We started soon after the 9 am open, knowing any Southeast-facing aspects catching morning sun would already have a couple hours softening, which puts some classic corn routes in prime condition first thing.
This report was written by Jason Dobbs.
Although Silverado won’t be opening again (the weight of snow-creep has placed heavy torque on a couple towers, and the cable is misaligned for operation) it’s fantastic to see Smoothies-to-Solitude is an option. Creatures of habit, however, we took a roundabout way to get there, kicking things off with a KT-to-Headwall.
Even without the stiff breeze of yesterday and about plus-five Fahrenheit, KT isn’t offering much on mornings like this; we’re not complaining – it’s good to get a set-up freeze! There’s a reason that the few lift riders opted for the toothy combs of The Saddle. I followed them for a fast bomb down the groomer, unable to engage my 96-underfoot for the full phase of linked turns, mostly for lack of a recent tune. Doing so might have been dangerously fast.
Headwall shined back at me as I ascended, also with nary a soul off its manicured pistes, with good reason. Still, after thousands of days logged at-resort, I paused at the Unloading zone, marveling at the Jewel of the Sierra, framed in white and sparkling under a mid-morning bluebird day, with temps still just above freezing. Chicken Bowl offered a sane escape, and the mid-flanks toward the retaining pond laid over nicely. In due time, I was loading Emigrant Chair, which had more takers than either KT or Headwall.
I unloaded Emigrant and headed straight onto the Backside, self-aware that my first three runs had all faced the wrong direction (North-ish). Riding up, I was impressed with what looked like a fun and flowy mini-park under the chair in a location I don’t recall seeing used this way before. It looks like four jumps and four boxes/rails, all smaller but falling somewhere in progression between the two jump lines existing in Belmont. Skiers and Boarders developing their skills will enjoy having this option beside the main park off Gold Coast.
The Main Backside runs off the low point of Granite Chief’s ridge had enough thawing to engage my edge, and I could leave rails as I arced GS turns through the steeps. It was almost 10:30, and given an hour, it would probably be in its prime, as both Left and Right options offered moments of steep groomer glory yesterday. Riding Granite to the top, I stayed high as I traversed under the ski area’s highest peak on my way out to Smoothies.
The 700” season has made traversing this normally-featured bowl a breeze, avoiding the usual undulations over rocks and across ravines with a flat skate-step combo to get out to the resort boundary. I took it to the signs, then let my tips roll with the fall line. As much as I’d hoped, the run offered crisply forgiving, smooth corn goodness. I hadn’t been out here since last season and forgot how much fun this rolling, low-angle cruise is in a freeze-thaw cycle. I rode up Solitude to exit and seriously considered retracing my lap; it was easily my run of the day. However, I knew Broken Arrow and Tower 16 held promise too.
I crossed through Palisades Tahoe’s top-of-the-mountain Beginner zones, thinking how cool it is that first-timers here can have the Tram experience up to this ideal pitch for learning, with alpine views and majesty that one has to earn with some skills-building at most places. I had skied each yesterday and wanted to explore the chutes between the two, starting beneath Funitel Knob, so I headed out on the prow of signature decomposing Granite. Arriving at the Broken-16 fork, I opted to hoof it left to the top of the chair. One could easily get around this knob on either side to get to the glory fields called “Waterfall,” but I knew the protruding rocks would be zapping the bountiful snowpack in the chutes up there, so I went poking my way through while I still can.
The zone between the two cable lines was my favorite, rolling over to a good pitch for most black-diamond skiers, offering a nice consistent descent as good as you’ll get. Sluffing corns and I took turns chasing each other, depending on where I was in the turn. In the lowest elevations (Swale), the surface was not quite thawed like everything above it had been since KT-22 across the valley creates shade a little longer here. It had been a fun adventure, but I didn’t mind once I reconnected with Sunnyside’s corduroy.
Being that I’d given it three hours, I decided to jump back on KT once more for good measure, but still, nobody was out skiing in my sight. I convinced myself that The Nose would be alright –the morning sheen was absent from the snow and was surely warm enough. I was wrong, and Patrol agreed, with lollipop closures marking the run once I was out there. Thus, I was forced into Coleman’s Chute, which I chose over GS Bowl, with its carved bumps. Coleman’s and lower nose were decent, and I imagined Patrol would give it another hour before the go-ahead, although it was hard to imagine any Alternate Chutes were picking up the softness I’d want. I skied down Powderhorn, which was not bad for those who don’t mind being above some exposure, but when the angle banked onto Schimmelpfennig Bowl, it was downright survival skiing.
As I expected, Broken Arrow and Smoothies showed best, providing my favorite runs of the day, and next time, I would just lap either of both of them, accessing more directly via Wa-She-Shu or Funitel, mixing in with a sunny groomer when I felt the need to go a little faster. On those ideal aspects, the window opens and closes a little earlier than the rest of the resort, but when temps are flirting with 50º as they will be tomorrow, you can always find something if you follow the sun.