The Atmospheric River pointed at Tahoe like a fire hose. Oodles and oodles of liquid hammered the Sierra Nevada. It didn’t look or feel like an October storm but rather a mid-winter onslaught. Upwards of 8 INCHES of liquid fell over the Sierra Crest. The question wasn’t if it was going to turn to snow but when. Waking up the next morning, we realized that transition was faster than expected. Reports came in fast and furious… over THREE FEET of snow fell in the upper elevations. Mammoth confirmed their opening day was October 29th, but would there be a Lake Tahoe ski resort opening in October too? The answer was yes – Palisades Tahoe formerly known as Squaw Valley opening day 2021 was set for October 29th, 2021.
Last Second Decision
On Wednesday, my phone lit up. Looking down, I noticed it was a text from my buddy Aaron from Luna Lending. Short and sweet, “Palisades on Friday?” My mind began to wander, and questions started arising. Would it be crowded? How would the snow be? Usually, the first day of the ski season in Tahoe is on a ribbon of snow with one lift and one trail. At the same time, I thought how often do I get to ski or snowboard in October? I’ve always pushed the season into June and even July, but I couldn’t recall ever strapping in in the month of October. I had to say yes just for the experience.
Fogged In Homie
The forecast read for upper 50’s, but as we left South Lake Tahoe, it was bone chilling cold. The kind of cold you feel in London on a winter’s day. Damp, heavy, and foggy. Hitting up the switchbacks prior to Emerald Bay, it seemed as if the fog was deep. Aaron remarked, “Aw man I don’t think I have the right lenses. I thought it was going to be sunny.” As if the weather was listening to him, we broke out of the fog around Emerald Bay. As if an imaginary giant cupped Emerald Bay and was blowing on it, the fog rolled eastwards towards South Lake Tahoe. I smiled. This view was worth getting up for.
Jeff Spicoli Vibes
Making a left past the Olympic flame, we’re greeted to the legendary view of the valley. Even though it’s October, the peaks are covered in a heavy white blanket. Finally parking, we hop out and are greeted with our neighbor yelling out, “October and we’re skiing?!? HELL YEA!” The energy is electric. Everywhere I look people are smiling and in a celebratory mood. Walking through the village and stepping into the line for the Gold Coast Funitel, I keep hearing the same thing over and over. Everyone can’t believe we’re getting to ski in October. Conversations are about the last time someone skied KT-22 on Halloween. Stories about the big winters of the 80s and 90s can be overheard everywhere.
Quiet. Too Quiet.
Slowly we begin making our way to the lift. Like a wave forming in the ocean, our excitement grows. A deep bass thumps against the buildings in the Village. Increasing in volume, we make the final turn, and it’s revealed that a real DJ is blasting tunes from the mobile Red Bull truck over the crowd. Classics like “I Need A Hero” and “Push It” by Salt-N-Pepa bang away. Shuttled onto the Funitel, a small hush falls over the cabin. It was as if everybody didn’t want to break the fantasy. Was this really happening? Were we about to go skiing? The answer lay ahead.
Creamy Isn’t Just For Cupcakes
Exiting, we zip over to the Gold Coast Express lift. At the top, we take a moment at what was about to happen. In the distance, Lake Tahoe is still deep in a fog slumber. At 8000’, we’re greeted to warm temps and plenty of sunshine. We drop in. The snow is soft and carveable. Turns come with ease. In fact, some of the best snow on a first day ever.
Mother Nature’s Flow
We lap the lift a few times and decide to venture over to Shirley Canyon. We can’t believe how much terrain is open. Not just a strip of snow but entire areas to shred. On this part of the mountain, they’ve left it to Mother Nature’s whims. A mixture of moguls, rocks, and soft snow. A true mixed salad of early season conditions.
Where’s The Good Stuff?
While all the terrain looked good, we realized quickly that if the warm October rays hit it over the past few days, it was firm. The key was finding slopes that were north-facing and shaded. My eyes quickly focused on the terrain just below the lift. A skier made a turn, and it looked soft. Quickly, we skate off the lift and make a right.
Steepest Opening Day Turns Ever
Pointing it over the drop, I hesitantly make a turn. It’s steep… and has the consistency of carveable Styrofoam. I let ‘er rip. My grin transforms into a massive smile. As I take turn after turn, I yell out a “YEEEWWW!!!!!” I can’t believe I’m making powder turns in October. Typically, opening day is a ribbon of death. Not this winter for Palisades Tahoe formerly known as Squaw Valley Opening Day 2021.
With the snow being thin at lower elevations, we’re forced to download via the Funitel. A sense of joy comes over me. Another bucket list item has been checked off my list – to ski in October. This wasn’t a trick, but rather a treat.