New Adventures Provide Amazing Snow Vacation Memories
By Kathy Chin Leong
Another snow season is upon us. If you haven’t been to Lake Tahoe or Bear Valley in ages, this is a great time to revisit. New are kid adventure zones, new lessons for younger children, expanded learning slopes, one-on-one classes to calm nervous kiddos. Facilities have improved amenities and services. Look for lodges with upgraded décor and family lounges. Here’s what to look for on the slopes:
Alpine Meadows Resort: Three and four-year-olds learn to snowboard under the new Rivets program which uses kid-friendly gear and incorporates play techniques. The program is identical at sister property, Squaw Valley. Alpine and Squaw are also adding progression plans to its trail map which guides beginners on where to ski next. Finally, Alpine Meadows Base Lodge opens after a $1.4 million renovation with a food court, expanded market, and a family seating area.
Bear Valley Resort: This Sierra ski facility offers a new half-day, afternoon Cub Club ski/snowboard sports lesson for kids age 4-12. Starting after lunch, parents can drop off their children and pick them up at the end of the day. Other updates include faster WI-FI, upgrades to the Bear Valley Lodge, and remodeled pizza restaurant.Boreal Mountain: An expanded learning ski/snowboard area, plus a new beginner California Cruiser chair lift with a soft bench seat means Boreal is committed to a stress-free newcomer’s experience. The resort’s school now provides progression zones, also ideal for first-timers. Another option is learning to ski or snowboard indoors at Woodward Tahoe, its 33,000-square-foot indoor sports training facility and fun zone. The last new benefit is a new parking lot that will make getting to the trails faster.
Diamond Peak: Diamond Peak experts have crafted non-intimidating features in the new Village Terrain Park with a snowboard progression section. Rails and boxes are cut low to the ground, so kids who fall only tumble a few inches from the snow. Beginner jumps and rollers give the thrill of catching a little air in a safe landing zone. Known as one of the best budget resorts around, it offers parents a single-day Parent Interchangeable Ticket for the price of one lift pass. On-site guests receive a complimentary lift ticket on their birthday. Also, at nearby Hyatt Regency, every half hour shuttle service is on the house. Diamond Peak runs a convenient ski shop at the Hyatt for rental gear, lesson reservations, and tickets.
Dodge Ridge: The Pinecrest resort takes it slow for fledgling snow bunnies and provides an Introduction to Snow (Ski or Ride) class for ages 2 to 5. During the two-hour, one-on-one session, a caring instructor encourages a life-long love of either sport and introduces basic skiils and safe equipment handling. Also available is the Burton Learn To Ride snowboard program for kids 2 to 12.
Heavenly Mountain: Kids ages 4 and 5 can participate in the Firecrackers ski program. The Blasters, ages 5 and 6, are introduced to snowboarding. Entrust your babes to pros at Heavenly Childcare and Nursery which accepts infants six weeks and older. The hottest new activity is the Winter Guided UTV Tour in a vehicle that looks like a dune buggy built for the snow. For 45 minutes, guests are jostled and bumped up the mountain to see pristine views. Learn about the area’s ecology and history as you grip those handles on this jumpy journey. Children must be 8 and up.
Kirkwood Mountain: This Kirkwood resort really understands families, and proof of that is the new Adventure Family Center at Red Cliffs Lodge. A great hangout for weary parents and kids, this vast living room on the second floor is ideal for chilling out and bonding over games such as the giant Jenga, and Connect 4. Catch a snooze on the beanbag chairs or sit at a table to eat lunch. Bring munchies in from any of the eight eateries on site. Afterwards, take the clan to the Kirkwood Cross Country Ski & Snowshoe Center. Its Kiddy Kilometer is a trail lined with animal cutouts designed for interactive play.
Northstar California: The Truckee ski area rules with its Burton Snowboard Academy, the only one of its kind in the nation. Little ones, ages 4-6, gather at Ripperoo Riglet Park to glide on slightly graded elevations. It uses a terrain-based teaching system where the snow is sculpted for different skill levels. Next, two new interactive Kids Adventure Zones on the slopes with natural and man-made features cover regional history and environment. Finally, the newly remodeled Summit Smokehouse on the upper mountain features a freshened menu with slow-cooked meats and homemade sauces.
Sierra-at-Tahoe: Sierra has poured new efforts into its beginner program with its trademarked Smart Terrain progression terrain. The 11-acre Easy Street is formed with soft banks and curves so skiiers and snowboarders can turn and stop with no hassle. Also new is the Cubbie ski/snowboard class, exclusively for 3-year-olds. Sierra adds to the fun factor with Adventure Zones on beginner slopes. Four exploration areas feature teepees, cartoon cutouts, sounds, and smoke signals. Come to Blizzard Mountain for snowplay, tubing, sledding, and snowshoeing.
Squaw Valley: Squaw now offers snowboard group instruction for kids as young as three. The pre-school Rivets will have access to easy-to-use equipment and learn at the Burton Riglet Parks. If you have four or more in your car, you qualify for the free parking in complimentary POW (Protect Our Winters) Parking program also offered at Alpine Meadows. Looking to experience something different? Check out the SnoVentures Activity Zone which will present disco tubing on select dates. Slide down colorfully lit hills as a DJ spins tunes at night.
Sugar Bowl: For the first time, parents can park in Sugar Bowl’s Judah upper lot. You can rent gear, check in, and drop off kids in one place. Also, new snowboard lessons dubbed the Slide, Glide, and Ride are aimed at beginner teens. Instructors will introduce students to the equipment and get them comfortable with the basics. Upon completion of a three-visit learning package, students earn a lift-ticket pass for three more visits. Sugarbowl now provides free slope-side parking to the first 50 families with children enrolled in lessons, but reservations are required.
When You Go:
Alpine Meadows: www.squawalpine.com
Bear Valley: www.BearValley.com
Diamond Peak: www.diamondpeak.com
Dodge Ridge: www.dodgeridge.com
Hyatt Regency: www.hyatt.com
Royal Gorge: www.royalgorge.com
Sierra at Tahoe: www.sierraatathoe.com