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.
Both the Epic Pass and Ikon Pass streamline skiing and riding costs during the winter. Now that summer's here, they switch gears to make warm-weather times in the mountains more affordable, too.
Every time we checked the snow conditions at Tahoe resorts in February, more had fallen from the skies – and at record levels.
The latest round of storms off the Pacific Ocean have rivaled any in recent years, so much so that a number of resorts closed temporarily and others had to cut back on skiable terrain.
Renovations all around at early-opening California ski and snowboard resorts – in restaurants, base lodges, bars and on the hill.
Here’s a sample road trip for those who have purchased an Epic Pass, have a week or two on the loose, and are ready to ski and ride across the West without having to shell out for a day ticket.
Nearly every turn at Heavenly has lake vista. (Heavenly/Facebook)
Heavenly Valley rightfully boasts its best elements: Most skiable terrain (4,800 acres) in Lake Tahoe area. Most vertical feet (3,500) on West Coast. Among highest summit elevations (10,067 feet) in the region.
It's party time on the shores of Lake Tahoe at Heavenly Valley on New Year's Eve. (TahoeSouth/Facebook)
The annual celebration of the new year at a ski and snowboard resort signals that the season is in full swing – and looking forward to tons of snow in the coming months.
Mountain resorts traditionally feature torchlight parades, fireworks, festive food and hearty drink on the evening of Dec. 31. Many add twists to the holiday activities – for kids, VIPs and just regular folk.
Here’s a preview of some of what will be happening in the across the country as 2016 turns into 2017 up in the hills:
South Lake Tahoe shuts down Main Street for Heavenly Valley visitors to party with music, food and drink before famed Gondola Ball Drop (ala Times Square) to signal in new year.
Crystal Mountain lays out buffet and prix fixe dinners, separate parties for teens and adults, and torchlight ski and ride down the Cheers trail for 16 years or older.
Grand Targhee gets going early with glowstick parade for 5-14 year olds with basic turning and stopping skills. Adults parade at 5:45 p.m. with roadside flares (wear an old parka), and then fireworks.
Breckenridge starts out with a glowworm parade on the slopes for the kids, then an adult version later. Many hike up Boreas Pass for best view of nighttime fireworks.
Sunday River features evening ride up Chondola for fancy meal at mid-mountain Peak Lodge. Back at base, the music is nonstop until midnight.
Stowe goes all day on Dec. 31 with face-painting, handbell concert, champagne tasting and free s’more before torchlight parade and fireworks cap off the year.
Sugarbush honors a human’s best friend with annual Dog Parade in the afternoon at base of Lincoln Peak, followed by the usual evening festivities.
Upstate New York specializes in fall colors, and best place to see them is atop Whiteface (Whiteface/Facebook)
For skiers and snowboarders, the first sign of winter comes when the leaves start to color up as the days get shorter and the temps begin to drop.
We all know that “summer” and “California” are inexorably linked, but it’s not just beaches and surf at ski and snowboard resorts up in the mountains.
It’s just been too good at Lake Tahoe resorts this season – and so much better than recent years -- not to stay open longer than planned.
Heavenly Valley Resort kicked off their 60th year in operation with plenty of Sierra-style partying and talk of years gone by. But the greatest gift for the iconic Lake Tahoe resort has been snow, snow, and more snow.
The best time for sightseeing in the high mountains of the West may well be in the summer -- and from the comfort of a gondola or tramway.
The commitment to making Heavenly Mountain a year-round activity center is solidifying this summer with the initial phase of the Epic Discovery program.
Over the next couple of summers, visitors to Heavenly Valley will find more and more warm-weather things to do as the resort, owned by Vail Resorts, develops its Epic Discovery program.
The southern Rockies got the bulk of this latest snow blast, and snow is expected to continue – in varying degrees of intensity – into next week in Colorado and Utah. Skiers and snowboarders at other areas of the West are still looking longingly to the skies.
The skies have brought the pre-Christmas gift of snow to the ski and snowboard resorts around Lake Tahoe this year, and the resorts are ready to celebrate. From Santa on the slopes to snowman-building to the tried-and-true fireworks and torchlight parades, northern California resorts offer up plenty for those who come to the Sierra Nevada.
An extensive storm system fueled by a so-called "Pineapple Express" has made landfall in northern California, prompting forecasts for 1-3 feet of snow in and around Lake Tahoe by the weekend.
All eyes are on the skies – and all hands are on the snow guns – as Northern California ski and snowboard resorts begin to turn on the lifts for the season, thanks to regular snow storms that started cycling through the region since Thanksgiving.