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Fresh from powder central

Nine resorts within a day's drive of Southern California add a few new twists for the winter season.

November 01, 2005|Emmett Berg | Special to The Times

Mountain High Snow Resort

Wrightwood, Calif.

The resort recently acquired Ski Sunrise next door. The addition of the formerly shuttered resort means additional and presumably less-crowded slopes. Mountain High is providing extra parking to alleviate the jams at Mountain High West and East and adding a free shuttle connecting its slopes.

Mountain High has also installed two handle-tow lifts serving the resort's new 20-acre North Pole Tubing Park. It's $15 for two hours or $30 all day, including tube rental. The park's straight chutes are designed to be fast and kid-friendly.


Mt. Baldy Resort

Mt. Baldy, Calif.

The biggest addition is the wet stuff. Last year's rains recharged Mt. Baldy's springs and wells, and another midmountain water source was restored, leading to three times as much water for snowmaking.

The resort has also purchased snow-fan technology, so the fairly steep runs from the main lodge to the parking lot will stay blanketed with the soft stuff. In previous seasons, skiers and riders often chose to ride the main lift down rather than brave the often-icy slope.



Mountain Resort

Kirkwood, Calif.

32 miles south of

Lake Tahoe

Kirkwood, cheeky on the heels of an 800-inch snow season last year, is angling to open Thunder Bowl, a formerly closed mammoth bowl behind the main resort. The bowl is considered an out-of-bounds area, but Kirkwood has applied for a guiding permit through the national forest. Skiers would be required to pass a skills test and hire a resort guide to lead the way through the couloirs or along a ridgeline toward wide powder fields.

The resort is also replacing one of its slower chairlifts with a high-speed quad, beginning near the Timber Creek Day Lodge.

The quad primarily will shuttle beginners, but high above those lower slopes, experts in the Palisades Bowl will find it worthwhile to ski down to Timber Creek rather than traverse halfway across the mountain to catch a summit chair.

In the past, skiing the Palisades Bowl top to bottom meant a long detour; the quad covers the same ground in about five minutes.


Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe

Reno, Nev.,

Mt. Rose wowed the expert community last season by opening the Chutes, an avalanche zone that for decades was a forbidden pleasure that could result in arrest. Now resort staff work to minimize avalanche risk by setting off controlled slides and patrolling the formerly out-of-bounds area.

Over the summer, crews removed hazards such as dead trees and snags from established runs in the Chutes and the glades between them.

On the other end of the learning curve, beginners at Mt. Rose this season can ride a conveyor belt in the teaching area, which is as long as three football fields. More chairs have been added to two lifts, which will boost their people-moving capacity by 25%.


Squaw Valley USA

Squaw Valley, Calif.

Even as Jackson Hole plans to retire its tram next summer, with no decision yet on a replacement, Squaw worked over the summer to preserve its cable-car lift. The car itself is unchanged, but the cable, hauling rope and counterweight have been upgraded. To get uphill fast, park and buy lift tickets next to the Far East lift at the left of the main parking lot.

Squaw is also sprucing up with the addition of state-of-the-art grooming machines, new features for all three terrain parks and a Demo Center for ticket-holders who want to try new skis without leaving the immediate lift area.


Royal Gorge Cross Country Ski Resort

Soda Springs, Calif., northwest of Lake Tahoe

Several parts of the Ice Lakes trail system will be redesigned to improve the flow of striding and skating Nordic skiers. Though Royal Gorge plans an official opening on Thanksgiving, if conditions permit, the resort may open earlier for weekend cross-country skiing on its moderate to challenging slopes.

San Francisco developers purchased the resort and nearby properties in a deal reported recently. While it's too early to predict how Royal Gorge will ultimately be affected, the new owners reportedly are considering building a day lodge and adding more parking.


Alpine Meadows Ski and Snowboard Resort

Lake Tahoe, Calif.

A new detachable quad providing lift service in the Sherwood Bowl is twice as fast as the triple chair it replaced. Advanced and expert skiers can take laps in a mix of runs and tree skiing facing away from the main resort.


Boreal Mountain Resort

Boreal, Calif., near Truckee

More than 100 snow jumps, boxes, rails and other terrain features purchased over the summer will transform this resort into an all-mountain terrain park.


Brian Head Resort

Brian Head, Utah

The resort's contractor suspended snowmobile-assisted skiing last year because of heavy snows, and is not offering the service this year. Skiers and snowboarders are still allowed to hike out of bounds into adjacent areas. Brian Head is also exploring adding two lifts.

The resort doled out goodies to each of its four terrain parks over the summer, in the form of rails, rainbow boxes and other modifications.

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