Northstar Intermediate Itinerary
Northwest Territory, West Ridge Frontside Runs, Backside Groomers, Vista to the Village
Village – Zephyr Express – Northwest Territory Sun Runs – Comstock Express – West Ridge Frontside Runs – Backside Groomers – Quick Trip to Washoe or East Ridge Steeper Runs – Vista to the Village
1. 8:30am – Village to Zephyr Express
From the Village, jump on the Big Springs Gondola and head up to mid-mountain (Tip: If the line is long try and use the Village Express located just behind the gondola building). From mid-mountain, load the Zephyr Express to the top.
Here you can catch the first of the sun's rays as they touch down on the east facing slopes of the NORTHWEST TERRITORY. Since this will be a warm up run, we like to check the grooming report. A reliable pick for this area is Pioneer. Groomed every night, Pioneer is a longer blue square that flows back down to the base of the Zephyr Express. To reach Pioneer, heading right off of the Zephyr Express and follow the signs down the ridge. It's hard to miss!
At the bottom, load Zephyr once more and head back to the top. Now would be a good time to either head down The Gully or Sodegrens. These runs have more of an east facing slope and really should be starting to warm up by now. After a run or two in the morning sun, it's time to leave the NORTHWEST TERRITORY and head to the summit of MT. PLUTO.
*Caution, if you are a strictly groomers skier, be sure to check the day's grooming report.
2. 9:30am – Mt. Pluto Frontside from West Ridge
To reach MT. PLUTO from the top of Zephyr, take the Comstock Express. As you head up Comstock, be sure to scope out your next runs – the frontside bowl runs off of the West Ridge. They runs to your right and cut directly underneath the chair. Unload Comstock and head right to make your way down the right side of West Ridge. The first run, The Plunge, tends to be steeper, but the runs become progressively less steep as you head down the ridge. Be sure to check out Springboard (2nd run) and Axe Handle (3rd run). These runs see fairly consistent grooming, however, even without grooming, they receive early sun exposure and will warm up quickly.
3. 10:30am – Backside Groomers
By now, you should be feeling warmed up and ready to head to THE BACKSIDE! Jump back on Comstock and head to the summit. Again, unload the chair and head right down West Ridge. Stay left this time and look for the top of the Promised Land Express. Just to the right of the chair, you will see run Castle Peak. It's a very wide, groomed blue with a mellow pitch. This is a great run to ski with friends! Castle Peak will take you to the bottom of THE BACKSIDE where you can jump on the Backside Express.
From the summit, head right and follow the signs for the black diamond Challenger. If you are a groomers only skier and Challenger shows not groomed; then it's best to head for Burnout (your immediate right). Like Castle Peak, Challenger is very wide and not too steep. Be sure to stop and admire the view of the Sierra Crest. After taking a lap or two on Challenger and Burnout, it's time to head to lunch!
4. 12:30pm – Lunch @Zephyr Lodge
Burnout will leave you ready for lunch. From the summit, you can reach Zephyr Lodge by heading towards West Ridge and proceeding straight as it gently banks left and following the sign for Zephyr Lodge. Here you will have a wide variety to choose from including burgers, pizza, soups, salads, noodle bowls, sandwiches, a full bar and a pretty unbeatable view of the crest of the Sierra Nevada mountains.
5. 1:30pm – More Fun on the Backside
As you eat, you'll probably notice a number of skiers heading down a groomed run located behind the lodge. This is Drifter and should be your next stop. This Northstar classic is groomed daily and has a few steeper pitches, but can easily be tackled by intermediate skiers. Drifter will take you to the bottom of THE BACKSIDE; where you can again jump on the Backside Express Chair.
At the summit, proceed to your immediate left and follow a narrow groomed track to Iron Horse. This groomed black diamond should be well within reach for the intermediate skier at this point in the day. Although it's the steepest run so far, Northstar's immaculate grooming will make it a big confidence booster to the intermediate skier.
Now is the time to check the grooming report and see if there are any groomed BACKSIDE runs you have missed. If you've gotten them all, this is the perfect time to repeat one of your favorites from the day. The sheer length and consistent pitch of THE BACKSIDE is unique in the industry. After an hour or so of skiing new runs or repeating your favorites, it is time to head down the East Ridge of the summit.
6. 2:30pm – The Short & Steep East Ridge
The frontside runs off of the East Ridge all start fairly steep, and then quickly mellow out into fun cruisers. Upon returning to the summit from the Backside Express, head straight like you're going towards the Comstock. Go to the right past Comstock and you are now on East Ridge.
Head down East Ridge looking left. The first run you will see is Grouse Alley. Grouse has an intimidating and steep top section that flattens out quickly. If this is too steep, just keep going along East Ridge. The second run will be Powder Bowl. Also short and steep at the top, Powder Bowl flattens out quickly an offers a great opportunity for some entry level tree skiing on its flanks.
The 3rd, 4th, and 5th runs are Crosscut, Tonini's, and The Chute. All of these follow in the East Ridge theme of short and steep at the top; with a flatter lower half, and good entry level tree skiing at the bottom. Feel free to explore this area, keeping in mind that you should always ski with a friend when venturing into the trees.
7. 4pm – Cruising from the Summit to the Village
What better way to end the day than a top to bottom easy groomer? From the summit head all the way down East Ridge until you reach the top of the Vista Express. Go right past the Vista, and follow the signs for Loggers Loop. Follow Loggers Loop until it makes a big left turn and you see a sign for The Woods pointing you straight. The Woods is a long mellow groomed run through the trees that finishes in THE VILLAGE.
Congrats! You just had an awesome day charging through some of the best groomed runs in California. Make your way to the Ice Rink in the Village and be sure to check out our Après guide.