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SPORTS WEEKEND | THE OUTDOORS

Action on Bases After Leadoff Storm Hits Sierra Resorts

November 03, 2000|PETE THOMAS

With the season's first significant storm sweeping across the Sierra Nevada last weekend, the question was posed to Bob Roberts, executive director of the California Ski Industry Assn.: What kind of winter can the state's resorts expect?

"The omens are good," he responded, via e-mail. "This is setting out to be a 'typical' season. Even my clients in Big Bear like the weather patterns they have seen thus far.

"While I personally prefer the Nino family, the last relative to visit [La Nina] was an underwhelming guest. At Tahoe, Boreal's early opening [three-days in mid-October] and the first snowfalls have folks in a very upbeat mood. However, as the Dodgers and Braves know, it's a long season."

That it may be, but Mother Nature has delivered the first pitch, a wintry blast that signaled an early start for at least three resorts. Others are either waiting for more snow or still preparing for their planned openers later this month.

"We were all kind of caught by surprise," said Rachel Woods, a spokeswoman for Alpine Meadows on Lake Tahoe's north shore. Alpine Meadows got 26 inches last weekend and opened one lift Wednesday and plans to open another, a high-speed quad, Saturday.

Boreal on Donner Summit opened three lifts serving eight trails last Friday--before the brunt of the storm, thanks to previous snowfall and snow-making machines, and may expand operations this weekend.

Across the range at Mammoth Mountain, the call was made to slide Tuesday after last weekend's storm dropped up to three feet on the upper slopes and more than a foot at the main lodge. The Eastern Sierra resort had originally planned to open next Thursday.

Broadway Express was the only chair in operation, but more lifts--and the half-pipe--could open this weekend.

With the jet stream positioned as it is, all of the Lake Tahoe-area resorts should be open before Thanksgiving and most have pegged Nov. 18 as opening day.

"Things are looking great," said Nicole Belt, spokeswoman for Kirkwood, 35 miles south of Lake Tahoe. "We've had a ton of snowboarders hiking up and making fresh tracks down the [main] face. If they can do it, then it's pretty much ready for people to ski."

Locally, limited operations are possible as early as this weekend but it will take at least another foot of new snow to get the season in full swing. Of course, that's just a ballpark figure.

BAJA BEAT

Nearly a week has passed since the Bisbee's Black and Blue Marlin Jackpot Tournament in Cabo San Lucas, with a team aboard the yacht After Midnight $989,910 richer for catching a 500-pound black marlin.

And people are still talking about the one that got away.

Angler Bill Armstrong of Avalon reeled in the 500-pounder, but Jim Grimes of Homer, Alaska, reeled in a 534-pound blue last Friday evening aboard Minerva III.

The team and crew had a day to celebrate their new riches until it was learned, at the awards ceremony last Saturday night, that the fish had been disqualified because of a rule violation. The deckhand aboard Minerva III was charged with touching the line above the leader during the fight, which is against the rules of all major tournaments.

That charge is being disputed by the team, which acknowledged that the deckhand might have "brushed" the line with his hands during the heat of a nighttime battle in six-foot swells, but he did not pull on it or try to keep it from rubbing against part of the boat and therefore he had no bearing on the outcome of the battle.

The deckhand is allowed to grab the leader with his gloved hand, which usually signals the end of a successful fight.

Tournament director Wayne Bisbee, who has not wavered, said the team probably would not have been disqualified had Grimes, during a post-tournament interview by a trained polygraph examiner, not said anything about the incident.

"We would have had no way of knowing," Bisbee said.

Grimes reportedly spent last Saturday night throwing up in his hotel room, he was so sickened by what had happened. And the controversy--one of many in the 20-year history of the event--has left a sour taste with many at Land's End.

Because the vessel was not a fancy yacht from north of the border, but of Mexican registry and with a Mexican crew that could have used its share of the prize money, the locals are siding with the Minerva III team. One local fleet owner went so far as to say, "The feeling among the locals is that their people have been robbed."

*

The Bisbee extravaganza pumps about $5 million into the Cabo San Lucas economy every year and a portion of the prize money is set aside for local charities.

It also generates lots of excitement, and nobody was as excited as a kayaker out for a morning paddle when the flare was fired to send 234 yachts and cruisers speeding to sea on Day 1 of the spectacle.

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