For some, the recent chilly temps and rainy weather here in the City mean a great thing: snow in Tahoe.
This year, snow bums and bunnies may reap the benefits of changes in ownership and price drops at some of the major Tahoe resorts especially with some early planning.
Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows have consolidated ownership; the Tahoe Super Pass, if purchased by November 30, costs $799 for no blackout dates and grants access to both resorts. Prices get lower for passes with blackout dates and midweek only, and can be purchased at both resort websites. The Super Six pass ($399) is a pack of six unrestricted lift tickets to either Squaw or Alpine; no blackout dates. Prices are guaranteed through November 30.
Kirkwood loyalists might also give a few other resorts a try this year with the Kirkwood/Alpine “Plus” Premium Pass Upgrade (available for an extra $200-$300 with select season passes), which grants access to Alpine and Homewood Mountain Resort and 10 days at Durango; blackout dates apply to the non-Kirkwood resorts.
With the acquisition of Northstar, Colorado-based Vail Resorts counts Heavenly and Northstar as part of their Vail Resorts family (which includes five resorts in Vail). All “Epic Pass” options grant access to all resorts in the Vail Resorts family and start at $519 for adults. The Tahoe Value pass grants access to Northstar and Heavenly only for those who plan to stay local this season. Season tickets are only available until November 29.
Once past the deadline for season passes, it’s best to pick up lift tickets at a local shop; most local shops shave a few bucks off the going rates at resort ticket windows in Tahoe.
Specializing in skiing and snowboarding, Mountain West in SoMa is the no-nonsense place to hit for rentals, tune-ups, gear and advice from the snow experts. Employees here are friendly and more than knowledgeable about matching customers with the right setup based on style and level.
Expertly sized boots with personalized insoles for the best fit? Check. Board tune-ups with explanations and advice for self-maintenance? Check. Local ski and snowboard rentals? Check. Protective gear a la helmets, gloves and goggles? Check. This is the best place for personalized service and knowledge, but probably not first choice for those on the hunt for soft goods.
Mountain West is known for their expertise in everything skiing and snowboarding including the latest gear technology, and their devotion to making sure customers leave with the best-fitting boots possible. The importance of well-fitting boots can’t be discounted even for the beginner’s day or two on the mountain.
Great place for the expert shopping for a custom build or beginner looking for tips on the best rental options.
Brother store to FTC, SFO Snowboarding in Upper Haight is a one-stop shop dedicated to snowboarders. They stock an expansive selection of clothing including the latest Burton gear, as well as anything else needed for snowboarding. The focus is on finding customers the right stuff, not the most expensive.
A good place to check for board sizes that can’t be found at other stores around town. Board brands include Burton, Arbor, Never Summer, Rome SDS, DC, Gnu, Lib-tech, Salomon, Yes and more. High-end boards, boots and binding can be rented here. For those looking for some pre-slope inspirations, SFO also supplies snowboard movies.
Lift tickets will go on sale once resorts open officially, and SFO customers can expect to pay a little less than “mountain price” at the resorts. SFO will carry tickets to Squaw, Alpine, Kirkwood and Sugar Bowl.
A favorite for deal-hunters, all of Sports Basement locations (including two in SF – Bryant Street and Presidio), offer year-round ski and snowboard rentals. Pick-up and drop-off days aren’t counted as additional days, so busy people can pick gear up a few days before heading to the mountain and drop off the day after driving back, all for very economical prices.
Once lifts at the resorts are up and running, Sports Basement sells tickets for the major Tahoe resorts at discounts of 15-20% off “mountain price”, according to an employee I spoke with over the phone.
Expansive selection of snow clothing upstairs, with several clearance racks downstairs at 40-70% off Lombardi’s normal prices. This makes it an ideal place to try on a variety of gear; getting the right fit is important. Bindings for women start at $150 for a pair by Salomon and straightforward male and female icons for the boots make browsing a breeze.
The helmets offered here include those by Smith Optics, Giro and Swedish company Poc. There’s also a range of balaclavas and facemasks including some cheeky designs by Canadian company Air Hole. An Air Hole graphic shark mask retails for $30 here. Lombardi’s hope to start selling lift tickets in a few days (once the resorts open) and will sell tickets to Squaw, Alpine, Northstar, Kirkwood, Sugar Bowl, Sierra, Boreal and Homewood at $10-15 off “mountain price”.
REI in SoMa goes beyond ski and snowboard gear; they carry just about everything for just about any snow activity; avalanche transceivers, altimeters, snowshoes, sleds, they have it all, as well as a selection of ski and snowboard racks for those looking to get their car mountain-ready.
In addition to downhill skiing, REI caters to cross-country and backcountry skiers as well. No idea what the difference is between cross-country, telemark and randonee skiing? This is a great place to find out. REI members (hello, $20 lifetime membership) can purchase discounted lift tickets at Bay Area stores but it’s best to call first for availability.