Things are expected to get closer to "normal" at California ski and snowboard resorts this season, as do the four mountain resorts in the Golden Bear State that honor the Ikon Pass.
The Covid-19 pandemic put a premature halt to the 2020 season and to most major projects across the U.S. that had been slated for the following summer. Last summer, the rate of improvements awakened a bit, but most resorts held off to see how the season will unfold.
Let's check in on the trio of Alterra Mountain Corp.-owned resorts on the West Coast that give full, unlimited access to Ikon Pass holders.
Known for a full range of terrain worthy of its name (3,500 acres), Mammoth Mountain boasts a complex network of 29 lifts and 150 named trails. While still inbounds, backside hike-to The Hemlocks beckons the adventurous.
Neighboring June Mountain is friendly to early learners and kids alike. Blue runs are more green, black runs more blue, and view of Mammoth Lakes is a show-stopper.
Both Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain will benefit this season from new daily air service into Bishop airport, which is a 45-minute drive from the slopes. Air travelers from L.A. (LAX), San Francisco, and Denver can hop on United. A trio of smaller airports in the L.A. area -- Burbank, Hawthorne, and Carlsbad -- have flights into Mammoth Lakes, which is a shuttle ride away.
At Mammoth, more grab 'n' go food and midday refreshment at the new Coca-Cola lounge inside McCoy Station.
A two-hour drive from the L.A. basin, the trails of Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit (known as Big Bear Mountain Resort) hover over Big Bear Lake three miles apart. Big Bear boasts one of the largest systems of terrain parks in the land. Aimed for the lower end of the skill scale, Snow Summit can move skiers and riders around its 240 acres easily on 11 lifts.
New this season will be a free trolley service, running every 30 minutes, between the two mountains. Contactless ticket pickup and remote food ordering have been fully embraced, as is new RFID in lift lines.
Up north of Lake Tahoe, they can change the name to Palisades Tahoe (formerly Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows) but they still have some of the most challenging terrain in the country. Few mountains have more steeps and powder stashes, with most diving off the ridge from Snow King to KT 22 to Palisades Peak (8,885 feet). It's no less tame on the upper reaches on the Alpine Meadows side, which gets as cliffy as you would ever want.
Besides a new name, Palisades Tahoe gives a nod to its Native American neighbors with tours and exhibits. The resort debuts a new surface lift in the Gold Camp beginner area and new healthy-eating options.
Skiers and riders will have to wait at least another year for the much-touted over-the-ridge gondola that will eliminate a drive or shuttle driver between the resort's two base areas.