South Lake Tahoe - skiing Heavenly, Kirkwood and North Star

Published: February 14th 2018
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San Francisco to South Lake Tahoe & Kirkwood

Thursday 8 February

Our travel was a longer day than we had bargained for. The trip over in business class was great, being in the nose of the plane with only 7 other passengers. We were treated to a 3-course meal, although I’d pre-ordered vegetarian and I shouldn’t have, as the vegetarian on the menu was better. Will change that before our next flight. The captain popped by for a general chat, I watched “The Zookeeper’s Wife” and then went to sleep. The mattress they provide was thinner than I had expected so it was a broken sleep due to all the rotisserie action, but better than sitting up.

In the middle of the night I woke to those familiar words from Dwayne – “we have a problem.” Last year it was a lost backpack in Belize, this time he’d dropped his phone down the side of the seat whilst it was flat, and couldn’t retrieve it. We had to organise for an engineer in San Francisco to come on board and dismantle the seat. Calamity is his middle name!

Arrived at 12.30pm, got the phone 10 minutes after the doors had opened and then had to wait an hour for Immigration. Caught the air train to the rental car building, only to discover that Europcar had an “off airport” shuttle. We got in that and then drove 8km to another suburb. Arrived at 2.45pm. They offered us an upgrade to a pick-up truck for the 4wd capability, but it was not suitable for three people. I said we’d just take the Rav 4 I had booked, and they said it wasn’t available. 5 cars and 1.5hrs later, we drove out in a luxury Chevy Yukon XL, which is the size of the local post office!

We had originally estimated we’d be in Tahoe, which is 4hrs away, by 7pm. Unfortunately, the traffic in San Francisco was absolutely heinous and it took us 2hrs to go 32km, so we watched the sunset over the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz, stopped off in Poverty Ridge for a quick Taco Bell fix, and arrived at our mountain cabin at 10pm.

Friday 9 February

After an 11-hour uninterrupted slumber, we woke at 9.30am. We picked up some groceries and went to 5 boot shops, looking for ski boots for Dwayne. Also bought second-hand skis and poles for half the cost of renting so we’re good to go on Sunday.

Dwayne also bought peanut butter and then promptly dropped the glass jar outside the supermarket. I don’t call him calamity Dwayne for nothing.

Tahoe is pretty and still has that residential feeling about it. Strangely enough, there is nothing higher than 4 storeys in the Gondola village and 2 storeys outside of that, but across the road on the Nevada side, there are high rises and casinos galore. Obviously, the building code in California is stricter than in Nevada. I appreciate a council that values lifestyle over $'s. There are also lots of trees between each house and vacant lots of land for trees to grow, and I think it’s awesome that people don’t just bulldoze the blocks but actually integrate with nature.

Sabbath 10 February

Walked 1.2km to church this morning, which was a scenic stroll, albeit cold. There are usually 7-10 local members but today, the visitors packed the church and outstripped the locals 3-to-1! They had a pot luck lunch for visitors afterwards – haystacks of course! – and we met a number of friendly people. We chatted with one couple of over an hour and before we knew it, it was 3pm and time to go.

Spent the night watching the Olympics.

Sunday 11 February

We had our first ski today. ¾ of Heavenly was closed due to wind hold, but given it was a weekend day, the lift lines and runs were pretty good. The snow quality was hard packed and has held up quite well despite all the crowds. There were one or two icy patches but they were the size of a bath mat so easily avoided. The only exception was when Dwayne went to stop just prior to the lift, but hit an icy patch and went down on his hip. It’s a tad sore but nothing serious.

In fact, the worst fall was had by myself in the carpark at the end of the day, when I walked onto invisible black ice and ended up crashing onto my right side on top of the skis and poles. Luckily, I only had minor scrapes on my right thigh and forearm. Praise God I didn’t land on my elbow, wrist or hip!

It’s snowing :-)

Monday 12 February

Woke to some white fluff on the ground and decided to ski the Nevada side of Heavenly, as more runs seemed to be open. That was a good choice. Apart from unwanted cloud which decreased visibility, and the -4C temp, it was a windless day with snow gently falling throughout, and decent 2km long runs.

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to care for your immediate needs. I discovered this morning that I’d left my snow skins at home. These are compression thermals that help to not only keep me insulated against the cold, but also decrease leg burn and fatigue so I can ski for longer. So, I want to give a HUGE shout out to Peter, Carlie, Mr & Mrs Deppeler and Dale for jumping into solutions mode (aka Operation Skins) to deliver them in person, from my drawer in Pennant Hills to South Lake Tahoe 3 days later! Thank you so much!!!!

Tuesday 13 February

The snow and cloud made way overnight for blue skies and -8C temps, so we hit Kirkwood for a change. About 10km into the 56km journey, we saw two coyotes saunter across the road
What we driveWhat we driveWhat we drive

Now, where did we put that pachyderm...
and we had to slow down significantly to let them cross. They stopped on the other side of the road and turned to watch us go by, giving us attitude as we passed.

Kirkwood is smaller than Heavenly but steeper. We started on wide cruise-y blues and ended up on steep, long blacks. Dwayne topped out at 90kph on one of them, and we conquered Zachary & Sentinel which have 40-degree inclines. To put that into perspective, the snowcat requires winches for grooming otherwise it would slide down the mountain!

I feel pretty chuffed with the achievement. The next level is chutes and cliff drops, so achievement stops here.

I won’t blog daily any more, as it’s likely to be 3 more weeks of the same as what you’ve read above. Will write again when I have something different to tell.

Additional photos below
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14th February 2018

Hi Renae and Dwayne, Thank you so much for your travel blog. We found it quite amazing. We still live at Neutral Bay and anticipate celebrating Shirley's 90 th and David's 88th!!Not travelling so much but rewriting our travel stories for our grandchildren and 6 great grandchildren!! Hope to go to Graham Loftus's life story on Sabbath. We may see you. We send our love to you both. Shirley and David. XX

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