Well I did three days at Lake Tahoe, and kind of skied the "other" resorts of the north end. But it was fantastic, on the second day it was fantastic, and on the third day it was fantastic. Day one was at Alpine Meadows which was probably my favorite of the three hills I hit. Lots of wide open bowls with some great glade skiing off skiers left on the Scott Chair, some impressive 45-50 degree fall lines up in the woods and, I'm told, gorgeous views on sunny days. Alpine has developed an anti-attitude attitude, which is my kind of attitude.
Basically they're into keeping things simple with the 39 buck ticket and have all sorts of traditional CA easy-goingness things about it. For instance-- they have little cardboard turtles holding up "slow" signs for the slow skiing zones. On the Lakeside chair, each tower has a little factoid about Lake Tahoe which, when it's not snowing, apparently you can see from that lift quite easily (hence the name). Little touches like that that just make the place feel mellow. Also there is no slopeside lodging-- bad for a vacation but good for day tripping, as there is plenty of parking up close and the cheap ticket made me an awful lot less picky about paying eleven bucks for lunch. It snowed all day so the hike-to bowls were closed but, due to the snow and Monday, I was finding untracked runs eight inches deep at the end of the day.
Picked up at Northstar on Tuesday morning four inches deeper than where we left off at Alpine Monday afternoon. Had the place to myself Monday morning and did what I could to ski the snow off the glades. Although Northstar is pretty intermediate oriented, it has some of the best glades I have ever skied. I'd say fully 2/3 of the woods on that mountain can be skied, and not tight narrow skiing but nice open powdery stuff with pitches ranging from novice up to about 35 degrees on Lookout Mountain. The downside to Northstar is a weird lift system and really long lines at the cafeteria for lunch. It's a great intermediate hill though and worth the visit if you want to relax for a day and just enjoy the woods. Oh also on Tuesday they opened the "in-bounds backcountry" of Sawtooth Ridge and I hit first powder turns at noon that was up to my knees. Frankly I didn't find the Sierra Cement very difficult to ski at all, until the temperature got above freezing. When it was below freezing I think the heavier density of the snow makes you float a little higher than the Utah fluff so the net feeling of sailing in snow is about the same (maybe a little slower in CA but for an easterner who rarely skis powder, it's not worth getting too picky about. Knee-high is knee-high is wonderful).
Wednesday I went over to Sugar Bowl, where the snow was unbelievably deep-- in the parking lot alone it was up to what would have been a second floor window. If Sugar Bowl is churning out extreme skiers, there is one word why: Palisades. It was closed when I was there but I probably wouldn't have skied it anyway. It's basically a series of small bowls that start around 50 degrees and then pitch progressively steeper until you either launch over a 30 foot cliff or funnel down a 70 degree, four foot wide chute into the lower snow fields. This is the stuff of Valdez Alaska and it is sitting three miles off interstate 80. The chutes under the summit quad were also impressive and I had my two best runs of the year down a narrow chute right under the chair: about 45-50 degree pitch, 12 feet wide, and a zig-zag in the middle. Due to the rocks it was close to being a no-fall zone and once you got going you pretty much just skied through (stopping would result in a loss of rhythm and nerve) and then pat yourself on the back at the bottom, collect the beaming looks off the chair and ski down to the mogul fields.
The downside to Sugar is it gets windblown a lot so until people chop up the crusty stuff, some of the pitches can be particularly nasty. The chutes below the chair were in nice shape by lunch but the bowls off the Disney lift stayed chippy all day.
A day later I was at Pebble Beach in 70 degree weather watching folks play golf. California is a state that is impossible not to like. Sure other places get better snow or have bigger verticals or slightly nicer weather, but where else can you go from powder conditions to near-summer weather in six hours or less? Nice way to welcome in spring, that's for sure.
Probably heading up to Whitetail for a farewell to winter trip this weekend. JohnL I have another Top 10 for your addiction to skiing: you know you're addicted to skiing when you get more depressed over the end of the ski season than you do about your girlfriend leaving you.