Ron Agostini

December 24, 2008

Agostini on skiing: Don't lock into plans

Families seeking fun in the snow this week should make one concession: Keep your plans flexible.

Plan A often yields to Plan B and beyond when: 1. Tire chains must be installed, 2. A storm hits, and 3. Hotel and lodging arrangements are snagged.

Remember that the snow always will be there, whether it's at a ski resort, a sno-park, a meadow or in a quiet forest. Roll with winter's inconveniences and work together.

Sound advance planning usually leads to less hassle. Make sure to carry chains (this is mandatory) and check weather conditions online. Storms are expected up and down the Sierra this week.

But when you've arrived, be prepared for a white Christmas and a bountiful New Years. About a foot of snow amounted to a special present at Lake Tahoe and, closer to home, Dodge Ridge is approaching full operation.

About 1,200 guests attended Dodge's opening day Friday, and crowds of up to 2,000 took advantage of discounted lift tickets over the weekend.

"Granite Bowl and Boulder Creek Canyon will open this weekend. We'll have about 80 percent of our terrain open," said Emily Fisher, Dodge's public relations director. "We're also expecting about two to three feet of snow over the next week."

On Saturday, Dodge will hold its Rail Jam (open to everyone) at Chair 3 on Saturday at 4:15, followed by the Torchlight Parade featuring ski instructors down Chair 1 at 5.

"Our new children's center is dialed in and people are excited about skiing," Fisher said. "It's a fun vibe right now."

More families arrived at Dodge, Bear Valley and other Sierra properties starting last weekend after school let out for the holidays.

"The people come when the snow comes," Bear's Rosie Sundell said. "We were nervous about the economy, but we're finding out that people will still jump into their carries, rather than take that trip to Colorado. They still want to have their vacation."

Bear is scheduled to formally open the Westworld Terrain Park (on the Back Side) on Saturday if conditions permit. A season pass will be given to the person who submits the winning name-the-terrain-park contest.

"A big storm is on the way. If we get too much snow, we might have to dig out all the stuff in the terrain park, so we'll wait and see," Sundell said.

Heavenly, one of the great international destinations off Lake Tahoe's southern shore, is gaining momentum. An 18-inch snowfall Monday night gave way to cloudy skies Tuesday, but more snow was expected today and Thursday.

"We are having a white Christmas. Thank you, Santa!" Heavenly spokeswoman Aimi Xistra said.

The California and Stagecoach lodges and the Gondola provide access to 25 of Heavenly's 94 trails, and those numbers should increase through the week. Groove and Roundabout open today.

"We want to make sure conditions are safe and good before we open terrain," Xistra said. "The thing we don't want is for people to ruin their new equipment on terrain that is not ready."

Families and bundling up and donning goggles to stay on the mountain. If the storm discourages a lift-ticket purchase, countless options are available at Tahoe; Sleigh rides, snow mobiling, the ice rink at Heavenly Village, boat cruises, hot tubs, etc.

Keep your plans flexible and, above all, have fun.

SKI NOTES -- Skiers, riders and cross country specialists can save dollars by purchasing the Tahoe Winter Card for only $39.99. The perks: One free lift ticket to Donner Ski Ranch; free rental tuneups and waxes at more than a dozen shops from San Francisco to Reno; a year's subscription to Transworld Snowboarding or Skiing magazines; access to's online lift ticket store; discounted lift tickets at Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley and many other Sierra resorts; and discounts on lodging and dining in the Reno-Tahoe area. It pays for itself after only one usage. Visit ... High Camp, the 8,200-feet-high getaway at Squaw Valley USA, is open for skiing, dining, skating and shopping. The ride up the Cable Car is fun by itself.

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached at or 578-2302.

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