Finally, the first day of snowboarding. I went with J and G, two colleagues and friends of mine – we had been planning for weeks, and we couldn't wait any longer.
We met at the Berkeley Marina and boarded my truck around 5:45 on Sunday, eager to leave and beat the traffic. In Sacramento, we tossed a coin for the resort and ignored the result; we were then on I 80, intending to go to Northstar.
We got to Northstar around 9:15. We parked (the parking there is the worst of all resorts I've been to!), walked over to the pass office, got our season passes, and were on the mountain by 10.
The snow was marginal at best. Outside of artificially enhanced runs, there was no decent cover, while there were really only very few runs available. In theory, East Ridge was a blue run that was open, but in practice it's only a flat feeder run not unlike Heavenly's Sky Run.
So, the whole day consisted of getting to the summit and hollering down at high speed. Maybe it was a good adjustment for the first day, but I felt quickly bored with the snow. Just in time before quitting the mountain, I found a new run that stabs to the side of the main run, and it looked like there was decent snow. I took it, and had a blast – if for no other reason, because it was new.
I took J on it, and he seemed to have a lot of fun, too. Unfortunately, he hit a rock really badly, and his board split. The core was broken in the front, as if he had been gliding S-L-O-W-L-Y over the rock. Not much use any more (fortunately, it was his old board – I had mentioned I wouldn't be bringing along my new board, either, since the snow was not thick enough).
With the broken board, J continued valiantly to slip down the mountain, but it was getting late in the day and it was about time to go. All in all, a decent first day. Would have been nice if we had gotten the 10" Heavenly boasted of on the same day; on the other hand, we had a safe and easy drive home, and we stopped at the Marina after only 3 hours on the road!
Northstar: nice resort, nice village, no comment on the runs. There was one terrain park open, and the good kids were not there yet. Vertical+ membership ($99 on top of the season pass) allows you to go to special lift lines that are infinitely shorter. A must even on this marginal day. I wish Heavenly had something similar. I am already sweating at the thought of last year's Presidents' Day nightmare!