In Southern California, a half-dozen ski and snowboard mountains are at the whim of an environmental battle between near-tropic ocean temps versus the high elevation of the San Bernardino and San Gabriel mountains.
There's plenty of ocean moisture to go around and, if the mountains win, all six resorts get you outta town in the two hours' drive from the L.A. basin. They all have extensive snowmaking to offset unreliable winters, and emanate a distinctly Southern California vibe where it's often as much the scene as the slopes. Traffic can be dense, especially on snowy weekends.
In the eastern mountains, three resorts now link under the same season pass. Bear Mountain, aka Big Bear, (198 a., 1,665 vert.) covers 100% of its terrain with snowmaking. Add in the "lake effect" from Big Bear Lake, and often its depths exceed others in the region. This is the Mecca of terrain parks. Eighteen parks of all levels dot the trail map, plus a couple of half-pipes. Most of the mountain rates blue or green, and the six of its eight lifts serve that terrain. The few steeps are quite long, contained under two upper chairs.
For a smallish mountain, Snow Summit (240 a., 1,041 vert.) Snow Summit offers a more traditional downhill experience than its park-nuts neighbor. It boasts two high-speeds, eight fixed-grips, 100% snowmaking and two top 'o ridge lunch spots. At the base, five carpets help beginners get going. Up on the hill, some 10 terrain parks sprinkle the moderate Skyline Creek area, while the rest of the hill speaks to cruisers and mogul-hoppers.
The newest member of the SoCal trio, Snow Valley (240 a., 1,041 vert.) fits in the middle of the others. It's much taller than wide, with an upper mountain of varying exposures, and a trail map evenly split among rated runs. A three-part terrain park runs a full mile long.
Farther to the west, Mountain High (290 a., 1,600 vert.) divvies up its terrain among three separate areas, but only two will operate as ski hills this winter.
Mountain High West (1,000 vert.) attracts novices to expansive greens out it base, and skilled skiers and riders to its upper slopes. Mountain High East (1,600 vert.) is smaller but steeper, with learning grounds up top. According to mountain officials, Mountain High North at base of MH East will be strictly "snow play" this season.
On the shoulder of Mt. San Antonio, the best feature of Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts (800 a., 2,100 vert.) may be its persistent northern exposure that holds its snow well. Mt. Baldy leans heavily toward newbies and novices. It has a host of languid green runs, a progressive terrain park, and areas marked specifically to keep novices from straying. Its four chairs are vintage, and 1,300 of its vertical feet are consumed by an awkward layout that forces parking below and a chairlift ride to and from the main lodge.
As it name implies, Mt. Waterman Ski Lifts (150 a., 1,000 vert.) is thoroughly old-school. It has no snowmaking, no rentals, open Saturdays and Sundays when snow permits, and a mid-mountain "warming hut." Three old fixed-grip doubles (ancestors of the first California chair in 1941) do it all.
In California, a series of eight ski and snowboard destinations -- from mega-big to oh-so small -- string from north to south, hugging the Sierra Nevada range.
From Kirkwood to Alta Sierra, these ski areas stretch some 250 miles above the Central Valley along the craggy granite pitch of the eastern Sierra Nevada that owes its elevations and terrain to the collision of oceanic and continental plates beneath. And, snowfall regularly tops 400 inches, thanks to storms soaked by the ocean and crystallized at elevation.
Mammoth Mountain (3,500 a., 3,100 vert.) looms above all -- isolated in the middle of east-central Sierra. A favorite for Los Angelinos, it's a five-hour drive from the coast. Kids 12 and under ski free at companion June Mountain (1,500 a, 2,590 vert.).
The others are an eclectic group, starting with Kirkwood (2,300 a., 2,000 vert.) -- as cliffy as anywhere -- and neighbor Sierra-at-Tahoe (2,000 a., 2,200 vert.) that aims squarely at the intermediate and terrain park crowd.
Hop on Hwy. 88 for a scenic winding, switchbacking 100 miles (3 hours) through the gnarly Sierra massif to oddball Bear Valley (1,680 a., 1,900 vert.). On private land, The Bear is upside-down. Parking is at a mid-mountain base, and the easier stuff is higher up, while the tougher terrain down below. And the main village is over the ridge and down a lift-less bowlful of blacks. You have to take a shuttle back to the front side.
More traditional is Dodge Ridge (862 a., 1,600 vert.) that clusters its greens, blues and parks under five fixed-grips out of the main base. Getting to the steeps takes some time, but they are worth it.
One of only three U.S. ski areas within a national park, Badger Pass (88 a., 600 vert.) sits near the Arch Rock entrance to Yosemite NP. Opened in 1935, Badger Pass (briefly named Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area) is proudly compact -- five lifts, 10 runs -- and a must stop if only for the views of Half Dome.
China Peak (1,400 a., 1,679 vert.) is a straightforward as it gets in the central Sierra. Park at the base, ride a new high-speed or fixed-grip up to main system, and take any of three that serve the upper mountain. Below, the Park three-seater sets apart for novices and park-ers. Popular as Fresno is close.
And at the southern tip of the range, Alta Sierra Ski Resort and Terrain Park (80 a., 400 vert.) makes no bones about being a community hill, appealing to a casual crowd who dig terrain parks and need no black runs. Saturdays and Sundays only, it's 50 miles from Bakersfield.
Skiing and riding in Northern California succeeds because of its proximity to the Sierra Nevada Crest (9,000+ feet), which pushes Pacific storms skyward to produce often prodigious snowfalls.
While the Tahoe "big boys" dominate in terrain, vertical drop, lift systems and skier-visits, you can find a less corporate feel to the north around Truckee, where a cluster of some of the oldest ski areas in the nation retain an old-school family ibe.
A quartet ski and snowboard mountains are within 10 miles of each other, each welcoming newbies, novices and casuals with terrain, vertical and mellow atmosphere they require. Take your pick:
Opened in 1937, Donner Ski Ranch (500 a.,750 vert.) sits astride Donner Pass -- an "easy" side and "difficult" side each with three fixed grips. One of several "big little" mountains around the pass.
Just off the Crest with a 7,701-foot summit, Boreal Mountain (380 a.,500 vert.) presents a laid-back, green-blue, terrain-park paradise. Woodward Extreme Sports at the base, plus five terrain parks and a half-pipe on the hill.
Open Thursday-Monday, Soda Springs (200 a., 650 vert.) is a family extension of neighbor Boreal. Founded in 1931, its two fixed-grip chairs serve a mountain with more than half its runs rated green. Plenty of off-hill stuff: tubing, kids play area and Woodward Start Park.
Another green-blue heavy hill, Tahoe Donner (120 a., 600 vert.) rates 90% in the easy-peasy category. A couple of fixed grips reach 7,300-foot summit for runs with few if any trees. Good place for kids to wander.
If the big-mountain urge hits, Sugar Bowl (1,500 a., 1650 vert.) is just down the road. It's got four peaks,13 lifts including five high-speeds. Blacks are more like blues on a hill that attracted Hollywood celebrities when the first chair went up in 1940.
Now, head a couple hours north to find some genuine classic ski slopes that locals love but few others know about. Near Susanville, Coopervale Ski Hill (50 a., 730 vert.) spins a single "poma" platter on Saturdays and Sundays. Owned and operated by nearby Lassen College, this tiny gem even has a half-pipe.
Less than hour away is Stover Mountain, likely the smallest hill in the state at 13 acres. Some 500 feet vertical drop is served by a very long rope tow to a 5,600-foot summit. Another weekend-only operation.
And, in the corner where California, Oregon and Nevada touch, volunteers operate Cedar Pass Snow Park (40 acres) on weekends. A T-bar and rope tow handle uphill transport.
Again, if you just have to get more vertical and ride a high-speed, take a three-hour ride west to volcanic cone Mt. Shasta Ski Park (425. a., 1,390 vert.). There, you'll find conditions more like Oregon -- Sierra Cement, drop-dead views -- without the crowds.
Loyal Southern Californians who travel up the hill each winter to ski or ride at Big Bear Lake's two mountains may have reason to rejoice when a pair of chairlifts bring the two trail maps together.
The ownership of both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain has filed a master plan for expansion that would physically join the two mountains via two new chairlifts for the 2023-2024 season. If so, the family-oriented crowd at Snow Summit will be able to readily unleash their wild side on the terrain parks at Bear -- and vice versa.
The proposed pair of chairlifts will be the first new lifts at either winter resort in 25 years. Situated two miles apart and separated by a small valley, the two mountains have remained discrete -- save for a short drive or shuttle ride -- since they joined forces in 2002 as Big Bear Mountain Resort.
It has been cumbersome to differentiate the offerings of two unconnected hills while trying to market them as a single resort. In 2014, Mammoth Mountain bought the whole resort and, three years later, newly formed Alterra Mountain Co. purchased Mammoth Mountain and brought Big Bear Mountain Resort into the Ikon Pass fold.
Now, if the U.S. Forest Service approves, a pair of chairlifts will team up to ferry skiers and riders between Bear Mountain and Snow Summit to link their trail systems. If all goes without problems with the USFS comment and review periods, construction could begin as soon as next May.
Going in opposite directions, the two chairlifts will rise out of a low point between the two mountains to deposit skiers and riders at their respective summits -- at top of Big Bear Mountain Express and Summit's Lifts 6 and 7. A compact system of new trails -- more challenging on the Big Bear side and more connectors on Summit side -- will run down to the base of both lifts.
Snow Summit opened in 1952, just in time to cash in on the the sport's post-war growth in the L.A. basin. About two hours' drive from the city, it quickly became the go-to day-trip destination in Southern California for the next 17 years.
Then, next door, Goldmine Mountain started up in 1969 and soon was dubbed Big Bear. For the next 33 years, they both competed for the L.A. market. In 2002, Snow Summit ownership purchased Big Bear, changed its name to Bear Mountain, and brought them both under the Big Bear Mountain Resort brand. And late last season, Alterra took nearby Snow Valley under its Ikon wing.
After a huge winter in the Sierra, California's ski and snowboard resorts have dug out and shifted to downhill mountain biking for the summer months.
Up north at Boreal Mountain, the only Woodward action sports complex in California lays out a collection of in-trail technical terrain features as any MTBer could want. Known as The Slabs, the mountain's six downhill trails aren't the longest in the state but has a half-dozen on-trail jumps and berms -- three on green trails, and one each on the one blue and one black track.
The Castle Peak fixed-grip quad runs noon to 7 p.m. every day except Sunday when it opens at 10 a.m. The four-minute ride lends the mountain park to lots of laps. Woodward offers all manner of lessons, rentals and camps.
Down below, an array of BMX and skate parks string along The Path, a level ride from the Bunkhouse to base lodge. That's where dirt bikers can get their tricks going.
A hundred miles to the south, China Peak cranks up the Summit Chair 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. The triple chair carries bikers and bikes to the 8,700-foot summit, where an array of 26 trails covering a total of 21 miles and dropping 1,700 feet awaits.
Ratings break out evenly (30-40-30), and spill over into the backside with 5-mile meandering Backside Trail. Most difficult runs stick close to the lift line on the front side, with the short but nasty Stones trails rates "pro." All trails are straight-forward single track downhillers without man-made features.
Over at Mammoth Mountain, what is usually a huge MTB trail system has shrunk for this summer, due to record snowfall and a winter season that extended into August.
Eleven MTB tracks are open, and all are accessible via shuttle bus that runs 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. between the main lodge Adventure Center and Village at Mammoth.
Most of the trails require short stretches of uphill riding. The expert-rated Smooth Operator is the most challenging. The limited selection has plenty of natural features, and the volcanic gravel surface can be a test for any MTBer.
Three southern California ski and snowboard mountains that were joined together this winter under Ikon Pass ownership will do likewise this summer.
Already under the Alterra Mountain Corp. umbrella, Big Bear Mountain and Snow Summit welcomed neighbor Snow Valley into the fold last January, with ski and snowboard season passes at each becoming valid at all three mountains.
Now, this summer, mountain bikers can get two-for-one access to the mountain biking trails at both Snow Summit and Snow Valley. They all offer scenic chair rides, hiking trails and a variety of summertime activities. A single MTB is good at both Snow Summit and Snow Valley.
Long known as a mountain biking mecca, Snow Summit has built up an 18-mile trail system with off its two base-to-summit chairlifts. There's plenty for novice riders to choose from as half the MTB trail map is rated beginner (green), captained by the long and languid Going Green track.
Advanced riders can lap Turtle Trail and its dozens of berms, bridges and step-ups right under the lift. For a steeper challenge, rider can hop on black-rated Miracle Mile and Muscle Beach, also under the chairlifts, or take the plunge on the double-diamond 10 Ply.
With a short drive and uphill pedal, MTBers can hop on the 8-mile ridgetop Skyline Trail that gets up to 8,200 feet elevation -- and stays there.
An 11-mile drive from Big Bear Lake, Snow Valley offers a compact MTB trail network with a total of seven miles and 857 vertical feet -- all accessible off six-pack high-speed chairlift. A blue-rated mixture of four named trails intersect and divide down the mountain. A single pro-rated trail, Pro Jumpline, drops from top to bottom off the chairlift.
Across Rt. 18, a plentiful network of X-C trails awaits, with predominately blue runs intermingling with an ample menu of black and green single tracks. Snow Summit is also home to an extensive Base Camp with zip lines, climbing walls, trampoline and more.
Back at Big Bear Mountain, which sits above the popular summer town of Big Bear Lake, the main summertime focus is Big Bear golf course is a cozy nine-holer at the base of the mountain. They even have night golf with glow balls.
Snowfall for the 2022-2023 ski and snowboard season has bordered on the absurd, but the 700-plus inches that fell on California resorts is enough of a reality for at least 10 to extend their seasons beyond scheduled closing.
Nowhere did snow seem to fall more often than the resorts in and around the Lake Tahoe area and Mammoth Mountain. Photos of chairs buried in snow up to the tower tops kept coming and coming this winter. As the end approached, the month of May became the "new April" with a number of mountains keeping lifts spinning into the seventh month of their season.
Here's a look at what SnoCountry has as of March 28, but be sure to check websites because this season has been anything but predictable.
Starting at the top, Mammoth Mountain has announced it will stay open until "at least the end of July" -- perhaps taking a shot at its latest ever on August 6, 2017. Touting the state's highest summit elevation (11,050 feet), the central Sierra resort recently reported more than 800 inches of snow had fallen since the season began in November.
Next would be Palisades Tahoe on the north end of Lake Tahoe. Touting nearly 700 inches of snowfall so far, the mountain formerly known as Squaw Valley will run daily until the end of May, and then fire up the lifts on weekends through July 4.
The list of California resorts extending into May begins with a surprise: Southern California's Mt. Baldy has gotten so much snow that mountain officials say they have enough to keep going through May 21. But they also said they'd like to break their all-time record of June 6, weather permitting. Mt. Rose will run to April 30.
Also pushing their season into May are Kirkwood (May 14, more than 675 inches), and Heavenly (May 7, nearly 600 inches). Diamond Peak will also sneak into May, planning close on May 1 -- the second longest season since 1966.
A bunch of California mountains will push their closure dates deep into April. SoCal's park-ers' haven Big Bear will run until the end of the month, and so will Tahoe's Northstar. April 23 is the extended finish for Sugar Bowl, which seemed to catch every flake of every storm this season to ring up a total of 732 inches -- and counting. Recovering from the Caldor Fire, Sierra-at-Tahoe will nonetheless extend to April 16.
While Boreal and Soda Springs officially say they'll finish on April 16, stay tuned as they are unofficially considering another week of operations. Tahoe Donner Downhill looks to add another weekend on April 14-16.
Better late than never, right? Most of New England’s resorts got a traditional, purely-magical Nor’easter March 13-15. Granted snow has been decent in northern New England so far this winter, it was just what we needed to extend our skiing and riding to the late part of the year.
In fact, both coasts have been getting clobbered. Yet another atmospheric river slammed California and at least one more is on its way.
This is a fun time of the year, when pond skimming is followed up by Gaper Days. Head to the hill and enjoy the extra daylight, warmer temperatures, and those party-like environments for the St. Patrick’s Day weekend! Let’s dive into the details in this week’s SnoCast for March 16-22, 2023.
EAST & MIDWEST
Well, that storm performed! The Nor’easter hit in true fashion, dumping on the mountains while leaving the valleys accessible (when it comes to travel). Several mountains got 3 feet of snow, with top amounts up to 40 inches. Check out the latest snow reports at your favorite mountain, here on SnoCountry.com
Looking ahead, the next big storm will hit the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest Thursday, lingering into Friday. Four to eight inches of snow will fall, with locally higher amounts closer to Canada. For the Appalachians and New England, this will bring primarily light rain showers (green on the maps below). There will be some snow, however, in far northern New England.
Friday, St. Patrick’s Day, will be windy and mild, the weekend then turning colder (especially on Sunday). Lake-enhanced snow showers will provide some freshies this weekend. Monday-Wednesday will be sunny and comfortable. Best bets: Lutsen Mountains, Granite Peak, Gore Mountain, Magic Mountain, and Gunstock.
We can officially say this has been California’s snowiest winter in decades, maybe even in a generation! The University of California Berkeley Central Sierra Snow Lab (UCB-CSSL) has surpassed 650 inches of snow so far this season, putting the lab in the top 3 for snowiest winters. With another storm this week, the second-snowiest winter season looks unavoidable!
On Thursday, snow showers will continue in the Rockies from an event that began on Tuesday. Greatest additional snow will be in the southern Rockies with 6-12” to finalize a 1-2 foot snowstorm for many in the West. Generally quieter weather can be expected through St. Patrick’s Day on Friday and through the weekend. There will be some light snow showers from New Mexico and Arizona northwestward to CA/OR/WA this weekend. Generally, 4-8” of snow is predicted.
Here we go again! Yet another atmospheric river is forecast to arrive at the California coast Monday-Tuesday, March 20-21. This could be another doozy above 7,500 feet elevation with measurements in feet once again. Snow won’t stay in Cali, though. Much of the West will get wind and snow showers through Tuesday, March 22 with frequent totals of 15-20 inches. Best bets: Purgatory, Park City, Taos, and any operable California resort you can get to!
With so much snow, avalanche warnings have been issued. Check the latest hazard level at www.avalanche.org. We'll see you next week with the latest SnoCast! Have a fun weekend and don't forget to wear green!
In spite of buying a mega-pass, folks who can't wander too far too often still have to pay the same price as those who can travel far and wide -- making regional passes like the new Cali Pass a good deal.
Born out of the 2022 purchase of China Peak by owners of Dodge Ridge and Mountain High, the new regional pass covers unrestricted access to the three primary resorts for the remainder of this season and throughout the 2023-2024 season. Because of previous partnerships, the Cali Pass also includes three days at all Powder Alliance resorts -- including Sierra at Tahoe and Mount Shasta Ski Park -- plus an add-on for the two-day Indy Pass.
The Cali Pass and affiliates stretch from Mount Shasta in the north to Mountain High in the south. Cali Pass purveyors tout the proximity to California's major populations, diverse terrain and "old school" vibe as reasons to forgo sprawling mega-pases and to lock in skiing and riding closer to home.
The new consortium connects a trio of western Sierra resorts that attracts skiers and riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Plus, it puts more skiable terrain (about 2,300 acres combined) within a day's driving distance of these major metropolitan areas.
Mountain High, one of California's oldest ski mountains and an hour's drive from L.A. basin, and Dodge Ridge, which draws from San Francisco and Stockton markets, will now bracket China Peak and its Fresno following under a single season pass.
Powder Alliance membership means the Cali Pass is honored for three free days at any of 21 U.S. resorts, and the Indy Pass add-on gives two days free at any of its 18 West Coast mountains and 120 worldwide.
Combine the Cali Pass with the consolidation of SoCal's Big Bear, Snow Summit and Snow Valley under one season pass and the Ikon Pass, and California skiers and riders have plenty to choose from as the early-season pass sales get underway.
As we roll into the second weekend of March, there is much to talk about in the weather department. An active weather pattern will bring a series of storms from coast to coast which, for some, will result in very heavy snow in the mountains (great for skiing), but also other (not so fun) impacts such as travel disruptions, flooding, and high winds.
Before we dive into the forecast, don't forget that with this kind of pattern, it's important to check forecast more often. Because the way one storm behaves might impact the track or intensity of the next, so there's more room for things to change farther out in time.
With that, let's dig into the forecast, highlighting great ski and ride conditions from March 9-15, 2023.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the Western U.S. is once again in position for a deluge of Pacific moisture that will bring long-duration mountain snow and low-elevation heavy rain. An atmospheric river setup (or a long, steady firehose of tropically-charged moisture) will target the Western U.S., with a bullseye on California starting Thursday and lasting into next week.
The steady stream of moisture will yet again deliver feet upon feet of snow to the Sierra Nevada in California, with lower, but still impressive totals spreading across the Northwest U.S. and the central and northern Rockies.
In California, unlike some other storms this winter, snow levels will be rather high (see tweet from NWSSacramento), with rain/snow line sneaking up to ~8000' for a period of time. This means really heavy rain down low (which will lead to flood problems) and weigh down existing snowpack. Particularly in California, high winds, plus this much snow will impact travel to the slopes, and no doubt interrupt operations for some due to safety concerns. Be sure to check in with your favorite mountain before hitting the road.
Not to be overshadowed by the impacts in California will be significant snow through the weekend for the central and northern Rockies. Many ski areas will pick up 6-12" of fresh snow, with locally 1-2 feet for the higher and southwest-facing slopes of Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, Colorado, and southern Oregon.
Take a look at the forecast snowfall through Sunday, March 12.
Beyond Sunday, the pattern remains active with a series of storms yet to come. A brief respite late Sunday will give way to a new storm Monday, which delivers moderate to heavy snow up and down the Pacific state mountains before shifting east to the Rockies by Tuesday.
Yet another storm waits in the wings for Wednesday-Thursday next week, targeting California and the central Rockies.
Plenty to talk about in the Eastern U.S. and Canada, too. A storm will trek across the lower Great Lakes and shift off the Eastern coastline through Friday (March 10). This will leave behind a swath of snow from Minnesota to Pennsylvania. Expect a widespread 2-5" of snow for many of our Midwest and interior Northeast ski areas before the weekend, locally higher totals for Wisconsin ski areas. This storm will be a near miss for New England.
Here's the Eastern U.S. snow forecast through Sunday, March 12 from the National Weather Service.
Early next week looks intriguing with potential for a nor'easter Monday-Tuesday. While there is still plenty of time for things to change, there is potential for this to be a significant snow (and wind) storm for parts of New England and the interior Northeast, with rain and travel disruptions closers to the major cities. Exact location of the low and amount of cold air will determine how much snow falls and where. Definitely something to keep monitoring!
Here's the "suite of computer models" (ensembles) indicating low pressure location--the farther the spread, the less certainty there is for now.
Following an epic coast to coast storm that dropped new snow from California to Maine, there's more snow ahead for ski country!
The weather pattern is very active, meaning there will be less lead time and a lot of changes the farther out you go in time due to complex interactions in the atmosphere. One thing is for sure, ski season will be strong for many parts of the country to finish February (and likely into March).
Here's the forecast breakdown for February 23-30, 2023.
Let's start out West this week where a large atmospheric trough continues to bring stormy and cold weather...and it's not stopping anytime soon, skiers and riders. As of Thursday, lingering snow continues across the interior West from the most recent storm that dumped feet of snow. Check out some of the photos from the last few days.
Meanwhile a new storm system is digging down the Pacific coastline.
This new system will bring renewed heavier snow and high winds to California by Friday and Saturday. And it's not just the Sierras this time! Snow will dig deep reaching to southern California with very low snow levels expected. Blizzard warnings are in effect Friday for the San Gabriels with potential for 2-5+ FEET of snow (locally more!) above 4,000' (yeah! insane!). Deep snow is expected for Mountain High, Bear, Snow Valley, and others in SoCal, not to mention big totals upwards of 2-5 feet northward to the Sierras from China Peak and Mammoth northward to the Tahoe area.
It should be noted, this is *significant* for the southern California peaks, historic even. Make sure if you plan to travel, you have appropriate gear and transportation to do so, and monitor pass closures.
Another prolonged period of snow develops across the entire west again Monday through Wednesday of next week as a cold pattern sticks around out west. Just keep the skis handy.
Thursday ad Thursday night, snow continues to fall for Midwest ski areas eastward through southern Ontario, to northern New York's Adirondacks and northern New England. While not quite as much fell as predicted, we still picked up beneficial snow on the slopes with this most recent round.
Scattered lighter snow showers redevelop for the northern Great Lakes to northern New England later Saturday in an otherwise fairly quiet weekend for the Northeast. Here's the snow forecast for the northeast from midday Thursday through early Sunday, February 26 from the National Weather Service.
The next storm system for the East presses northward into the Great Lakes by later Monday and Tuesday, bringing a mixed bag to the Midwest (Monday) with milder air pushing into the area. However, in New England, with colder air in place, snow is likely to develop again for parts of upstate New York and New England by Tuesday. While early to pinpoint totals, it appears ski season is being saved (albeit a bit late in the season) here across the far Northeast and New England.
The general pattern remains similar through mid and end of next week, with a large trough out West, keeping conditions colder and stormier than average. There is a good chance March will come in like a lion for the Western U.S.
For the East, we continue to ride a border zone as warm, spring-like air tries to push northward. This will mean periodically milder pushes for the Midwest, solidly warm for the southeast, but still enough cold air in the Northeast that we will hang on to our existing snow, and potentially see more when storms come through. Here's the temperature and precipitation outlook from February 28 through March 4, 2023 from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
Few pairings for Ikon Pass holders rival a trip to a pair of classic California neighbors that, despite dramatic differences in size and terrain, manage to have something for everyone.
Opened in 1955 and 1961, respectively, Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain sit about a half-hour's drive apart on the eastern flank of the snowy Sierras. Los Angeles and San Francisco are five hours away. Both resorts come without limits on the Ikon Pass, and functional base villages, and operate out of unassuming mountain towns. The two mountains do differentiate themselves in distinct ways.
Mammoth has 175 named trails, June puts up 41 trail signs.
Six chairlifts run at June, including two high-speeds, while 25 lifts work at Mammoth with two high-speeds and three gondolas.
Skiable terrain is 1,500 acres at June, 3,500 at its larger sibling.
Lift lines can be monumental at Mammoth, but they rarely queue up at June.
Despite differences, both mountains rate as "family-friendly." June is a compact, managable size with mostly greens and blues, and 12-and-under free skiing. Despite its spacious trail map, Mammoth lays out an ample menu of easy and moderate runs all across the lower mountain, and four base lodges. Its renowned terrain park system features two half-pipes, and there's plenty of unpretentious lodging on mountain and in Mammoth Lakes.
Regulars say Mammoth should be approached as a collection of a half-dozen ski areas out of four separate base areas. Each can consume a full day with a full plate of terrain. Lovers of steeps get the treeless upper snowfields above them all, via ridge-top traverses both directions off the Summit chairlift -- including unpatrolled Dragon's Back's double-blacks.
Often seen as a "break" from the enormity and hustle of Mammoth, June Mountain nestles quietly above June Lake, about a half-hour drive/shuttle from its larger neighbor. It rises a surprising 2,500 vertical feet with most of its trails rated blue or lower. Many Californians learned at June, and they can still find the early-days-of-skiing vibe at June.
Action starts early at 8 a.m. with a chairlift ride up to the main base at mid-mountain. One reviewer said a sudden sense of "privacy" set in once he was lifted out of the parking lot and up to the main lodge.
From there, five chairlifts deliver to a dozen gentle, unintimidating trails -- just right for developing skiers and riders. About 80% of the trails are rated blue or below. Newby jibbers can get a start on a small terrain park, while freestylers can hit designated "fun zones" with berms and rollers. A few black plunges cluster on the far skier's left.
The town of June Lake (pop. 700) has just enough of eating, drinking and staying to accommodate -- and without the glitz (and expense) of its Lake Tahoe neighbors to the north.
As we say farewell to 2022, we also say hello to more storms and mountain snow across the West and a warm up in the East. Details on ski conditions ahead in this week's SnoCast.
There's new snow falling this Sunday (Dec. 11), so grab those skis and boards and get to your favorite mountain. Check out the live cams as snow falls across the Northeast and a powerful storm continues to dig across the West.
The owner of two California ski and snowboard mountains have acquired China Peak and plans to create a season pass for alll three mountains.
Mountain High -- one of California's oldest ski mountains and an hour's drive from L.A. basin -- and Dodge Ridge, which draws folks for San Francisco and Stockton markets, will now bracket China Peak and its Fresno following under single ownership.
The purchase should be good news for Central Valley skiers and snowboarders. The new consortium connects a trio of western Sierra resorts that attracts skiers and riders from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Plus, it puts more skiable terrain (about 2,300 acres combined) within a day's driving distance of these major metropolitan areas.
Ownership told The Storm Skiing Journal that they will issue a multi-mountain season pass either this winter or for next season. All three are members of the Powder Alliance -- a season pass at any of 21 resorts is honored for three free days at others -- and the burgeoning Indy Pass that gives two days free at any of its 18 West Coast mountains and 120 worldwide.
As each opened this season, snowmaking topped the what's-new list at each. Mountain High added state-of-the-art snow guns and snow cat, and expanded snow play area. Dodge Ridge -- three hours from S.F. and two hours from Stockton -- will be testing its first snowmaking system at the base this season. And, China Peak became a top-10 California snowmaker this offseason, as well upgrading food service.
Here we go again with another very active pattern and heavy mountain snow on tap for much of the Western U.S. While no large storms are in view for the East, we're seeking windows of opportunity. Let's dig into this week's SnoCast.
A little more than a year after a forest fire ravaged Sierra-at-Tahoe, the 2,000-acre mountain south of Lake Tahoe is up and running for 2022-2023.
In August 2021, the Caldor Fire roared in from the southwest and onto the trails, slopes and glades of "Sierra," abruptly ending any chance of a 2021-2022 winter season. Once the fire was extinguished and hot spots were doused, work began in earnest to mitigate terrain damage and repair chairlifts -- all with an aim of getting a portion of the mountain open again this season.
Mission accomplished, as mountain managers dropped the ropes for a new season on December 3 with a surprising amount of the trail map open. Late fall storms blessed the Sierra with several feet of base layer, with Sierra-at-Tahoe reporting that about 90 inches have fallen prior to opening day.
Skiers and riders familiar with Sierra will find a radically different look this season. While the trails off Grandview Express are ready to be opened, all the forested areas -- including the famed glades between runs on the east side of the mountain -- will remain closed. Unpatrolled steeps in Jack's Bowl are expected to be opened when conditions permit.
The West Bowl -- a popular blue-black network of trails and tree islands -- is now wide open and treeless. The fire hits West Bowl hardest, and crews concentrated on removing damaged trees and spreading wood chips in order to get West Bowl ready and safe for the season. Mountain managers call the mitigated terrain the "hidden backstage in the trees that is now your stage to perform."
Off Grandview chair, upper-ridge easy cruiser Sugar 'n' Spice and its "mellow yellow" fingerlings opened on time along with a dozen other designated trails, but any treed areas will be roped off.
The gentle trails on the Backside, served by two fixed-grip doubles, are expected to open when conditions allow. A passel of blues and greens off Grandview and Nob Hill chairs are listed as open. But all the gladed terrain in between the named trails will remain closed.
Sierra-at-Tahoe is a member of the 21-resort Powder Alliance; merely show a season from a member-resort and get three days free.
Southern California skiers and snowboarders have plenty to choose from within a couple hours' drive from the Los Angeles Basin into the coastal mountain range.
At Mountain High, skiing began in the 1940s and has expanded to three separate mountains -- East, West and North -- that split out nicely according to skill and type of terrain. The West Resort, now combined with neighbor East Resort, acts as the focus for the three resorts. But each has its own base facilities. Free shuttles run between West and East bases.
This season, skiers and riders will benefit from more snowmaking capacity (essential for a SoCal mountain), more features in the terrain park and renovations to the Foggy Goggle Bar at the West Resort base.
Mountain High is a Powder Alliance member and accepts the two-day-free Indy Pass. Night skiing on 85% of West Resort goes until 10 p.m. every evening at West Resort, with tubing park at North Resort. Parking can be an issue. There is on free parking lot, at the West Resort, but all the others cost $20 per vehicle.
Head to northeast into the San Bernardino mountains to find a longtime favorite of SoCal's skiers and 'boarders, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Under the moniker of Big Bear Mountain Resorts, the two mountains sit separately above Big Bear Lake, but you only need one ticket or an Ikon Pass, to ski and ride both.
This season, a multi-year renovation of the Bear Mountain base has produced an upgraded Laybacks Bar, a more convenient layout for the rental shop, and additional parking. Bear's 1,665 vertical drop serves a couple of long blacks, but the emphasis is on terrain parks. More than 200 features spread around the 200-acre mountain, plus a pair of halfpipes. The mountain's huge learning area focuses on getting never-evers up and onto the slopes, while progressive parks aim to step up freestylers' game.
Partner mountain Snow Summit is a couple of miles down the road, and emphasizes intermediate and advanced terrain with a double-blacks and a bevy of wide-open groomers. Fourteen lifts cover the mountains 240 acres, with two high-speed chairs to the 8,000-foot-high ridgeline. Night skiing at Snow Summit runs weekends and holidays.
A number of southern Sierra ski and snowboard resorts opened earlier than planned for the 2022-2023 season, with a new chairlift, revamped tubing park and more snow guns highlighting new additions.
Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley and China Peak got going in early November, thanks to several unexpected large storms that dropped several feet up and down California's highest mountain range.
At Mammoth Mountain, crews at the Ikon Pass resort spent the summer working on a long-term project to develop Woolly's Tube Park into an all-season attraction. This offseason, tubing lanes were expanded, six new snow guns went in just for the tubing park, and an elevated conveyor lift is now up and running. The park, located at the bottom of Chair 4 and close to the kid-focused Wonderland Playground,is targeted to get more parking spots, too.
More snowmaking went in over the summer, aimed at getting more snow more quickly on the connecting trails across the mountain, and a bigger supply of snow for terrain parks. Neighbor June Mountain stood pat over the summer, and expects a mid-December opening.'
Up the Sierra Crest, the big news at Dodge Ridge is that two circa-1960s chairlifts came down, and a new triple chair went up in there place this summer. Skiers and riders can now reach the mountain's 8,200-foot-high summit with just one lift ride. The 862-acre mountain, a member of the Powder Alliance, expanded its terrain parks to promote progression, and remodeled both base and mid-mountain lodges.
A couple of other Sierra resorts got enough snow to being spinning lifts early. Bear Valley, a two-hour drive from Stockton, and China Peak, Fresno's backyard ski and snowboard mountain, got a couple of early feet of snow and pushed up opening dates.
At Palisades Tahoe, the much-anticipated base-to-base gondola will open this season. Long a dream of resort owners, the 2.4-mile-long eight-seat gondola will take skiers and riders from the former Squaw Valley base area to what was once Alpine Meadows base.
Alterra Mountain Co., the parent company for the resorts and Ikon Pass purveyor, says the new lift will cut down on traffic in the area by eliminating the need to drive or take a shuttle on the six miles of roadway between the resorts.
The gondola runs from the base of the newly upgraded Red Dog chair at the main Olympic Valley base area up and over the ridge to the backside base area. The ride takes about 16 minutes depending upon length of stops at the top of the KT-22 Express on the front side. Lift capacity would approximately be 1,400 people per hour in both directions.
Since taking over the two California ski and snowboard areas in 2018, Alterra has begun to spend the $17 million it pledged to upgrade and link the two distinctly different mountains -- the Olympic Valley front side with its cliffy steeps and glades, and the back side with expansive powder bowls.
The merging of the two areas will expand Palisades Tahoe's skiable terrain to about 6,000 acres, making it the second largest U.S. resort behind Park City Mountain (also a combination of two mountains).
At Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, the focus this summer has been on the Lakeview zone of the mountain (skier's left). Replacing the fixed-grip Lakeview chair, the replacement high-speed chairlift will deliver skiers and riders to the resort's high ground in less than half the time -- unloading higher up than the previous top terminal.
The new detachable quad will bring novice skiers and 'boarders to some of Mt. Rose's best blues and green runs, including its longest Around the World at 2.5 miles. Also, as the name suggests, the new chairlift will afford skiers and 'boarders a classic view of Lake Tahoe.