As 2018 kicked off, the master plan was in motion and I was heading off to Colorado for 3 weeks of happiness. For those that have ever followed my adventures, there is usually a hiccup or two, so it was no surprise when my buddy Whipple (whose house we stay at in Vail) told me that he needed his house for a bit longer… after we had booked our flights.
The adventure begins 4 flights and 27 hours in as we land in Reno and head to South Lake Tahoe. After a few last-minute changes, we pulled up to the $79-a-night Hard Rock Hotel and casino, our base for the California leg of our stateside shred. The reasons behind us choosing the Colorado resorts was simple: it works out cheaper to buy a season pass which costs $849 compared to paying $140 a day. The ‘epic’ pass covers tonnes of resorts including Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood on the Cali side.
Conveniently, the gondola is a five-minute walk from the Hard Rock Hotel and the fresh donut stall is only four minutes away. That meant breakfast was sorted and despite it being the worst winter for about a billion years, Heavenly had just had a fresh dump. When you’re heading up the hill, make sure you look back down. When we looked around, it was our first view of Lake Tahoe and honestly it was mind blowing.
When we reached the top, we got out the piste map like a bunch of tourists and looked at our options. California or Nevada? One way the view was desert, the other was the lake. It was a bluebird day and time to find our snow legs. After a morning of searching for parks to get an Instagram shot with the lake in the background, ski patrol pointed out to us that there had not been enough snow to cover the groomers, let alone build a park. So we decided to get a drink and work on our goggle tans whilst admiring the views.
As much as you get a great deal with your epic pass, Vail Resorts (which own all these resorts) definitely get their money back in the form of food and drink prices. A Red Bull and a margarita set us back a whopping $25! It’s worth noting that even on a good season you can’t ride back to town. We tried heading into some tree runs but the coverage was too bare. You could see the massive potential that Heavenly has, but we could have done with a few more inches of the good stuff.
· It’s way cheaper on the Nevada side of the state line
· Fly into Reno - it’s around an hour transfer (Southwest was $100 return from Denver)
· Car hire cost £89 with British Airways. 4-wheel drive isn’t required as resorts are lower at base
Next up, Northstar! The resort is about an hour’s drive from South Lake Tahoe unless you want to stop every 5 minutes and take shots of the lake. We hooked up with an old buddy of mine who taught me all I know about MC-ing (which is a questionable amount). Northstar didn’t get the dump of snow that Heavenly got the previous day, so this meant that the resort was pretty much a mix of the Snowdome meets Scotland: ice and sugary goodness. We met the boys and went straight to the bar for lunch since we arrived 4 hours later than planned.
The park at Northstar has a killer reputation and to its credit, we could see that maximum effort had been made to make it rideable under terrible conditions. We stuck to park laps for the afternoon until we found out about free champagne at the Tost bar from 2-3.30pm (with a DJ and fire pits!) We obviously turned up late at 3pm and bought a bottle anyway. Everyone’s riding got way better after that, and after a few more laps we drove back the other way around the lake to see what views were to be had. Once again it was spectacular. We'd recommending stopping to check out the viking-style homestead which was built in the woods by the edge of the lake over 100 years ago, and a tearoom on an island which is only accessible by rowboat.
Next up in the series, Kirkwood and Beaver Creek!
Check out this season’s Syndicate snow gear here, follow the adventures on Instagram @syndicatetm and get a 30% discount on new garms with code: EPIC