Words by Ryan Mulcahy
Anyone that has watched the news or has any kind of connection to the weather will know that it has been a strange and unpredictable winter across North America. Whether you blame global warming, El Nino/La Nina or simply just nature, all should agree things are what they should be. Colorado is having a record deep year while places that are known for deep snow packs like the Sierras of California are having a record drought, all while there is record snow in places like Atlanta.
I have spent this past winter with my focus mostly on school and due to this have spent my first full winter in Utah. After spending the past three seasons located in North Lake Tahoe, but jumping all around North America, it seemed that Utah was a good fit to continue my education while still having the ability to further my skiing. Even with the “greatest snow on earth” at my back door, it left something to be desired as far as a steep challenging skiing. Don’t get me wrong Utah has some steep and some good vertical but in comparison to my previous season’s diet of 50-55 degree pitches for 1600 vertical feet, it cannot provide my need. Furthermore the lightest snow on earth doesn’t quite stick to the steeps as the coastal snow pack does.
To fill this void in my life I felt the need to come back to northern California and do what I referred to as the best of Tahoe tour. I spent one day skiing, Sugar bowl, Alpine Meadows, Squaw (powder day 3/10), Homewood, Kirkwood, and one day in the back country outside Mt Rose. From this I can tell you two things, (1) winter is back in Tahoe finally, and (2) When its good there are very few places in the lower 48 that compare to all that Tahoe has to offer as far terrain, snow, steep, vertical, and lift services.
I feel very lucky to be able to experience and ride all these great mountains in the lower 48 and feel that it gives me perspective on what each has to offer. Each had its own highlights, Alpine still has the best hike to terrain in Tahoe, with Beaver Bowl and the Sherwood ridge offering first tracks days after a storm, Squaw with its famous steep sustained terrain and lots of encouraging people on the chair to “motivate “ you, Sugar Bowl with its local vibe feeling and awesome terrain, Homewood with its old school skiing experience of a simple mountain with lots of fun, and Kirkwood has become the rebellious step child of Vail resorts holding on to its image of isolation, steep, high elevation terrain, and a fan base of die hard skiers and riders. It is hard to argue with statistics like this. Furthermore just announce next season, Squaw, Alpine, Sugar Bowl, and Sierra Tahoe will be on one pass. So if one was to invest in an Epic pass gaining North Star and Heavenly as well as Kirkwood you could ride 7 resorts for about $900 unrestricted depending on your choices.
None the less I feel very happy and satisfied with the riding I did and gave me whole new appreciation for all that Tahoe has to offer.