Ski resorts splurge on upgrades

OUR FAMILY SKIED AT Northstar when it opened in the ‘70s. We were suburban teens (think “That ‘70s Show”) and our parents rented a condo. We hit the slopes in K2 skis and “stars- and-stripes” powder pants. It was a glorious vacation.

Much has changed (including skis and ski fashion) since Fibreboard Corp. opened Northstar in 1972 with the motto “Everything in the middle of nowhere.”

Resort owners around Lake Tahoe are investing “mountains of money”— more than $100 million—in capital improvements, as the Los Angeles Times observed this winter.

Upgrades abound at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows (now jointly run by KSL Capital Partners in Denver); Homewood Mountain Resort on Tahoe’s West Shore; Sugar Bowl; and Royal Gorge cross-country ski resort (now run by Sugar Bowl).

No “ski lifestyle” detail is ignored. Squaw has the first ski-in, ski-out Starbucks. Northstar just held its first “S’moresapalooza,” a s’mores-eating contest in the Village.

It also offers guided tree skiing with a gourmet breakfast afterward. The Ritz-Carlton at Northstar has a celebrity chef—Traci Des Jardins.

The renaissance at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows includes $24 million in capital improvements, including Historic Truckee was just honored as one of the best ski towns by National Geographic.

It is celebrated as “an inviting mountain burg steeped in ski heritage, amenities and culture.” new chair lifts and revamped terrain parks. “Snowmaking improvements will be substantial,” says Squaw Valley CEO Andy Wirth.

Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Northstar has become a boutique ski resort experience—on and off the mountain.

Its new owner, Vail Resorts, just completed $30 million in capital improvements. There‘s a new high-speed chairlift, a “green” construction certified Zephyr Lodge, a new 700-seat mountain restaurant and a 22-ft. Superpipe designed by snowboarding legend Shaun White.

A new master plan gives a 10-15 year vision for Northstar that includes 300 acres of new ski trails with seven new lifts; lift access to advanced terrain; additional snowmaking coverage; and enhanced food service.

All told, it’s “more activities for people to enjoy when they visit Northstar,” as Chief Operating Officer Bill Rock puts it.


Activities after skiing and snowboarding vary from chic to cozy. Here are some favorites in the Tahoe-Truckee region:

Burgundy Beef Stew and a Wood-fired Sauna at Sorensen’s Resort
Tucked away in spectacular Hope Valley, near Lake Tahoe, Sorensen’s Resort is an ideal home base for winter recreation. We like the cozy log cabins and classic café fare, such as beef burgundy stew. But our favorite activity is the Norwegian-style wood-fired sauna. You can warm up and jump into the snow for a jolt.

Sunday Supper & Scrabble at West Shore Café & Inn
New this winter, the West Shore Café at Tahoe offers a Sunday Scrabble tournament, with weekly prizes such as cocktails, appetizers and lift tickets to Homewood Mountain Resort, just across the street.
Back by popular demand, a Sunday Supper special includes the chef’s weekly entree paired with a glass of wine for $20. The lake view is spectacular.

Dinner, Lunch and Brunch at Rainbow Lodge
The Rainbow Lodge is a turn of the century, historic lodge situated along the Yuba River on Donner Summit, right off I-80 and along historic Hwy.40. The Lodge is open for lunch and dinner Thursday-Sunday.

Mineral Pool at Grover Hot Springs State Park
This California State Park is located on the east side of the Sierra, four miles west of Markleeville. Don’t expect a deluxe Euro-resort, but bathers can sit in one hot pool (102-105º) fed by six mineral springs.

For more information, visit, and


MORE PEOPLE ARE TRAVELING WITH THEIR dogs, and the Tahoe-Truckee region is a winter playground for Fido—for a romp in the snow, a long walk, or to warm up by the fireplace.

Dog-friendly trails abound for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing at Blackwood Canyon on Tahoe’s West Shore, Tahoe Cross Country Ski Area on the North Shore and other places. For more ideas, go to

Many hotels, including the Cedar House Sport Hotel, the Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe and Sorensen’s Resort, are dog friendly. If not, Truckee-Tahoe Pet Lodge is an often recommended mountain retreat for your dog.

There’s doggie daycare while you ski or overnight stays while you sleep. The Lodge is located just 1/2 mile from I-80 and within minutes of major ski resorts.

Daycare includes nap time but also playtime with other dogs in a stimulating, safe area. Pet lodging includes a variety of climate-controlled suites
to suit any size pet.

(Photos: Northstar; dog painting: Kathryn Wronski)

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