Firstly, if you have landed on this site expecting subject matter a tad more racy or devotional than skiing, please leave now!
After spending our formative skiing years in Europe, we decided in 1999 to try America for our winter vacation. Lake Tahoe caught our imagination, not only because of its innate beauty and impressive snowfall record, but because it could comfortably be combined with a trip to San Francisco (and other parts of both California and Nevada).
We fell in love with Heavenly and the unique California / Nevada Stateline atmosphere instantly, and despite acknowledging that we should expand our skiing experience to the Rockies or Canada, we have remained loyal to it ever since. We were even on the verge one year of booking Whistler or Banff and spending our “city time” in Vancouver, but when push came to shove, we hadn’t the heart to abandon Heavenly.
Nor, in the face of numerous recommendations from people on chairlifts, in restaurants and on the street, have we skiied a single day in any of the other Tahoe resorts. Lame excuse though it may seem, we have, in a sense, not wanted to “waste” one of our precious skiing days at Northstar, Squaw Valley or Sierra-at-Tahoe. And where would we get a better breakfast than at the Driftwood Cafe in the village centre, or seafood dinner at the Riva Grill by the south shore of the lake?
After our initial vacation we returned in 2002, followed by further trips in ’04, ’06, ’08 and ’10. With a mountain that rises to over 10,000 feet and the largest snowmaking and grooming operation on Lake Tahoe if Mother Nature should fail to deliver, snow conditions have always been excellent. The weather during our stays has, however, been less predictable (for example, warm sunshine in ’04 and incessant snowfall in ’06, including 4 feet the night before we were heading for Vegas).
The biennial strategy collapsed last year when we went again just 12 months after our last trip. This appeared at first to be a smart move as a record season was already in full swing when we arrived in early March. Now, we confess to being fair weather skiers, always going relatively late in the season, initially in late February, more latterly in mid March (and now April!). The theory is that there will not only have been substantial accumulations of snow already, but that the weather will have warmed up. Spring in San Francisco can be very pleasant too.
So we scanned the web cams and drooled over the daily Another Heavenly Morning broadcast on the internet, watching the snowfall count escalating. Surely, this will have abated and Spring will have arrived with a swagger by the time we pitched up in the resort, allowing us to enjoy several days cruising on a deep snow base in balmy, sun-soaked weather?
No chance! As the travel diary on this blog demonstrated (links below) the only thing we saw was snow, and, in the words of A.A. Milne, it just “kept on snowing”, even after we had left for San Francisco towards the end of the month:
The year did, indeed, turn out to be a record one with a total 0f 529 inches snowfall (the average is anywhere between 300 and 500). But, after such a disappointing experience, we vowed that we would now leave it a couple of years before returning to Heavenly, perhaps even going back in the interim to getting our skiing fix in Europe again.
But here we are in mid January and the itch needs scratching again (problematic when you are plodding around with several layers of clothing on, including an esapecially fetching pair of tights). The lure of both Heavenly and San Francisco has become too much, causing us to alter our vacation plans for the year. The four weeks travelling around the canyons and National Parks of the West to celebrate my 60th birthday later in the year has now contracted to two.
We are undaunted by the uncharacteristically puny snowfall so far this year. Although the resort has been open every day since November 18th, the total snow for the season has only reached 13 inches (lower slopes) to 22 inches (upper elevations), and the base depth is just 18 to 24 inches. Only 215 acres out of a total of 4800, and 27 of the 97 runs (trails), are currently open.
Limited terrain aside, the resort has still managed to provide high quality, if limited, snow in fine weather, with the army of “midnight riders” (groomers) putting in more than 1,200 snowmaking hours. And we have faith that the storms will come. In fact, as I pen this article, 3-6 feet is being forecast for the next week.
It can snow now until early April as far as we are concerned. But please, let’s have a few days sunshine after that!