plaza, and a remodeled Cornice Grill at Lift 6.
Donner Ski Ranch now has a day lodge on the back side of the mountain offering refreshments and hot drinks and Sierra-at-Tahoe has put $5 million into a brand new base-lodge plaza, restaurant, retail center and a deck. Sugar Bowl is restoring most of the Royal Gorge Cross-Country Ski Resort with 200 kilometers of groomed trails, rope tows and warming huts. This area will also have the new kite-powered skiing program in the Van Norden Meadow. Tahoe Donner has added a 700 square foot, slope-side warming yurt.
Diamond Peak is boasting 50 percent more snow making capabilities this year, and improvements at Homewood include more facilities and outdoor seating with a lake view at the Big Blue View Bar at mid-mountain and the North Patio BBQ. At Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows stop by the new "Mtn Roots" gourmet food truck for locally sourced food or the updated Chalet which has been turned into a Bavarian-style Beer Garden. For your après ski events, the popular “Unbuckle” parties at Heavenly are again scheduled to occur daily, with giveaways, half-price drinks and go-go dancers on the weekends.
Ski Deals and Steals
If you take three ski or ride lessons at Boreal, or two lessons at Boreal and one at Soda Springs you can score a free full season pass to either resort. At Boreal, anyone with a teen or youth-season pass can ski or ride free at five sister resorts: Copper Mountain, Killington, Bachelor, Park City and Las Vegas. Unrestricted season passes are currently available to both Sugar Bowl and Royal Gorge for $848, a midweek pass to Sugar Bowl is $249 and a one-day learn-to-ski or snowboard pass is $89.
Season passes at Diamond Peak are on sale (until October 31) for $399 unrestricted and $249 midweek and include four free days skiing at Homewood, as well as four at Red Mountain in Montana (with some blackout dates). Donner Ski Ranch's new program, “Old School Days – prices from the past,” begins Jan. 2, on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. On those days, adult lift tickets are only $30 and for $15 extra you can add a full equipment rental (Feb. 19-21 are blackout dates). The Tahoe local favorite, Homewood, has a regular adult pass for $479 and a college pass for $239 with no blackout dates.
Kirkwood is offering the Tahoe Local Pass for $459 or the Tahoe Value Pass for $419, and Sierra-at-Tahoe has unlimited season passes ($389 for adults, $289 for college and young adults, prices good until Oct. 31) that are also good for free days at Squaw or Alpine. Mount Rose Ski Tahoe is offering specials like “Ladies’ Day Thursdays,” with $29 lift tickets plus $20 for a two-hour lesson in snowboarding, skiing or telemarking; and “Two’fer Tuesdays,” when you can score two adult lift tickets for the price of one. Mount Rose is also offering “Silver Ski Clinics” for skiers age 50 and up, from low-intermediate to advanced level. The clinic begins with a continental breakfast, followed by a skill-enhancing two-hour group lesson for only $20.