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  • Tahoe Blues: The Best Intermediate Runs

    By Tammie Thompson

    When I think of great intermediate runs I think of the long and smooth, with enough rolls and terrain variations to keep my interest. Not too steep, but not too flat either. Perhaps a few bumps off to the side, but mostly corduroy with enough pitch to keep my turns in rhythm. The type of run you want if you are trying new skis or had a killer workout the day before or if you just prefer those zoomed grooms. Trails with the blue squares come in all shapes and sizes. And Tahoe has plenty.

    Photo courtesy Squaw Valley USALook for more and more terrain variations on intermediate slopes. Gone are the "flat as a pancake" groomed trails of the '80s. For the new millenium look for more dips and doodles, skier terrain parks and just good old-fashioned rolls to keep you addicted to fun. More and more skiers are whooping and hollering and improving their skiing to boot.

    At Squaw Valley the mountain host will send you to Shirley Lake for intermediate skiing. There are plenty of trails to choose from, but on a busy weekend there are plenty of skiers as well. Head over to Solitude for more terrain variation, a little skiing in the trees, and a little more challenge. My favorite intermediate at Squaw is skiing off the Newport lift. Natural terrain takes you over knolls and into a great gully for some banked turns. From the bottom of the mountain check out Squaw Creek, the run is long and incredibly beautiful.

    At Alpine Meadows intermediate skiers get the benefit of the Family Ski Zone off of the new Hot Wheels Chair. There you will Photo courtesy Alpine Meadowshave to slow down and enjoy the buffed carpet they call grooming. For more variety in intermediate terrain take the Roundhouse Chair and head down Red Ridge to Red Trail, weaving among the trees. Alpine is experimenting with skier terrain parks, what's that giant snow sculpture? Check it out. In spring, Sherwood is the ultimate in corn snow cruising, wide open and smooth.

    Northstar-at-Tahoe used to be the queen of the blue square. They've added more black diamonds, but their intermediate runs are plentiful and buffed. From the Vista Express Chair take Logger's Loop into The Woods for a long, uncrowded run. Or look for the yellow happy faces that point out man made terrain features. Rest up on the Lookout Chair then take The Gully, Klondike or Hoot Owl for the terrain feature "du jour".

    One of the most scenic intermediate runs in the Tahoe region or the world for that matter has got to be Crystal Ridge off of the Crystal Quad at Diamond Peak. It's like skiing right into Lake Tahoe. At the top of the world, with wide-open space to make big sweeping turns, it connects into Sunnyside to the bottom of the mountain. There are lots of intermediate choices off of the Red Fox lift, test the terrain features on Lower Show-Off.

    The views from Mt. Rose are of a different sort. Lake and desert views, with lots of vertical, make for some great cruising. The Slide side has the most intermediates, with the Silver Dollar one of my favorites. When the sun hits Sunrise Bowl or Outlaw, look out, you'll be in heaven.

    On the South Shore, intermediates flock to Heavenly. For good reason. The place is almost too big. Choose the California or the Nevada side. Don't waste time trying to do it all in one day. For intermediate skiing I prefer the Nevada side. It is less crowded and has plenty of terrain to keep you interested all week. Let's see, there's the Olympic Downhill, Stagecoach, Perimeter,… Galaxy…. Lots of terrain, lots of quads. Bring a Power Bar. On the California side, runs off of the Ridge Chair are beautiful. Liz's gets high ranks as does Ridge Run. Bring your camera.

    Photo courtesy Sierra-at-TahoeAt Sierra-at-Tahoe there's abundant intermediate terrain with the added plus of lots of vertical. That makes for long, cruising runs. The West Bowl area is accessed by a high-speed lift and has lots to choose from. Try Powder Horn, the last one over on skier's left, for a long, rolly non-stop cruise. Sierra-at-Tahoe has added lots of snow toys for a "high thrill, low skill" experience. Check out the snobikes, ski boards and ski foxes at Sierra's Hill Thrill Center. The snow toys are currently sliding on Broadway Run and Sugar n' Spice.

    Combine the blue of Lake Tahoe with the blues on the slopes - and it will keep you cruising for a couple of weeks. Kirkwood, Tahoe Donner, Sugar Bowl, Donner Ski Ranch, Boreal, Homewood, so many blues - so little time.

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