From efficient snowmaking to recycle stations to wind and solar generation, ski and snowboard resorts know that their survival depends upon reducing the effects of climate change.
For any skier or rider, their bucket list includes not only visits to renowned resorts but also taking a run down a trail they've heard about for a long time. Here's SnoCountry's shot at those trails.
Early on, above-freezing temps kept snowfall down in the Pacific Northwest. But lately, the temps have dropped and the depths have risen. Pacific storms have stayed north, pummeling the Cascades and intermountain region with snowfall measured in feet.
Thanksgiving weekend will be especially tasty in the western United States and Canada with multiple helpings of snow storms.
Renovations all around at early-opening California ski and snowboard resorts – in restaurants, base lodges, bars and on the hill.
Rock climbing is a specialized sport, with its own equipment and techniques. But European-based via ferratas have begun to spring up in the U.S. mountain country to make the sport more accessible to more people.
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.
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.
Catchin' the corn is springtime ritual. (Squaw Valley/Facebook)
Like many regions in the West, skiers and riders had to wait until March before all the trails and slopes were open. In California, a trio of resorts hope they can make it last as long as possible.
Gathering for final run down High Rustler. (Alta/Facebook)
The coming of spring is a bittersweet time for skiers and riders. But it’s also time to party hearty at a plethora of spring festivals and fun dots the calendar during the final weeks of the year.
Park 'n' power at Squaw Valley. (Squaw Valley)
Heading to the mountains in an electric car? More and more, ski and snowboard resorts around the U.S. have installed charging stations so that EVs can be ready for the trip home.
Battery storage will help keep lifts running (Squaw Valley/Facebook)
Keeping a steady flow of electricity to ski and snowboard mountains is a major challenge for operators. So a Squaw Valley move to install a storage system is significant.
Lost Valley in Maine rejoicing recent cold and snow along with many others. (Lost Valley/Facebook)
An incredibly-powerful ocean storm will move close to the East coast Thursday and Friday while moisture returns to the Sierra for the first time in several weeks.
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.
Zipline-ing at Heavenly includes monster lake view. (Heavenly/Facebook)
One of the most prevalent summer activities at ski and snowboard resorts is the high-flying, high-speed zipline. And California is no exception.
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.
64 oz. Gnar Burger at Squaw (Rocker@Squaw/Facebook)
Few foods capture the spirit of skiing and snowboarding as much as the venerable hamburgers, and resorts town eateries tout all manner of this longtime mountain favorite.
Skate with the stars at Sun Valley (Sun Valley/Facebook)
Downhill skiing and ice skating have been linked closely during the cold winter months, and a number of winter resorts around the country link with outdoor ice rinks.
Most stay open into the evenings, and typically charge a fee for a couple of hours of skating, offer skate rentals that are sometime free if you’re staying at the resort, and have food and drink nearby.
SnoCountry.com took a look around the country, and came up with some ice rinks of note for some skating enjoyment:
Squaw Valley. You have to take an 8-minute cable car ride to 8,200-foot High Camp to reach a 100x200 foot rink, with Olympic Museum and mind-blowing views of the Sierra and Lake Tahoe. Cost includes tram ride.
Sun Valley. Outdoor rink next to Sun Valley Lodge in main village, the 77-year-old sheet hosts popular Sun Valley Ice Shows. Individual or group lessons available, and world-class skaters often stop by for practice and autographs.
Keystone. Colorado resort has two skating venues: A five-acre lake in the heart of the resort’s village with Zambonis putting down new surface; and, the more traditional Dercum Square Ice Rink near the base of the ski and snowboard mountain.
Guidant John Rose Oval. While not at a resort, this 110,000 square-foot sheet in Roseville, Minn., is close enough for skiers and snowboarders from nearby Afton Alps, Hyland Hills and Buck Hill to stop by apres-ski. Rink has hosted U.S. and international speedskating competitions.
Liberty Mountain. The Pennsylvania resort opened a new skating pond this season, located in the newly renovated pedestrian core of the base area and open daily till 10 p.m. Courtyard Pond has seating for viewers.
Whiteface. Take a turn on the same ice as Olympic champ Sonja Henie, and where annual Stars on Ice Tour features top skaters. The Speed Skating Oval has skate rentals and a fir pit in the middle. Or glide onto Mirror Lake for some old-fashioned pond hockey.
This rendering shows what the base area will look like after redevelopment (Squaw Valley Tomorrow)
Squaw Valley officials say completion of final design and plans for the multi-decade project can get underway after Placer County approval of its ambitious development plans for the base area.
The project at the Lake Tahoe resort reflects a trend among Western resorts to upgrade into order to keep up with their international and domestic competitors. Officials recognize that the pre-eminence of Squaw Valley in the 1960s and 1980s has waned, due greatly to the lack of concerted updating and reinivigorating the property.
About 90 percent of the project lies on existing parking lots, according to resort officials, and calls for an overhaul of existing retail outlets, and construction of about 1,500 new beds in some 750 lodging units. The initial work on the project would include ski in/ski out lodging, fractional cabins on the west side of the base area, and the Mountain Adventure Camp – a 90,000 square foot rec center that sits partially on the previous center’s footprint.
The timeline for completion of the $1 billion project extends out as far as 25 years, and initial work won’t begin until planning approvals can be secured for each portion of the development.
“Each lot that is to be developed will be subject to a similar public review and approval process that includes opportunity for community input, so nothing is immediately going to start in the way of construction,” Squaw’s Jess VanPernis Weaver told SnoCountry.com, noting that actual construction may not begin for a couple of years.
The project sits on 22 parcels owned by KSL Capital Partners, which bought the resort in 2010 from closely held interests that stretch back to the 1949 opening of the mountain. Recently, Squaw Valley and neighboring Alpine Meadows joined forces.
Opening day for the 2016-2017 season is slated for Nov. 23, weather permitting.
A 2.3kW solar installation at Aspen Highlands ski patrol headquarters. (Aspen Skiing Company)
During the past couple of decades, a majority American ski and snowboard resorts have come to embrace that climate change is a reality – and a threat to their futures.
Evidence of resorts engaging the principles and practices that reduce fossil fuel use and carbon footprint can be found at many venues and in many ways. Low-energy snowmaking is spreading, as is on-mountain recycling, car pooling priority parking and biofuel use.
Here’s SnoCountry’s sampling of some of the green projects at U.S. resorts:
Sugarloaf. The northern Maine resort has gone all in to reduce its footprint, including revegetation to reduce erosion and composting at area restaurants that produces “black gold” soil used on the Sugarloaf Golf Course.
Cranmore. New Hampshire resort added its first electric/diesel groomer snowcat to supplement a fleet that has been burning biodiesel for a decade. New condo project will heat and cool with efficient electric pump systems.
Crystal Mountain. The Michigan resort got recognition for carbon-reducing LED lighting in parking lots, and its high-speed Crystal Clipper chair that runs solely on wind power credits.
Stevens Pass. All the lift cables at the Washington mountain are lubricated by non-petroleum castor oil, and management actively seeks out “green” vendors for its food and beverage services. Snowmobiles burn low-sulfur diesel, and operate as much as possible during off-hours.
Squaw Valley. Can’t buy bottled water at the California resort; instead, you can fill up water bottles at refill stations for free.
Aspen-Snowmass. The Colorado resort complex chose a political route in addition to e-efforts. Partnering with Protect Our Winters, all employees wear the organization’s patch, and resort officials lobby hard for local, regional and national climate change awareness and action.
The National Ski Areas Association lists 200 U.S. resorts that have signed on to its Sustainable Slopes program – and more than a dozen have received money for “green” projects through the program.