After a landmark season last year, California's ski and snowboard resorts are pumped to do it again, with a half-dozen more opening around Thanksgiving and plenty of snow on the way.
For a long time, the idea has to get more people on the mountain, but nowadays it’s just as good to get more folks on the property. Witness SoCal resorts.
Summer vacationers often seek out lakefront property to cool off, and a number of ski and snowboard resorts across the West are blessed with a lake within spittin’ distance.
More carving at Winter Park with new gondola. (Winter Park/Facebook)
Winter Park Resort has announced that it will replace the mountain’s workhorse Zephyr Express chairlift with a gondola – a move aimed to upgrade the mountain’s infrastructure and to shorten weekend and holiday lines.
Skiing and riding underway at Mount Rose. (Mount Rose Ski Tahoe/Facebook)
California has two dozen ski and snowboard resorts, and the bulk of them have minimal lodging and rely upon skiers and riders who drive up for the day.
Aspen Skiing Company and KSL Partners are purchasing four California resorts, including Mammoth Mountain.
Moving quickly after purchasing Intrawest resorts, a new Aspen-based ownership group announced it has bought Mammoth Mountain and three other resorts in the Southern California mountains.
The heretofore unnamed entity, formed by Aspen Skiing Corp. and KSL Capital Partners, said it will close this fall on a sale of a quartet of areas including Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
The announcement comes on the heels of the group’s industry-rocking purchase of Colorado’s Steamboat and Winter Park, Quebec’s Mont Tremblant, Vermont’s Stratton, Ontario’s Blue Mountain and West Virginia’s Snowshoe. The four Aspen mountains and Squaw Valley-Alpine, a KSL property, will come under the umbrella of the new group but will continue to operate independently.
Because both purchases aren’t expected to be finalized until next fall, resort-specific season tickets will be honored for next season. So will the M.A.X. Pass, Rocky Mountain Super Pass and Mountain Collective that overlap into the partnership’s new portfolio in various ways.
“We had greater plans for Mammoth but the Great Recession and then some less favorable weather, interfered with our strategic aspirations in a finite life investment vehicle,” said Barry Sternlicht of Starwood Capital Group that owned Mammoth and the other resorts “We know Aspen and KSL have the experience, commitment, and balance sheet to help make our vision a reality.”
No upgrading plans have been announced yet, but indications are that the new entity has the capital to put into improvements at these resorts – for both winter and summer. However, official statements have noted that coordinating e-commerce technology among all the resorts will a high priority in order to expand the marketing capabilities of all the mountains.
The move by Aspen Skiing Corp. to acquire and consolidate some 15 resorts under the Aspen-KSL roof is seen by industry officials as a response to Vail Resort’s two-decade effort to acquire 14 resorts across the U.S. and Canada.
You find features all over Mammoth Mountain. (Mammoth Mountain/Facebook)
As the song contends, it seems “it never rains in Southern California,” but it does snow in the mountains. Enough has fallen already from the skies and out of the nozzles of snow guns that SoCal’s ski and snowboard season is underway.
All within driving distance of Los Angeles or San Diego, a half-dozen resorts feature ample varieties of trails and slopes, and terrain parks that play off of the popularity of skateboarding and surfing down below.
Another highlight is collaboration on lift tickets that make it easier and cheaper to get onto the slopes. It’s the second season for the consortium of Mammoth Mountain, June Mountain, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. The Cali4nia Pass covers all four resorts for the whole season, while Bear and Snow Summit join up with both unlimited and midweek versions. Season pass holders at Mountain High or Mt. Baldy get three free days at the other resort.
At Snow Valley, there’s a new conveyor lift that doubles terrain for the kid’s learning area, while night skiing continues. At Snow Summit, a new 3,000 square-foot children’s center sprung up over the summer.
San Diego fav Mountain High boasts two separate mountains that let skiers and riders choose the type of terrain they want to hit on any day.
And Mt. Baldy – about 45 miles from L.A. – keeps it old-school with fewer trails groomed every day to challenge skiers and ‘boarders to up their games beyond corduroy.
Mammoth Mountain – the largest resort in Southern California – adds to its Unbound Terrain Park legacy with a new hike-in terrain park in the Hemlocks Ridge area. A half-dozen parks of progressive difficulty dot the lower half of the trail map at Mammoth, including four half-pipes.
“Surfing and skateboarding are inherently ingrained in the fabric of Southern California, and freestyle snowboarding is a natural extension of that,” Mammoth’s Lauren Burke told SnoCountry.com. “The Southern California board sport culture slowly made its way to up north, first to June Mountain and then to Mammoth, and the Unbound Terrain Parks were born.”
At Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, terrain park crews regularly shift features overnight to keep things fresh.
Rider in Big Bear Grizzly 100 gets encouragement from a fan (Big Bear Gran Fondo/Facebook/Pink Shorts Photography)
For those with big lungs, tree-trunk quads and a desire to spend hours on a mountain bike -- or folks who enjoy watching them -- the mountains all across the country are an endurance racer’s heaven.
Just when we thought El Niño has petered out on the mountains of the West, the metrological maiden has come on with force to put down as much as two feet as April begins.Thus, a number of resorts in the West have decided to stay open a bit longer.
Unusually high temps have forced Mountain High to shut down it lifts until conditions improve, but one of its SoCal neighbors has stepped in to help.
By age six, Shaun White was riding the rails at Big Bear Mountain -- and catching the eye of promoters of the new sport of freestyle. At age seven, the San Diego native had a sponsorship, and was tearing up the terrain parks at Mammoth Mountain.
More than a hundred wildfires in the mountains of the moisture-starved Pacific Coast have yet to cause any damage to ski and snowboard resorts, although a small fire near Snow Summit and Bear Mountain forced temporary evacuations and closures around the Southern California slopes.
This 2014-2015 winter has yet to be kind to Southern California mountains, so that means resorts are getting kinder and kinder to skiers and snowboarders.
Here’s a New Year’s resolution to work on: Take to the slopes to learn to ski or ride at any of dozens of winter resorts in the Rockies, Sierras and Cascades.
Even though the lifts are still running for the 2012-13 season, some early-bird deals on season passes for next season can be had.
Ski Dazzle 2012 is about to kick off the nation’s largest consumer ski and snowboard show and sale, featuring over 325 exhibitor and sponsor booths.
With the early snowfall in the California mountains, SoCal shredders and plankers alike are itching to head to the hills for those precious first turns.