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Prime skiing in area mountains

Foothills home to some must-do runs for local snow enthusiasts
By: Eric J. Gourley Journal Sports Writer
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The foothills offer some of the best skiing and riding on the West Coast, and several area resorts feature must-do runs that every snow aficionado needs to experience. One of the closest resorts, Sugar Bowl, boasts “Vanderbilt,” a black diamond run off Lincoln Express great for practicing off-piste skiing. The moguls are consistent and easy to maneuver and the snow is great in the afternoon once the sun softens it up. Sugar Bowl is also home to “Overland,” an intermediate run located off Disney Express that is always groomed but rarely crowded, leaving fresh corduroy in the afternoon on a run perfect for taking skiing and riding skills to the next level. Alpine Meadows, one of the few remaining area mountains devoted primarily to skiers, features a must-ski tree run in “Counterweight Gully,” off the Sherwood Express chair. “Rainbow Bowl” off the Solitude lift at Squaw Valley USA is a shrunk version of a big-mountain training ground, with diverse features like a natural terrain park and smaller rock drops. This is a must-ride for skiers looking to increase their ability level. On powder days, look no further than the expert-rated “Challenger” and “Burnout” at Northstar-at-Tahoe. The one-mile runs on the backside of the mountain are serviced by a never busy high-speed chairlift and the snow is some of the deepest in the area. South of Highway 50 in the Eldorado National Forest, intermediate skiers and boarders in search of Tahoe’s perfect corduroy groomer can head to the backside at Kirkwood via Chair 4 for a lap on the aptly named “Happiness Is.” The wide-open cruiser offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and lakes with plenty of morning sunshine. Expert skiers and boarders can’t leave Kirkwood without making tracks on “The Wall,” perhaps the most renown of the resort’s double black diamond runs. Daredevils are met by a skull and crossbones sign at the bottom of the lift announcing the run for experts only. The steep, cornice entrance and constant pitch of more than 35 degrees makes the north-facing, 2,000 vertical foot run a favorite among locals.