Early Christmas for skiers as South Lake Tahoe beckons

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The Kirkwood ski resort in South Lake Tahoe, storied for its steep terrain, celebrates four decades on New Year’s Eve with anniversary festivities and fireworks.

With last week’s series of major storms that roared through the High Sierra, ski resort chairlifts are now clicking on all cylinders.

The resorts at Tahoe South reported receiving a snow dump of 3-4 feet, then basking in sunny skies. All this was plenty to thrill skiers and boarders alike, who celebrate as the season kicks into high gear just in time for the holidays.

“The momentum these storms carried was spectacular and is exactly what we asked Santa for this season,” said Carol Chaplin, executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

With a heavy snow blanket on South Tahoe mountainsides, chairlifts were humming at Heavenly Mountain Resort, Sierra-at-Tahoe, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, and at Homewood on the West Shore. Following are some highlights.

• Heavenly. Three new, long, intermediate runs will be open off the Galaxy chair on the Nevada side. And, welcome news for boarders is that the popular 500-foot-long half-pipe will reopen after being shut down for the past four years. Two weeks of festivities at Heavenly Village, running Dec. 19-31, will feature live music, ice sculpting, professional ice skaters and photos with Santa inside a giant snow globe (see Travel Tidbits, left).

For more information, visit

• Sierra-at-Tahoe. This popular ski area offers three new programs for snowboarders, snowcat tours and helicopter rides between your room and the slopes. The resort continues its Christmas tradition with an annual winter holiday festival Dec. 22 and 23, featuring music, contests and other fun and games.

For more information, visit

• Kirkwood. Celebrating its 40th anniversary, and now part of Vail Resorts, the resort will throw an all-out birthday and New Year’s Eve bash Dec. 31, complete with fireworks and parties. The Vail-inspired menu upgrades will be evident in the resort cafes. Enhanced avalanche control should allow the resort to open Kirkwood’s vaunted steep terrain more quickly.

For more information, visit

• Homewood. This West Shore family-focused icon has opened its doors to a “Burton Learn to Ride Center” for adults who want to try snowboarding. A package includes lift ticket and rental equipment. Also, check out the Homeward Bound Pizza to-go offer that eliminates dinner decisions for mom and dad. The resort plans to open Friday.

For more information, visit

Safety first

For Caltrans’ current California road conditions, visit or call (800) 427-ROAD (7623) or (916) 445-7623. For the most up-to-date information on snowfall, mountain base depths and road conditions in South Lake Tahoe, check area ski resort websites and cams or call snow phones: Heavenly at (775) 586-7000, Sierra-at-Tahoe at (530) 659-7475, Kirkwood at (209) 258-3000 and Homewood at (800) 427-7623.

For more information, visit

Looking north?

If you choose to head north, Squaw Valley skiers and riders can stay at The Village at Squaw Valley and ski or ride free for just $89 per person/per night now through Dec. 20. For details, call (866) 818-6963 and ask about the “Stay and Ski Free Package.”

Los Altos resident Glen Putman is a freelance writer.

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