Bragging rights to long ski and ride seasons belong to a handful of resorts across the country and the fun-loving die-hards who enjoy some of the best turns of the year with goggle tans and fun parties to end the year.
Slopestyle skiers Maggie Voisin, Gus Kenworthy and Nick Goepper are among the 15 athletes nominated to the Olympic Freeski Team. (Sarah Brunson/U.S. Ski & Snowboard)
A strong and deep U.S. Olympic Freeskiing Team is headed to PyeongChang for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
Deer Valley is Alterra Mountain Company's Utah destination. (Alterra Mountain Company)
The joint venture of affiliates of KSL Capital Partners and Henry Crown and Company that brought together Intrawest Resorts holdings, Mammoth Mountain, Deer Valley and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, now has a name: Alterra Mountain Company.
Mammoth's ski and ride season lasted 270 days last year. (Mammoth)
Skiers and riders love to talk about the weather, and where to find the perfect storm of great snow and value tops the SnoCountry.com news for 2017.
Crystal Mountain in Washington opened Wednesday. (Crystal Mountain/Facebook)
A powerful weather system delivers heavy snow across the West through Friday, then leads to lake effect snow during the weekend for the East.
Celebrations at Breck. (Breckenridge/Facebook)
As if to say auf wiedersehene to summer and willkommen to winter, Oktoberfest in the Western mountains is celebrated just as the seasons pivot away from fun-in-the-sun and toward the upcoming ski and snowboard season.
Good times kept rollin' at Mammoth. (Mammoth Mountain/Facebook)
It will take a record 270 days, but Mammoth Mountain will finally put an end to the 2016-2017 ski and snowboard season Aug. 6.
Hittin' the summer ski scene at Squaw. (Squaw Valley/Facebook)
After one of the best snow season in recent times, a quartet of Western mountains will keep the lifts turning well into what should be the season for sun-bathing and surfing.
Squaw-Alpine wants to stay open all summer. (Squaw Valley-Alpine Meadows/Facebook)
A bonanza year in much of the Sierra Nevada and plenty of late-season snow in the Rockies will keep a dozen ski and snowboard resorts operating into May and beyond.
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.
Deep powder prevails at Heavenly (Heavenly/Facebook)
Plenty of pow at Mammoth. (Mammoth/Facebook)
The sudden turn of fortune for Mammoth Mountain – and the rest of the Sierra – has prompted the California resort to stay open until the Fourth of July.
Officials said a record month in December, another 20 feet in January and more to come made the decision easy. This season’s July 4 closing is the first time since 2010-2011 season when nearly 56 feet – 668 inches -- piled up.
Not only are skiers and snowboarders stoked by the record snowfall, California water officials are too: The snowpack in the Eastern Sierra is 173 percent of normal – with several months of winter to go.
Since Mammoth opened for the 1969-70 season, there have been six seasons with more than 500 inches falling from the sky, according to stats from mammothsnowman.com. The bleakest winter at the California mountain came in 1976-77 when a mere 96 inches came down – with none in December!
Mammoth's mammoth weathers the storm. (Mammoth/Facebook)
After a month of January that put up to 20 feet on the ground in the Sierra, you’d figure things would calm down at bit. But before that happens, there’s a couple of more feet on the way.
OpenSnow.com forecasters say that snow at Tahoe-area resorts should drop between one and two feet this weekend – and storms will stick around for another couple of days beyond that. Up north, Washington and Oregon resorts should benefit as the jet stream shifts to a more northern route in February.
“We should see a break Saturday night into Sunday but with winds picking back up,” said OpenSnow’s Bryan Allegretto about Tahoe. “Then another storm moves in Sunday night into Monday. This storm also has snow levels near lake level until falling later Monday. We could see 3-10 inches at lake level, and 4-15 inches on the mountains by Monday night.”
For example, China Peak was expected to get more than a foot over the weekend, pause on Monday, and then get ready for up to four more feet next week, according to OpenSnow forecasts.
This on top of a month of January that recalled years gone by when double-digit snowfalls were standard. At Mammoth Mountain, the month included one-day dumps of 42 inches (Jan. 4) and 91 inches total in the week of Jan. 7-13. Total for the month topped 200 inches.
California water officials say that the month’s moist largesse helped replenish a third of the state’s “water deficit,” refilled reservoirs and setting up for a spring melt that would refurbish some of the state’s groundwater supply. But they warned that without consistent precipitation, the benefits of the winter’s snow bonanza will diminish fairly soon.
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.
A pair of skiers punctuate the new season at Copper Mountain. (Copper Mountain/Facebook)
Just as doomsayers raised their voices, Mother Nature came to the rescue in the West and turned the conversation to, “When are you opening?”
For many resorts in the Rockies, Sierra and Cascades, the answer is a resounding “soon.” Yes, terrain will be quite limited – often a couple of runs in the beginner/intermediate areas – but many ski and snowboard areas put up cheap ticket deals to get people to the slopes as soon as possible.
Significant snowfall coursed across the northern tier of the Western mountains in the past week, dropping as much as a foot on Steamboat which opens this week. Most Colorado resorts that pushed back their traditional pre-Thanksgiving opening days have put a new date on the calendar. Colorado’s Keystone, Breckenridge, Winter Park and Copper Mountain all dropped the ropes this past week, after a week’s delay. Eldora is set drop the ropes this week.
Out west In SoCal, Mammoth Mountain has been open for a couple of weeks and, in the Sierra, both Boreal and Mount Rose began spinning lifts this past week while a slew of other Tahoe-area resorts plan to open for Thanksgiving.
Early snow has come fitfully to Utah, but Snowbasin plans to lead the pack with a Wednesday (Nov. 23) start, followed by Park City on Friday (Nov. 25). A bunch of Utah’s 15 resorts haven’t announced an opening yet.
Up in the Northwest, Mount Baker expects to win the race this season by kicking off the season on Nov. 23. Others have coverage, but await more.
OpenSnow forecasters see multiple storm systems rolling in off the Pacific in the next couple of weeks, bringing significant snowfall to the mountains and brightening the prospects for early-goers all across the West.
If big snow falls early, pay less to ski more powder at Crystal Mountain. (Crystal Mountain/Facebook)
This is what we do in anticipation of another ski and snowboard day: Think snow, check web cams, pray for cold – and lock in a couple of early-season discount tickets.
Most resorts drop ticket prices before the holidays to entice us into the high country as soon as possible. Savings also can be had by ordering online, buying in groups, and going midweek.
Here’s SnoCountry’s sampling of early ticket deals around the country:
Crystal Mountain. Limited number of five-pack of adult tickets available on first-come, first-served basis at Washington mountain. Cost is $335 for 10 percent savings.
Sundance. Utah resort sells limited number of day tickets 40-60 percent off on a revolving basis. For example, Dec. 9 ticket costs $30.99 – more than half off.
Mammoth Mountain. Ski opening day at Cali resort for $50, online only. Includes free coffee and cocoa to stay warm till lift opens at 8:30 a.m.
Snow Summit. Opening day at SoCal mountain is $41; stay another day and get two days for $69. Must buy online at least 72 hours in advance.
Steamboat. Through Dec. 18, three days of skiing and riding costs $169 with Boat Launch Pass, plus 20 percent off mountain lodging.
Aspen/Snowmass. Book at least two nights before Dec. 18 and get 40 percent off lift tickets at any SkiCo mountain. Book three nights at Little Nell Hotel before Dec. 18 and get two lift tickets free.
Bromley. Purchase a Sun Mountain Card by Dec. 16 for $69, and get $30 off full day ticket price all season. Price goes up to $79 after that.
Stratton. Top out at $69 midweek, $89 weekend with bonus day after Jan. 2 for $89 with X2 Card.
Ziplines like this one at Whitefish Mountain take kids for high-flying rides at mountain resorts. (Whitefish/Facebook)
Winter resorts across the nation want kids to take up skiing and snowboarding to keep the sports growing. And, many believe that attracting youngsters to the mountains during the summer will help.
Although the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival is only three days and nights, once you get to Telluride, you won't want to go home. (Telluride Brews & Blues Festival)
What’s on tap for this summer of fun? Along with sampling some of the finest craft beers around, a trip to a beer festival this summer also means live music, tempting food, and another perfect reason to get outside and enjoy the mountains.
Squaw Valley is one of eight resorts offering skiing and snowboarding Memorial Day Weekend, plus a Hot Tub Party at High Camp. (Squaw Valley photo)
Memorial Day Weekend traditionally marks the official beginning of summer, but eight ski resorts across North American are holding out for at least one last weekend of skiing and riding.
If you’re heading out this weekend to make some turns, don’t forget to bring the bikes, hiking shoes and kayaks too! So which resorts are open this weekend? Here is a rundown: