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.
The L.A. Basin warms up this time of year, and one of the best ways to beat that heat is to head to the mountains.
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.
Renovations all around at early-opening California ski and snowboard resorts – in restaurants, base lodges, bars and on the hill.
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.
When the hustle and bustle gets too much down below, Californians head to the hills. And, the state’s ski and snowboard resorts shift into summer gear to provide the thrills, adventures and just plain relaxation that they are looking for.
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.
Turns to be had at Snow Summit. (Snow Summit/Facebook)
Mid-winter doldrums gave way to a snow-filled spring that has kept many resort open longer than expected – and cranked up the end-of-season parties.
California kids enjoy programs just for them at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. (Snow Summit/Facebook)
Parents always want to find a safe, entertaining activity for their children before they head off to find the powder or hit the bumps.
Resorts across the country offer special kids lessons, amusement parks and treasure hunts. Here’s a few that caught the eye of SnoCountry.com editors:
Snow Summit has built a new 3,000-square foot Summit Kids Center at the base of the Southern California mountain to house rentals, lift tickets and ski school just for kids.
In Utah, Deer Valley has a trail map just for kids, and its children’s center doubles as a ski school and licensed day care center for those as young as two months old.
Family-focused Keystone runs kids-only group lessons, and keeps ‘em busy with tunnels at its Kidtopia and on-mountain snow fort.
Northstar California Resort on Lake Tahoe is renowned for its tubing hill, bungee tramp and build-your-own-s’mores at aprés ski fire pit.
Smugglers' Notch puts kids in lessons with their own age, from 2-1/2 old on dedicated slope and nursery school. Night School for Boarding runs 4 to 7 p.m. for beginners to get comfortable in a terrain park. Teen Alley’s music, games and movies awaits, too, at the northern Vermont mountain.
The trails at upstate New York’s Holiday Valley are full of surprises for kids – a secret snow fort, “snow monsters” galore, and a rock hunt that teaches Seneca Nation of Indians history. Race a friend, and finish off day with rides down mountain coaster till 6 p.m.
At California’s Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, the Badger Pups Program aims at kids 4 to 6 with two beginner lessons. Or enroll them in the all day Kids Camp on weekends and holidays.
At Winter Park in Colorado, all kids get free rides on the Galloping Goose lift, which serves the bunny hill at Mary Jane. The resort also has the "Family Easy Start" program that allows families to learn together for one price.
Sun Valley puts bear prints all over the mountain for kids to find, runs build-a-snowman contests and hosts youthful ice skaters right at the base of the Idaho resort.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The first evidence of what Mammoth Mountain, the new ownership, wants to do for its resorts at Southern California’s Big Bear Lake will be an upgrade of the mountain biking trails at Snow Summit, including a top-to-bottom beginner trail.
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.
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.