Reviewed by Sam Moulton
Dec 04, 2008
Trace a line formed by Maine's State Routes 16, 27, 4, and 142 and you will encircle some of the state's highest mountains. In the southern part of the circle you'll find the long, impressive mass of Saddleback Mountain, from whose summit drop the twisty, wooded trails of Saddleback the ski resort.
Sugarloaf boasts 138 trails, 15 lifts, and a bustling village at the base.
Even on the biggest dump days the place is peaceful: Lift lines barely push four minutes, and locals take leisurely dips into untracked shots all day.
With no onsite lodging and a modest amount of vertical, Mt. Rose is neither as popular nor as gnarly as Lake Tahoe’s better-known resorts. But since Mt. Rose is only 25 minutes from downtown Reno, you can ski powder all morning and be back at the roulette tables by lunch. The 7,900-foot base is the highest in the Tahoe area, so when storms come in heavy and wet, Rose’s helping is often lighter and drier. Most important, the Chutes, a tidy, 200-acre collection of scary-steep shots, opened in 2004.
Must Hit: Of all the 40- to 55-degree shots that make up the Chutes, El Cap, with its sustained 40-degree pitch for more than 1,500 feet, is the longest, cleanest line in the entire cirque.
The Sneak: Several years ago, the resort thinned out the glades between Aida’s and Sunset. Since they tip to just 30 degrees, they’re not a common powder destination—which means more face shots for you.
Quick Tip: By the middle of the season, launching off the Cardiac Ridge cornice requires about 10 feet of air. Nail the landing because the first few hundred feet of the run are 45-plus degrees.
Powder Day: Of the eight gates into the Chutes, El Cap drops you into the prime line, a tight, un-tracked ramp. Take the fall line to Captivator, an oft-overlooked 45-degree shot. Hang a left to the Northwest Magnum 6 lift and repeat.
Three Days Later: Outliers like 40-degree Nightmare and Chaos are at the far skier’s right end of the cirque and see slightly less traffic. Plus they’re north-facing, so they protect the fluff longer.
Park and Pipe: There’s no pipe, but with four terrain parks, Rose is a jibber’s playground. The fearless launch Double Down’s four 20-foot-plus tabletops, while the newbies start on Ponderosa’s mini fun boxes and rails.
Backcountry Access: From the South Rim’s top gate, sidestep 30 feet up the knoll and out to Hank’s, a 40-degree glade, or keep going until it becomes Manzanita Bowl. At the bottom, take the traverse a half mile back to the resort, reentering at the bottom gate.
Weather: Rose doesn’t usually get as much snow as Tahoe’s North Shore resorts, but thanks to its high elevation it gets snow when others get rain. Go late-season. Last spring it snowed 17 feet.
Après: With its massive deck, locally brewed pale ale, and attitude-free crowd, Timbers pub feels like a backyard barbecue. Or stop seven miles en route back to Reno at The Lodge, a sports bar with flatscreens and cheap fish and chips.
Fuel: At the base lodge’s Zephyr Café, pair a cup of high-octane coffee with a massive bacon-stuffed breakfast burrito ($5) prepared by Gus, Mt. Rose’s favorite cook.
Up All Night: As Las Vegas’s less polished stepsister, Reno’s casino scene has plenty of dives to dance and gamble in all night. Looking for a mellower vibe? The Sierra Tap House has six flavors of Sierra Nevada on tap, local artists’ works on the walls, and open-air tables overlooking the Truckee River’s whitewater park.
Digs: Incline Village has the closest lodging (12 miles away), but the cheapest option is one of Reno’s 17,000 rooms—and ski/stay packages starting at $59 a night. Our favorite is the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa (from $65; atlantiscasino.com), which offers shuttles to Mt. Rose for an extra fee.