Tahoe Downhill Ski Guide | 2018-19

Courtesy ASC Training Center

Ski season in the Tahoe Sierra received a jumpstart for the 2018-19 winter with early season openings from Mt. Rose on Oct. 19 and Boreal on Nov. 9. Other ski areas are close behind with Nov. 16 openings for Heavenly, Northstar and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows.

Each season for the last 18 years, Tahoe Weekly has put together a roundup of all of the latest happenings from on-mountain improvements to kids program to not-to-be-missed events for our annual Downhill Ski Guide.

Check out what’s happening at your favorite resort and plan your winter ski outings for the season. Ski passes are still the best value for anyone that skis more than one weekend a year, and look for other great deals from the Plates for Powder program, Excellence in Education’s Ski for School tickets and other discounts throughout the season.

Auburn Ski Club | Boreal Mountain Resort | Diamond Peak | Donner Ski Ranch | Granlibakken | Homewood | Heavenly | Kirkwood | Mt.Rose | Northstar | Sierra At Tahoe | Sky Tavern | Soda Springs | Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows | Sugar Bowl | Tahoe Donner Downhill

Boreal Mountain Resort

With a full range of programs in Alpine and Nordic skiing, snowboarding and biathlon, the nonprofit Auburn Ski Club Training Center on Donner Summit provides affordable winter recreation opportunities for athletes and families across the region.

Adjacent to Boreal, ASC Training Center offers a 6,000 square-foot lodge, a 2,000 square-foot fitness center, a 25km cross-country trail system and Nordic competition venue, and a dedicated Alpine race arena at Boreal.

All winter programs and the cross-country trail system are open to the public. With inexpensive day use rates and cross-country season pass prices ranging from $45 to $129, which includes 5 free nights of downhill skiing or riding at Boreal.

ASC’s Alpine skiing and snowboard programs have been introducing children to the joy and excitement of winter sports for decades with programs for every discipline, including

The popular biathlon program, directed by former Olympian Glenn Jobe. | auburnskiclub.org


Courtesy Boreal Mountain Resort

Boreal Mountain Resort

Boreal Mountain California and Woodward Tahoe are gearing up for the 2018-19 season with several exciting initiatives including a new beginner chairlift – the California Cruiser.

Boreal has installed new snowmaking near the beginner terrain, expanding its learning areas, along with other terrain used to teach people of all ages how to ski and snowboard. The new state-of-the-art system will deliver better quality snow and more open terrain, bringing the best experience for all guests.

Pop Up Parks | This season look for the new Pop Up Parks, an exclusive park build that will only last one week. California’s best skiers and snowboarders will session the park in a private shoot the night before it opens, so everyone can get a preview of what’s to come. Look for the Pop Up Parks from Dec. 14 to 21, Jan. 11 to 18, Feb. 8 to 15, and March 22 to 29.

New parking | Boreal has invested to make parking more accessible by installing a new parking lot for both Boreal and Woodward Tahoe. Parking is free to all passholders and pre-committed buyers. | rideboreal.com, campwoodward.com

Courtesy Diamond Peak

Diamond Peak

Progression is the name of the game at Diamond Peak for the 2018-19 winter season, with a number of exciting new developments and reconfigurations.

New terrain park | Terrain park skiers and riders, as well as those new to terrain park features, will enjoy a new venue to progress one’s skills as Diamond Peak’s master park builders will be concentrating the resort’s terrain park features in a new lower-mountain zone called The Village at Diamond Peak.

Accessible from all areas of the mountain, the new Village Terrain Park location will allow park riders to explore more of the mountain before taking a lap through the park, or simply enjoy quick park-only laps via the Red Fox chairlift.

Regraded beginner terrain | Diamond Peak regraded the beginner-friendly School Yard run to make the terrain more welcoming to first-time and beginner skiers and snowboarders offering more usable space for beginners to practice first turns.

STOKE certified | Diamond Peak Resort has been recognized for its sustainability initiatives as the first ski resort in Tahoe to become STOKE Certified. The resort has been diligently following STOKE’s Roadmap Report to achieve best practices in snowmaking, interpretation, waste diversion and community development.

Interpretive tours | Diamond Peak will offer a series of guided interpretive ski/snowboard tours this winter with the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science to discover the unique plant and animal life that flourishes within the ski area’s boundaries, as well as the history of the resort and the region.

Snowshoe hikes | Join Moonlight Snowshoe Hikes to Snowflake Lodge on select dates this winter with s’mores and hot cocoa. | diamondpeak.com


Courtesy Donner Ski Ranch

Donner Ski Ranch

Donner Ski Ranch boasts more than 500 acres of sheer fun at one of the highest base elevation ski areas in the Sierra. For beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders, Donner Ski Ranch offers easy access to novice runs, group and private ski/snowboard lessonsequipment rentals, and a fully equipped retail shop.

Advanced skiers riders can escape the crowds and enjoy untouched lines at Donner Ski Ranch’s aggressive high-mountain and backside terrain.

Donner Ski Ranch is one of the few remaining independently owned and operated ski resorts, is among the oldest ski areas in the Western U.S. And, no visit would be complete with trying the homemade pies at Old 40 Bar & Grill. | donnerskiranch.com


Courtesy Granlibakken


Granlibakken’s historic ski and sled hill celebrated 95 years of winter fun last season, and is prepared to celebrate yet another year of family fun. The ski hill is perfect for beginners, approachable, uncrowded and easily viewed from the deck and warming hut making it great for families. And, all-day lift tickets also include sledding.

Expanded lessons | Through its partnership with Snowschoolers, Granlibakken Ski and Sled Hill has expanded its ski and snowboard lesson program offering more time slots for lessons, more private and group lesson options, and an expanded online purchasing program.

Dining | Rusty’s Kitchen opens this year featuring authentic Mexican food and American favorites. The new name is a nod to Kjell “Rusty” Rustad, a Norwegian skier and sailor who built the ski hut in 1947 and gave Granlibakken its name. And, The Gran Spot Coffee Cart will be serving up snacks, hot beverages and will feature a full bar.


Courtesy Homewood


Homewood Mountain Resort continues to offer skiers and riders access to uncrowded slopes, incredible ski terrain and phenomenal views on runs that look like one could ski or ride into Lake Tahoe.

The resort has invested in on-mountain improvements for the 2018-19 season that include new portable snowmaking equipment, upgrades to its snowmaking automation, and top-to-bottom brush clearing on trails under the Madden and Ellis chairlifts.

Snowcat skiing| A new cab was added to the snowcat used to transport guests in the resort’s guided Snowcat Adventures to the back-country terrain located just outside the resort’s boundary.
Dining | The Tahoe Fusion Food Truck will find a new home at Homewood’s Big Blue View Bar this winter. Highlights include house-made burritos like the Philly cheese steak burrito, orange chicken burrito, Mediterranean burrito and more.
Beer & Gear | Beer & Gear returns March 16 and 17, 2019, with a new twist. Participating ski and snowboard brands will be matched with a brewery to create a ski and sip pairing. Equipment demos will be offered free, lift tickets and beer will be available for purchase.
First Tracks | Early birds looking for the freshest snow are invited to Homewood’s First Tracks Breakfast events on Jan. 26, Feb. 10 and March 3, 2019. Enjoy a hot breakfast from 7 to 8 a.m., and then load the Madden Chair as early as 8 a.m. to ski off the Old Homewood Express before it opens to the general public.
Community Cup Race Series | This season, Homewood will introduce a new community race series modeled after summer club sport leagues. Held on three Mondays during the season, the series requires no previous race experience and will be open to all skier levels. Participants (ages 21+) will be required to register in teams, and races will take place off the Happy Platter beginner lift, where cold beer will be served at the bottom of the course. The Community Cup will take place Feb. 11 and 25 and March 11, 2019. | skihomewood.com

Courtesy Heavenly


Overlooking the sapphire-blue waters of Lake Tahoe, Heavenly ski resort is one of the most unique snow sports destinations with skiing and riding in two states – California and Nevada.

From 34 miles of wide-open, groomed cruisers, to 1,600-foot plunges in double-black diamond canyons to some of the most outrageous tree skiing in North America, Heavenly has something for everyone. Then, after a day on slopes, enjoy the après ski scene, local brewpubs, diverse dining and Vegas-style nightlife, all at Heavenly.

UTV tours | Enjoy guided UTV tours from the top of the gondola traverse to Blue Sky Terrace stopping at points along the way to discuss Lake Tahoe, environmental interpretation aspects and rare photos opportunities.

Ski with a Ranger | Ski with a Ranger from the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit to learn about conservation, the Forest Service, environmental issues and more.

Courtesy Kirkwood


An adventure lover’s paradise, Kirkwood Resort undeniably delivers when it comes to thrills, chills and adrenaline. Perhaps it’s the double black diamond steeps, the miles of cornice or the deepest snowpack in the region at 600 inches annual. From young families with young rippers, to stoic alpine adventurer seekers, Kirkwood does not disappoint.

Kirkwood’s big mountain terrain and small town feeling means that if you love to ski, snowboard or winter in Tahoe, you’re home when you’re here.

#Kirkwood Deep | The 5th Annual #KirkwoodDeep rider’s competition showcases video footage of the boldest snowboarders and skiers each year, with the annual Awards night on Dec. 1 with awards for best Kirkwood Mountain Resort footage. Video categories include Grom Rider of the Year, Family That Shreds Together, Backcountry and Best Video Edit.

Expedition: Kirkwood | Expedition:Kirkwood is for the avid adventurer looking to explore Kirkwood on a more intimate level. Kirkwood’s unique terrain offers lift access to back-country opportunities within the resort boundaries providing the perfect backdrop for a range of specialty clinics, private guides and back-country awareness offerings. Beyond Kirkwood’s boundaries, skiers and riders will find infamous terrain that has been featured in many ski and snowboard flicks. | kirkwood.com


Courtesy Mt. Rose

Mt. Rose

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe has invested $2 million in capital projects to improve its mountain facilities and enhance the overall guest experience at the resort during the 2018-19 winter season and beyond. This year, Mt. Rose was the first resort to open in the Tahoe Sierra with an Oct. 19 opening for passholders.

Mt. Rose has the terrain to fit the needs of everyone. From the beginner slopes in the Enchanted Forest zone, novice skiers and riders will quickly advance to the expansive groomers in the Slide Bowl. Cap it off with the adrenaline-charged steeps of The Chutes, offering some of the most accessible extreme terrain in Lake Tahoe, not to mention the longest continuous vertical in North America.

Major snowmaking construction for this season includes the installation of 17 new snowmaking towers complemented by increased firepower via additional high capacity pumps. The resort is also adding to its snow grooming fleet, bringing the latest, most efficient technology to the mountain. Facility improvements under way include parking lot upgrades (including a new staircase to lot 5), restroom remodels and new resort signage including four state-of-the-art LED lift signs. | skirose.com


Courtesy Northstar


Home to one of North Lake Tahoe’s largest snowmaking system, Northstar is a crowd-pleaser in its own right due to snow alone, then add in seven award-winning terrain parks and a village with more than 35 specialty shops and restaurants.

Tubing at Overlook | The resort debuts family friendly tubing at the Overlook, featuring fire pits for s’mores and spontaneous snowball fights.

Her Mountain Retreat | The signature Her Mountain Retreat Ultimate Girls Weekend includes Her Mountain Lessons, Platinum First Tracks access and onsite yoga with dates from January to March

Platinum amenities | Platinum guests can participate in the iconic tōst tradition, with a complimentary glass of sparkling wine or cider every afternoon on East Ridge Run. Platinum guests also enjoy heated boots, a private lounge, heading straight to the front of lines, first tracks and other amenities.

Kids Adventure Zones | Kids Adventure Zones feature natural and man-made features that are themed as Skicology and Wagon Wheel, which provide fun facts and information about the local history and environment of the resort. Both Kids Adventure Zones are blue terrain and can be found near Luggi’s and Deerskin trails.

Energy efficiency | Northstar had installed 24 new Low-E snowmaking sticks, replacing old equipment to move toward the resort’s commitment to a zero carbon footprint by 2030. | northstarcalifornia.com


Courtesy Sierra-at-Tahoe


With an average of 460 inches of snow, celebrated beginner terrain, incredible tree skiing and award-winning terrain parks, Sierra-at-Tahoe has something for everyone.

On the mountain | Expect to see two new Pisten Bully snowcats on the mountain this season—one for trail grooming and one designed specifically for terrain parks— equipped with SnoSat technology to help cat drivers provide better snow surfaces. Chairlifts and snowmaking equipment have undergone substantial summer maintenance, and trails will be ready for the snow to fly. Trail signs have been updated to elevate guest experience.

Adventure Zones | Sierra’s on-mountain themed adventure zones feature terrain elements such as rollers, mini jumps and banked turns that keep children entertained, while signage and animated characters educate them on local history and animal species. Each adventure zone focuses on a theme, including the Wampa Cave featuring a Star Wars theme.

Dining | The 360 Smokehouse BBQ, located at Sierra’s summit, received a facelift to provide guests with breathtaking views of Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness, all while enjoying award-winning, on-mountain BBQ treats. | sierraattahoe.com


Courtesy Sky Tavern

Sky Tavern

Sky Tavern Ski on the Mt. Rose Highway is one of the oldest nonprofit ski and snowboard training facilities in America. Since 1948, tens of thousands of kids have been taught skiing and snowboarding with some going on to greatness as members of U.S. Ski Teams. Tamara McKinney and Reno’s first Olympic Gold Medalist, David Wise, both got their skiing starts at Sky Tavern.

Best known for the Junior Ski Program, a volunteer-staffed program, operating during the winter on weekends starting in January with the parents helping for a few hours. Certified ski and snowboard instructors and coaches that oversee all training. Lessons range from first time on the snow to advance all mountain and alpine racing. Sky Tavern may best be described as a co-op where parents and other adults run a training ski area for the kids. The ski area is not open for public use of the runs, but the programs are open to everyone. | skytavern.org


Courtesy Soda Springs

Soda Springs

Soda Springs Mountain Resort is a great place to explore the magic of winter in Tahoe. Secluded in the picturesque pines and conveniently located off of Interstate 80, the welcoming resort spirit and relaxed atmosphere is perfect for families new to snow.

Soda Springs features Planet Kids, a dedicated snowplay area designed for children ages 8 and younger. Planet Kids is a snow playground featuring tubing carousals, snow-tubing lanes, ski/snowboard specific learning areas, snow volcanoes to climb and more. If you’re looking to speed things up a bit, Tube Town is Tahoe’s premier snow tubing area with up to 20 runs and a 400-foot surface lift.

Snowball Festival | The Snowball Festival in December returns this year with The World’s Biggest Cup of Hot Cocoa, arts and crafts, face painting, custom balloons, photo ops, holiday snow tubing, snow parkour, a bounce house, a DIY hot cocoa bar and craft beer for adults.

Tom Sims Retro Worlds | This year marks the 36th anniversary of the event. In honor of Tom Sims and his legacy, this grassroots celebration united the legends of the sport with the boards of their time in the place it all started. The first halfpipe competition ever held was at Soda Springs in 1983.

Seventy-five competitors spanning all generations of riders from across the world united, rode, dug, raced and flew together while the snow fired at Soda Springs. | skisodasprings.com

Courtesy Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows

With opening day set for Nov. 16 for Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, the resort has announced that its electricity will be purchased from Liberty Utilities’ nearby solar generation plant in Luning, Nev., making the resort’s electricity supply 100 percent renewable as early as Dec. 1.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will become Liberty’s largest Green Tariff customer, contributing approximately $325,000 in additional dollars on its electric bill in the first year to help accelerate the transition to affordable renewable energy sources for the utility’s 49,000 customers in the region.

On-demand transit | The new nonprofit Squaw Alpine Transit Company, SATCo, has chosen Downtowner, an app-based microtransit service to provide on-demand rides to ease traffic congestion in Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows year-round.

Pop-Up Private lessons | For skiers and snowboarders looking for a quick, the new Pop-Up private lesson offers on-demand instruction by the hour. Guests will connect with a certified professional Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows instructor at the top of the Funitel at Squaw Valley or at the base of Alpine Meadows and hit the snow for one-on-one instruction and priority lift line access.

Burton Riglet Parks & Rivets lessons | Embracing demand for snowboard instruction for kids younger than 5, kids lessons will now have access to Burton Riglet Parks at the designated kids learning areas at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

The parks utilize terrain-based features, easy to use equipment and learning tools to introduce young kids to snowboarding. Instructors trained by the Burton Resort Team use guided discovery and play to welcome new generations to the sport.

Ski & Snowboard Progression Plans | New progression plans for beginner and intermediate skiers and riders will be printed in the portable resort trail map, as well as on the large trail map signs at key locations at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

The plans show an easy step-by-step progression of trails and lifts for a first time beginner, beginner and intermediate skier or rider, and include questions to help guests gauge which runs they should take on next.
Stone paper trail maps | Trail maps will now be printed on stone paper, made from 85 percent recycled content (waste calcium carbonate). The new maps are waterproof and tear-resistant. Guests are encouraged to reuse the map as much as possible and recycle them when no longer needed. Choosing stone paper over regular paper for the 2018-19 season will save 170 trees and 136,000 gallons of water. | squawalpine.com


Courtesy Ben Arnst

Alpine Meadows

The Alps-inspired Alpine Meadows Base Lodge will re-open for the winter 2018-19 season with $1.4 million in renovations.

The renovated food court and expanded marketplace will offer housemade breakfast burritos and fresh pastries, a large selection of grab-and-go salads, snacks and a self-serve barista bar will feature espresso, cappuccino and lattes from Santa Cruz’s Verve Coffee Roasters.

All new outdoor furniture will outfit the deck at Alpine Meadows so guests can soak up the sun and enjoy the expanded cocktail service offered by Stoked Oak. Last Chair Bar will open into the main lodge space to offer additional bar seating, and a cozy new family seating area is adjacent to the grand fireplace.

Expanded snowmaking | The snowmaking system at Alpine Meadows has been expanded to include the Subway beginner area, allowing this critical teaching area to open earlier in the season. The Subway area is home to Achieve Tahoe, a local nonprofit adaptive sports program that provides year-round outdoor recreation opportunities.

Guest access | Guests parked in the lower Alpine Meadows parking lot near the Subway area will have more efficient access to the Alpine Meadows base area via Subway chair due to the expanded snowmaking.


Courtesy Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Squaw Valley

Christmas Day 2018 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Squaw Valley Aerial Tram, originally known as The Cable Car. When it opened in 1968 it was the largest aerial tram in the world and, to this day, marks a feat of modern engineering.

Disco tubing | The SnoVentures Activity Zone will come alive at night with Disco Tubing for the whole family on holidays and other select times during the season. Families can spin, slide and speed down the snow tubing lanes to vibrant DJ tunes as the night is illuminated with colorful lights and lasers splashed on the mountainside.
Mountain tours | Intermediate to advanced level skiing and snowboarding guests who are new to Squaw Valley can take advantage of a free two-hour mountain tour offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings, as well as holidays, starting Dec. 14.

Expanded POW parking | For the 2018-19 season, Squaw Valley will quadruple the size of its POW Parking area. POW Parking is available at no cost for vehicles with three or more people and is located at a prime location north of The Village at Squaw Valley. The POW Parking area will also be available for paid parking for non-carpool vehicles, with all spaces available on a first come, first served basis.


Courtesy Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl

Sugar Bowl Resort invested the first $3 million of an $8 million snowmaking system upgrade over the summer, doubling its water pumping capacity and reducing both the energy consumption and time it takes to cover its snowmaking terrain by two-thirds.

These enhancements will allow Sugar Bowl’s primary resort operations to move to the Judah Lodge base area this winter. This shift also offers new opportunities that include dedicated parking for ski school families, new beginner ski and board programs, and more, according to a press release.

Snowmaking upgrades | Snowmaking improvements include the addition of more than 100 of the project’s new energy efficient snow guns, and 17 tower-mounted fan guns positioned in large open areas where their long throw range can be put to maximum use. A new spur along Union Street with 10 fixed low E stick guns will produce critical early-season snow that will ensure top-to-bottom terrain from the summit of Mount Lincoln to the Village base can be opened as soon as temperatures permit.
Phases two and three of the resort’s snowmaking initiative include the planning, permitting and installation of snowmaking on Mount Disney and the replacement of all diesel-powered air compressors with highly efficient electric air compressors.
Silver Belt Series | A Sugar Bowl signature, the Silver Belt Series will return for the 2018-19 winter season with three events: D-Money’s (Feb. 2, 2019), Banked Slalom (March 2) and Quad Crusher (April 9).

This season, D-Money’s will evolve in its third season to an on-mountain scavenger hunt. Using GPS technology, teams of two will plot their course through Sugar Bowl’s challenging terrain in a race for time. This adventurous new event format will offer intermediate, advanced and kids’ categories.

Daily access at Judah Lodge, the Village | This season, Sugar Bowl is committed to operating services and lifts at both Judah Lodge and the Village on a daily basis. Resort guests will have daily access to convenient parking, the Judah Lodge and popular base area lifts including the White Pine beginner lift in addition to all the services offered in the Village.

Ski & Snowboard School instruction will be offered seven days per week from both the Judah and Village base areas, with the Village offering private lessons only Monday through Friday. Plans also include new programming, improved flow and more to enhance the experience at Judah Kids.
Beginner ski & board programs | This season, affordable new beginner ski and board school programs designed specifically for first-time skiers and snowboarders will be offered daily. Slide, Glide and Ride sessions will introduce participants ages 13 and older to their equipment, and get them comfortable stopping, turning and riding the lifts in no time.

Parking for Ski School families | Sugar Bowl Resort will offer a dedicated parking area with convenient, slopeside parking for the first 50 families with children enrolled in Ski & Board school programs through advanced reservations. Reserved parking spots will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. | sugarbowl.com

Courtesy Tahoe Donner Downhill

Tahoe Donner Downhill

Tahoe Donner will be kicking off the 2018-19 season with improvements at both its downhill and cross country ski areas, including a new triple lift at Tahoe Donner Downhill.

Snowbird Chairlift | The new Snowbird Chairlift is on schedule to debut opening day, conditions permitting. The fixed-grip triple chair replaces the original double chair installed in 1971.

The new Snowbird Chairlift will provide improved access to beginner terrain, modern and reliable chairlift technology, and an overall enhanced experience for skiers and riders. Its new location to the east edge of Snowbird Run will make more beginner skier terrain available and expand the size of the Learning Center area.

Learning Center and Ski School | The Downhill Ski Resort continues its focus on the beginner experience. Its Caterpillar Conveyor (C2) was relocated near the Ski School Yurt, providing better terrain for beginners to learn how to turn and stop before advancing to the Snowbird Lift.

New this year, beginner Snowflakes classes will be split into two age groups: ages 3 to 4 and 5 to 6. Classes for ages 3 to 4 will be shortened to 1 hour and 15 minutes long offered four times daily to help students better focus on learning and improve their overall experience.

Commitment to grooming | A new Pisten Bully 400 ParkPro grooming machine was purchased this summer equipped with Tier 4 engine technology that provides lower emissions and better fuel efficiency. The 400 ParkPro’s power and agility will increase the grooming consistency and quality throughout the resort, including its terrain park and park features. | tahoedonner.com