I still vividly remember visiting Alpine Meadows Resort for the first time. The year was 1998 and not just my first time… it was also the first-time snowboarding was allowed at the resort. A good enough reason to visit Lake Tahoe for me! Memories of the topography were burned into my brain. It rode like a wave with gullies, cliff bands and fall-line terrain that begged to be slashed. For whatever reason, it had been two decades since I last visited. Getting a call from a friend at NASJA to join them for a day at Alpine Meadows, I thought “Why not?”
Morning Dawns Cold, Clear and Brisk
The next day dawns cold, clear and not a wisp of wind. The thermometer barely hit 20 degrees at 7 am. But, the forecast was for the temps to rise rapidly into the upper 50’s. Just classic Tahoe spring weather, conducive for producing the perfect corn snow. Zooming out of South Lake Tahoe, I head over Emerald Bay and the views as usual take my breath away.
Pineapple Express Leads to Empty Roads
Bumping down the road on the West Shore, I only pass a car or two. A rarity for mid-April but after last week’s Pineapple Express, the snowpack was left battered causing most people to lose their interest in skiing and snowboarding. For me, it’s all about getting as many turns in until the snow is fully gone.
Squaw Valley Meetup
Pulling into Squaw around 8:30 am, I get front row parking. It never ceases to amaze me how beautiful Squaw Valley is. The massive peaks of the resort shoot up from the flat valley floor making it feel like a European resort. From there, we all meet up and jump on a shuttle to Alpine Meadows.
Just How I Remembered It
Hopping off the bus, I look at the lodge in front of me. For some reason, I don’t remember it at all. As I step through the open-aired walkway and onto the snow, I stand for a moment to take in the view. Wow! Twenty years later, I still remember the geography like it was yesterday. Everywhere I look, the terrain is just calling out to be ridden.
Wind Hold on Summit
We start the day by taking Roundhouse because the Summit chairlift is on wind hold. Ascending out of the base, Sam, our tour guide, points to the top. Halfway up, there is absolutely no wind while you can see the snow zipping off the summit. We now understand why they have the lift shut down.
Mid-Winter Snow in Mid-April
As we drop into our first run, the snow is soft… almost mid-winter like. Carving down the slope, we decide as a group to head up Alpine Chair. One of the crew points over to a run called Lower Saddle and asks Sam if we could hit it. He nods. The bowl looks impressive. A blank canvas with less than a handful of tracks on it. Little did we know it would take a bit of scrambling to get over there.
Working For It!
At the top, I unstrap and pick up my board. The first few steps come easily as the snow is soft and creamy. As the pitch becomes steeper, the footing gets a bit tougher. Slipping and sliding, I slow my steps so I don’t go for a ride all the way to the bottom. Making it through the first tricky segment, Sam points to a notch in the rocks and says we’re going there. Oh boy! The face we have to climb is solid ice. Grabbing my board, I slam it into the solid face picking each step carefully. At the top, we try to calm our nerves and look down. From here, the slope is still a blank canvas. But is it ice or powder?
The first of our crew drops in and makes a few turns disappearing out of sight. I then point it and head over the wind-blown ridge line, making a left into the face. As soon as I swoop the first carve, I knew it was going to be awesome. I lay turn after glorious turn into the bowl. Some of the most perfect wind-blown pow flies right past me. I can’t hold back the excitement. I yell at the top of my lungs. Finishing at the bottom, I turn around and look up. The rest of the crew slays the slope enjoying their hard work.
Fresh Snow & Fresher Vibes
We continue to explore Alpine and enjoy everything it has to offer. Even if the vertical drop reads 1,802′, it rides or skis bigger than the number suggests. The topography, with its natural gullies and fall-line slopes, is incredibly playful. After lunch, the Summit chair opens so we decide as a group to explore the rest of the mountain. From the Sherwood zone to the Pacific Crest North Bowls, each inch of the mountain feels different.
No Lift Lines Means Endless Shredding
With no lift lines anywhere, we continue to take lap after lap after wonderful lap. After one of the longest days of shredding in recent memory, a few of us decide to head down back to the base for a barley pop. Grabbing a cold Alibi Porter, we make our way to the sundeck and take in the warm sun.
Why Alpine Meadows Is My Happy Place
It suddenly hits me. This is one of my few happy places. Why? There’s only a handful of high speed lifts. There’s no faux village. There’s no ski-in / ski-out housing. It’s skiing it its purest form. Just sun, snow and awesome terrain. No frills… just the way I like it. I promise myself that this will now become a tradition. One spring day a season, I will venture north from South Lake Tahoe and enjoy this mountain.