The autumnal equinox has come and gone, the aspen groves are beginning to turn on their vibrant fall colors and thoughts in the Tahoe basin are becoming more occupied with the approaching ski and snowboard season.
And when that time arrives – which the resorts with the beefiest snow-making systems project to be around mid-November – you'll find a few new features at some of your favorite Tahoe winter playgrounds.
Squaw Valley realigned and/or replaced several lifts in the High Camp complex, putting in a high-speed six-pack chair (dubbed Big Blue Express) that will provide quicker and easier access to the Shirley Lake Solitude and Granite Chief lifts from the top of the tram (yes!). The Links double chair is now a triple (called Mountain Meadow) and has been shifted to deposit riders near the top of the Solitude and Silverado lifts and a drag lift (named Park Pulley) will make access to the Belmont terrain park less of a drag.
Squaw also enhanced the efficiency of its snow-making capabilities on the Squaw Creek, Red Dog, Gold Coast and Mountain Run trails. The Olympic Plaza Bar has been remodeled and two new retail outlets (Ledge Board Shop and Parallel Sports Shop) have been added to the base area.
Alpine Meadows, which is owned by Squaw's parent company, beefed up its snow-making operations, expanded and enhanced its terrain park to make it the only mile-long park in the Tahoe area, and redesigned and reconfigured its ticket office with an eye to better efficiency.
Homewood will have high-def streaming footage of the resort and surrounding area on its website, has introduced a mobile app to allow guests to navigate the mountain via smartphone, has done away with blackout dates on all season passes (!!!) and is guaranteeing that all lifts will run every day of the season, weather and conditions permitting.
Sierra-at-Tahoe will offer cat skiing in its Huckleberry Canyon backcountry terrain, continue its Star Wars Experience children's snowboard theme park and offer its pass-holders the opportunity to ride for free at four other resorts (China Peak outside Fresno, Mt. High in Southern California, Stevens Pass in Washington and Monarch Mountain in Colorado).
Kirkwood, which was purchased by Vail Resorts earlier this year, will join Heavenly and Northstar in the EpicMix mix, has added safety (or "comfort") bars to every chair, and has numerous events planned for its 40th anniversary season.
Heavenly has turned the Gunbarrel Grill inside Lakeview Lodge into a sports bar featuring several flat-screen TVs, gourmet burgers and a selection of microbrews. The resort will also bring back its competition-quality halfpipe (500-feet long with 18-foot walls) back to the High Roller terrain park after a four-year hiatus, has beefed up its snow-making system at the bottom of the Stagecoach run, and will extend its popular Unbuckle aprés party at the top of the gondola to seven days a week.
Mt. Rose removed dead, damaged and diseased trees north of the Galena trail in an effort to improve forest health and received local and federal approval for its $23.5 million improvement project (new terrain, additional lifts, expanded snow-making, etc.).
Northstar, another Vail Resort celebrating its 40th anniversary, finished the glading project in the Promised Land area, is offering snow-cat access to the back-country Sawtooth Ridge area, and has opened a new restaurant/bar in the Village dubbed Tavern 6330.