Alpine Access

November 10, 2009 by USA Post 

Throngs of skiers and snowboarders flocked to the San Francisco Ski and Snowoard Festival at the Fort Mason Center on November 7 and 8 on a warm, sunny fall weekend. Many happy boarders could be seen exiting the event clutching their new snowboards with big grins on their faces.

Porter’s Tahoe and Lombardi Sports anchored the entrance to the event and business was brisk at both purveyors of sports equipment and apparel. The middle aisle was flanked on either side by all the major ski areas of the Tahoe region, such as Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley, Kirkwood, Heavenly Valley and Sugar Bowl, as well as ski areas from Western states and the province of British Columbia. Ski areas were touting their deals, with some special promotions for season passes, such as a $349 pass at Heavenly Valley available at the event only. Another festival special was the Tahoe Card for $39.99, discounted from $80, which includes free and discounted lift tickets to 13 resorts all season.

On Sunday a phalanx of twenty breweries lined the perimeter of the building, pouring samples of their best for those who chose to participate in the beer tasting. Participants were provided a glass that could be filled endlessly. Saturday’s event featured wine tasting with over sixty wineries represented.

The big news for Mammoth Mountain, located in the Sierra south of Tahoe, was the availability of new air service via Horizon Air from San Jose to Mammoth. The fly-ski-lodging deal is phenomenal, with round trip air fare, 3 nights lodging and lift passes for only $299. Mammoth Mountain features 3,500 acres of great terrain, 3,100 feet of vertical and averages 400 inches of snowfall per year, but has always been inconvenient to get to for Bay Area fans. That will all change this year with the new air service, and Knud Svendsen, a representative from Mammoth said they plan to expand air service to more Bay Area cities in the future.

The backcountry is opening up as more and more skiers and boarders want to expand their abilities beyond lift-served terrain. Two operators, Sugar Bowl & Alpine Skills International and Pacific Crest Snowcats, were at the festival offering different approaches to the backcountry.

Sugar Bowl has teamed up with Alpine Skills International to combine access via the new Summit Chair with a backcountry guiding service. The new Summit Chair deposits skiers on the edge of public Forest Service Land in addition to in-bounds terrain within Sugar Bowl. The certified guides will provide backcountry gear and safety equipment, along with basic instruction to introduce the backcountry with a focus on safety and education. Bela Vadasz, who has been guiding in the area for 30 years, said he’s thrilled about the new Summit Chair and the stronger bonds between Sugar Bowl and Alpine Skills International.

IMG_22211_1(1)The other outfit, Pacific Crest Snowcats, reduces the effort by offering snowcat-serviced terrain for skiers and boarders, as well as separate trips for snowshoers. The heated snowcat offers warmth, convenience and time to rest and socialize between runs on over 2,000 acres of Forest Service land. Professional guides, many of whom also guide in the backcountry playground near Valdez, Alaska, arm you with the knowledge you need to get the most out of your backcountry experience. Dave Rintala, a guide with Pacific Crest Snowcats (photo-left), explained that they can tailor the experience to the abilities of the skier or boarder.

IMG_22191_1(1)A popular event at the festival was the demonstration of BMX and skateboarder stunts on the U-shaped half pipe ramp. Skateboarder and BMX riders thrilled the crowd with flat land and ramp tricks, demonstrating the agility, precision and balance that characterize the gravity sports.

The festival is being held on the Peninsula November 14 and 15 using the same format as the San Francisco event, so it’s not too late to do some shopping and chat it up with the knowledgeable representatives of the best ski areas in the West while you plan your winter ski and snowboard trips.

Event Information:
Silicon Valley Ski and Snowboard Fest
November 14-15, 2009, Santa Clara Convention Center, Silicon Valley
Doors open 11:00 a.m.
Doors close at 8 p.m. Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday
Saturday: Wine tasting 1-5 p.m.
Sunday: Beer tasting 1-5 p.m.
Tickets are $15 online ($20 at the door)

Photos by Inga Aksamit

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