Heavenly Ski Resort opened the new snowsport season Saturday by handing out free muffins at the gondola base and free brownies at the top, along with cautions about the cold weather. It also threw in perfectly groomed trails of hardpack, as good as mid-January conditions.
Early morning hours were cold, but by 11 a.m. clouds had disappeared and the sun warmed up the area.
While open ski terrain was limited, what was ready to welcome skiers and boarders was in superb shape, testifying to new owner Vail Resorts' vows to provide the best skiing and boarding in the Sierra Nevada. For a pre-Thanksgiving opening, they did just that. More terrain is expected to be open for the holiday weekend, a Heavenly spokesperson said.
Open transports were the gondola, Comet, Dipper and Tamarack chairlifts. Trails included Big Dipper, Orion, California Trail and Comet trail - not a lot of terrain but all of it in excellent ski and board condition.
Saturday morning was the kind one usually finds in mid-January - temperatures at the top of the gondola were around 15 degrees Fahrenheit, at the top of Sky Chair, Heavenly's highest lift, it was 10 degrees.
Lift ticket prices were $49 for all-day adult, $38 for teens, $16 for kids and $26 for seniors. Prices will probably hold at those levels until more terrain is opened, said the Heavenly spokesperson.
The new parking garage behind the gondola is open with fees of $10 for those in before 10 a.m. and out by 6 p.m. the Heavenly shuttle also transports skiers and snowboarders from the California Lodge to the gondola. Area hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Heavenly was making snow all day Saturday and as long as the weather holds will continue to do so nightly.
As usual at area opening days, snowboarders outnumbered skiers. No estimate of the size of crowds was available Saturday.
Kirkwood, Mount Rose, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows also opened this weekend.