Sierra resorts celebrate the holidays

By: Loryll Nicolaisen, Journal staff writer
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While those in the foothills are dreaming of a white Christmas, skiers and boarders up the hill are living it. Christmas hit the mountains a little early in the form of some nice, new snow, reports Andy Chapman, North Lake Tahoe Resort Association tourism director. Recent storms and the feet upon feet of snow they brought mean plenty of holiday cheer to mountain resorts along the Interstate 80 corridor, and just in time for busy season. Jessica VanPernis, marketing director for Northstar-at-Tahoe, said the resort sees an increase in visitors this time of year. “We typically see high visitation over the holidays as many people have time off and tend to come up for a day, a few days, up to a couple of weeks,” she said. John Monson with Sugar Bowl shared a similar sentiment. “Skiing and riding conditions are so good right now that we’re confident we’ll see strong visitation over the holidays,” he said. “We were able to open before Thanksgiving this year, which puts us in a much better position heading into the holidays than we’ve been in for the past four or five seasons.” VanPernis said the dollars brought in by those who head up the hill for some Christmastime skiing and boarding definitely have a positive impact on the season. “The holiday season is definitely (important) when we see a high volume of visitation and we’re thrilled about the incredible snow conditions we’ve had so far this year,” she said. “The skiing and riding is great right now and we are excited to welcome our guests over the holidays and share it with them.” Monson said the holidays don’t “make or break” the winter season, but that holiday visitors do contribute “significantly” to revenue for the season. “We’ve got a strong local and drive-market following at Sugar Bowl, so visitation spikes a little less for us than some of the major destination resorts might see,” he said. Squaw Valley USA does roughly 20 percent of its annual business during the holidays, said Savannah Cowley, resort spokeswoman. Winter break is a cash cow for Boreal, said marketing director Jon Slaughter. “It is our chance to display the resort at its best to a large crowd,” he said. “We see a significant percentage of our business during the two weeks of Christmas break. Families want to ski during their break and thanks to (recent) low-elevation snowfalls, more people than ever are thinking snow right now.” __________ Holiday Happenings Holiday festivities at Northstar include complimentary live music from 2-5 p.m. daily on the Village Stage, and visits from Santa Claus between noon and 2:30 p.m. daily through Thursday at the shops in the Village at Northstar. Tahoe Resort Ministries hosts an interdenominational candlelight Christmas Eve service beginning at 5 p.m. Thursday in the conference rooms located on the lower level of the Village at Northstar. Northstar rings in 2010 with its annual, all-ages Fire & Ice New Year’s party, from 2-8:30 p.m. Dec. 31. The party features fireworks, ice skating, live music, fire dancers and more. The evening caps off with a 9 p.m. fireworks display. Sugar Bowl celebrates the holidays with a torchlight parade on New Year’s Eve and general festivities across the resort. “That, and hopefully lots of powder skiing,” said Sugar Bowl's John Monson. Sugar Bowl also offers a deal that vanishes with Santa. Visitors can get free lessons and rentals as part of Sugar Bowl’s General Admission program through Dec. 25. Yuletide cheer at Squaw includes a Christmas Eve torchlight parade, during which Squaw Valley Ski School instructors descend the lower mountain carrying torches. The parade begins at dusk. Call (530) 583-6985 for more information. Seeking even more Christmas cheer at Squaw? Hear the Sierra Nevada Chorale perform holiday caroling 3-5 p.m. daily through Friday in the Village, and keep an eye peeled for Santa, who meets with good boys and girls from noon to 4 p.m. daily through Thursday. Santa also takes to the slopes with his elf, skiing and snowboarding through the resort daily through Christmas. Squaw also holds a Sunday Mountaintop Service at 2 p.m. Dec. 27 at the top of the Links Chair. Squaw celebrates New Year’s Eve with parties for all ages and a fireworks display launching from the lower mountain at 9 p.m. Dec. 31. ~Loryll Nicolaisen