First tracks at Northstar | A date with pristine, untracked groomers

The author makes her way down the hill. | Alison Bermant

The alarm rings, I squint one eye open and look at the time. Part of me wants to hit the snooze button and bury my head back in my pillow, but criminal attorney Alison Bermant and I have a date with some pristine, untracked groomers at Northstar California. I get up out of bed. It’s still dark out.

There are no lift lines and no waiting. I relish in the quiet with only the sound of our skis skimming and crunching atop the snow.

It’s a balmy 18 degrees as we drive through Martis Valley. We park the car in the VIP parking area. The sky is just beginning to lighten. We slip on our ski boots, zip up our ski jackets and hoist our skis onto our shoulders. The village is eerily quiet as we make our way to the Platinum Club in the Northstar Village for our Platinum First Tracks adventure. Once all of the participants arrive, we are guided to the base of the gondola, where the Northstar Ski School director Don Yuhas welcomes the small group of people who have signed up for the 7:30 a.m. activity. We break up into groups and head up the lift.



Platinum First Tracks

Jan. 19, Feb. 2 & 16, March 1 & 15


The opportunity to explore untouched groomers is both exciting, exhilarating and awe-inspiring. Here out in the elements with sweeping views and no one around is pretty epic. The cold air on my cheeks is enlivening. The sun is just rising at the top of the Comstock Express. The freshly groomed snow glistens and sparkles. We lap untouched runs named Stump Alley, West Ridge and Axe Handle.

Sunrise at Northstar California. | Alison Bermant

We ski East Ridge to Dutchman and West Ridge to SpringBoard with no one else around. There are no lift lines and no waiting. I relish in the quiet with only the sound of our skis skimming and crunching atop the snow. The rising sun warms me. Alison lays down on the ski run and shoots some photos. The views of Martis Valley are stunning. The pines and woods like silent sentries surround us.

It’s a beautiful experience to ski before the lifts open for the day. I have only skied Northstar once before; it was lovely to tour the mountain with highly qualified ski instructors. We continued to lap runs for a couple of hours before the resort starts spinning its lifts, which open at 8:30 a.m. People appear from what seems as out of nowhere.

We ski over to Zephyr Lodge, where we are served a beautiful breakfast buffet with eggs, bagels and lox, fresh fruit and juices — all included with the Platinum experience. When we finish breakfast, Alison and I go out to ski some more. We explore some of the other runs on the mountain. The runs begin to get crowded as more people arrived. We decide to head off-piste to explore different parts of the mountain that neither of us are familiar with; it provides a bonus to our adventure.

We ski down to Northstar Village for an afternoon Bloody Mary with a shrimp, onion, olive and pickled bean on a stick along with a celery stalk — basically a salad on top of our cocktail. It is tasty and hits the spot after a day of schussing down the hill.

Northstar offers the fun and fantastic pre-dawn experience of Platinum First Tracks on Jan. 19, Feb. 2 and 16, and March 1 and 15, which includes VIP parking and breakfast for $225 a person, all ages.

There is something about fresh tracks that is thrilling, whether it’s riding on the newly groomed corduroy or fresh fluffy powder. | (530) 562-3500, northstarcalifornia.com