Still time to ski; Heavenly open until April 19

By: Jeffrey Weidel/Special to Gold Country News Service
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Puffy white clouds slowly pass overhead, providing a mesmerizing skyline that seems to fit perfectly with this sun-drenched day at Heavenly Mountain Resort. The tranquility of the peaceful cloud formations sets the tone for this April day of spring skiing. Other than an occasional gust of wind, the warm weather, groomed runs and modest midweek crowds combine to make this quite the mellow day. Spring skiing has arrived. And with it comes different expectations and new strategies for being on the mountain. It’s definitely time to shed the heavy clothes, lather on the sunscreen, carefully wax the skis or board, and dial down the intensity gauge. That’s right, ease up; this is a carefree time, so forget about trying to cram 30 runs into one day. “There is definitely a different vibe this time of year,” said Russ Pecoraro, Heavenly’s director of communications. “A lot of people are more interested in enjoying the weather and being outside sitting in the sun, rather than getting their runs in.” Lynn Trumper certainly resides in that group. On her first visit to Heavenly, the United Kingdom visitor was pleased by the sizable amount of available snow. Yet Thumper was more impressed with the scenery and the relaxed atmosphere. “I’ve been amazed by everything at Heavenly,” said Trumper, who typically skis in Italy and Austria. “You Americans do everything so big, so grand. The runs here are so long and wide that sometimes I feel like I am the only one on them. And I keep forgetting to look up at the scenery, which is fantastic. I love it here. “It’s very relaxed, there’s no pushing and shoving like the lift lines in Europe.” The only thing competitive this time of year might be locating a seat outside during the afternoon when sun-bathing seems to take on more importance than getting in some more turns. Although weather changes can still arrive suddenly, turning back the clock to emulate a ruthless day in January rather than a tame one in April, things quickly revert back to the more normal weather pattern. In Tahoe for a five-day visit with his family, Bob Schoffstall of San Luis Obispo was looking for a weather change that never arrived. “I don’t care how cold it is, it’s all about the snow for me,” admits Schoffstall. Seated next to him on a bench in the south shore village, wife Cheryl took a more spring-like attitude to her upcoming day on the slopes. “Absolutely, I really enjoy the scenery up here. Have you seen the sunsets?” she said. For the Schoffstalls, the relatively new south shore village is something the couple feels was a welcome change. “It used to be when you got past the casinos there was nothing there but a bunch of T-shirt shops,” Bob Schoffstall said. “It was kind of a dump before. Now everything is right here and it’s very convenient.” There are certainly many positives this time of year at Heavenly, which has a closing date of April 19. Even on weekends this typically busy resort has slowed down considerably. Lift lines? Don’t worry, if there are any, the waits are minimal. Another positive: extra sleep. Unless you love icy or crusty snow, there’s no need to hit the mountain until around 10 a.m. most mornings. Once the sun has warmed up many areas, the best skiing comes from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Following the sun is the general rule. The corn snow provides the best conditions. Late afternoon is always questionable with slushy snow often the reason to exit the ski boots prematurely and find a suitable spot on the nearest sun deck. “When I come to Heavenly this time of year the crowds are light and I plan on skiing hard in the morning,” said Matthew Rogstad of Lafayette. “I start shedding clothing in the afternoon and usually quit early to avoid the slush.” Another general rule to follow this time of year is don’t pay full price for anything. Search out the bargains, whether it’s lift tickets, lodging or buying new gear.