In The Middle Of It All, Central California Resorts Keep Pace With Upgrades

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Keeping up with the Jones' are the bywords for ski and snowboard resorts in the West, so it's no surprise that central Sierra ski and snowboard mountains kept busy in the off-season.

Starting with the largest, Mammoth Mountain management hopes a new Canyon Express high-speed six-pack will ease wait times at a prime access point. Replacing a 39-year-old quad, uphill speed will be cut by more than a minute.

Also new at California's highest resort (11,053-ft summit) are upgrades at the tubing park and snowmaking, plus evidence of a future Day Lodge.

Neighbor June Mountain opens this season with a couple of "adventure zones": Enchanted Forest in the trees under J2 chair, and Haunted Forest off J6 chair in the trees below Rainbow Summit. A new cantina has popped up midway up to June Mountain Summit.

Over on the western side of the Sierra, China Peak doubled the capacity of the workhorse Canyon fixed-grip -- and concurrently upped all out-of-base capacity by 30%. New lift should untangle waiting times for getting onto the mountain.

The Fresno favorite also joins the Cali Pass and Powder Alliance this season, along with Mountain High, Dodge Ridge and Bear Valley.

Speaking of which, both Dodge Ridge and Bear Valley spent the off-season tweaking things rather than making headlines. Near Pinecrest above Modesto, Dodge Ridge put in a RFIC ticket-checking system and streamlined both rental and check-in operations. The lesson area got a second conveyor lift, and mid-mountain Wayfarer's remodel is done.

Up at Bear Valley, the addition of a pair of winch cats to the grooming fleet should smooth out some of the serious steeps in the Grizzly Bowl and Snow Valley black-rated runs.

And farther north at Sierra-at-Tahoe, the ski and snowboard mountain -- among California's oldest in its eighth decade -- is still recovering from the 2021 wildfire that roared right through the mountain slopes and trails. The trail map is new, because of how the fire thinned the trees, but mountain ops are slowly coming back to life. The road to the mountain has been repaved and parking lots improved.

 

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Central California Gathers Varieties Of Skiing, Riding Under Sierra Roof

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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.

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This Summer, California Winter Resorts Primed For Mountain Bikers

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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.

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Winter's Largesse Means More Choices For Late-Spring Skiing, Riding In The West

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With record snowfalls in the West this winter, we are now going to see just how late into the year the Jones for skiing and riding can last.

Skiers and riders should expect limited terrain, fewer lifts and variable conditions if they head into the hills this spring. "Playing the mountain" is a well-established spring tradition, meaning following the sun as it runs across the trails to find the soft -- but not too soft -- snow.

Springtime brings out the quirky in managers of skiing and riding mountains. For instance, Brighton plans to go until May 29 but because it will only spin the Milly chair, crews will move the rails and boxes over there for a top-to-bottom terrain park. Willamette Pass will be open for weekends until May 14 and has a $19 ticket for sale.

But some things don't change. Timberline Lodge will once again have no closing date for its alpine slopes on the shoulder of Mt. Hood, as snow typically stays year-round on the highest Palmer Snowfield terrain. The mountain usually closes late summer or early fall to take a breath before reopening for the next winter.

Another old favorite resurfaces this summer. Beartooth Basin, America’s only summer-only ski area (on account of its location on the Beartooth Highway connecting Wyoming and Montana, which closes in winter), will open this summer after sitting out 2022 for lack of snow. The season is expected to go from Memorial Day into July.

The king of summer skiing is once again Mammoth Mountain. Some 800 inches of snow fell this winter, and the California resort plans to stay open to July 31 -- with a teaser for days beyond that. Compadre Palisades Tahoe says Memorial Day is the earliest they'll close.

Colorado's perennial champion, Arapahoe Basin, has targets June 4 as a temporary closing date. But up there on the Continental Divide, nothing is certain. Keep track via Al's Blog. http://arapahoebasin.blogspot.com/

Breckenridge has declined to be specific, saying "TBA May." Winter Park plans to stay open until May 14, or until "ALAP" -- a new acronym created by the resort's PR staff.

Elsewhere, tentative closings dates have been set for Mt. Bachelor (May 28) and Crystal Mountain (May 21) in the Northwest. In Utah Snowbird will run daily to May 14 and on weekends until Memorial Day ("at least"), and Solitude says it will stay open until May 21.

Bringing up the rear are Copper (May 7), Loveland (May 7), and Bogus Basin (May 6).

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SnoCast: Top Season Snow Total Round-Up

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How is it already time for the final SnoCast of the season?! What a wild winter it’s been. From record snow out West, to the slow onset and sweet finish out East. From capturing those final buttery, spring turns, to pushing back closing dates. This winter will be one to remember. 

In this week's SnoCast, we’ll look back on the winter season recapping some of the highest ski area snow totals and best storms of the season. Here’s the final SnoCast of the 2022-23 winter season!

 

 

Winter Summary

This winter was third consecutive season to be influenced by La Niña, which often brings a colder and stormier pattern across the northern tier of the U.S. and parts of Canada. But this season, the typical pattern was shifted a hair, with the storm track shifted slightly farther west and south from what we would expect.

Thus, we saw a cold and snowy pattern across most of the Southwest U.S., cold but near average precipitation in the Northwest, a mild Midwest with localized lake-effect booms, a warm and wetter than average Northeast and Southeast. In the ultimate "how it started>how it's going" comparison, the images below summarize how the winter was forecast to be by NOAA, versus how it actually panned out. You can read the full NOAA winter forecast verification blog with more details. 

Top Snow Amounts

Since this winter pattern favored a super-charged storm pattern and cold across the southwest U.S., this is where we saw some of the highest totals.  California and Utah won’t soon forget this season, with numerous all-time season snow records set at ski areas. 

While not a comprehensive (nor final) list with ski season and new snow still ongoing, here's a summary of some top snow reports from this season as of April 5, 2023.   

Mammoth Mountain, CA: 704” mid lodge, peak 882” (a new record, picture (right). For perspective, the mountain averages ~400" each season)

Brighton, UT: 848” (new record)

Alta, UT: 874” (new record)

Snowbird, UT: 808”(new record)

Solitude, UT: 779” (new record)

Sugar Bowl, CA: 768” (not a record, but still a lot. Even more impressive, the base depth in early April is over 20 feet on parts of the mountain)

Many of these ski areas have had too much snow at times, causing a halt in operations to dig out or conduct avalanche mitigation. Such is the case in Utah right now, but thankfully, you can still take advantage of the snow soon. Check out our story about extended closing date for many Utah mountains, thanks to abundant snow.   

Stormy West

Beyond the record setters, we saw a colder than average winter for much of the West, helping boost snow totals. While not a comprehensive list, here are some runner-ups on impressive amounts. You can take a look at your nearest ski area or region on the SnoCountry conditions tab from the homepage.

Timberline, OR: 608” (top in Oregon)

Jackson Hole, WY: 591" (top in WY)

Summit at Snoqualmie Alpental, WA: 520”

Wolf Creek, CO: 490” (top in Colorado)

Powder King, BC: 477” (top in British Columbia)

Lookout Pass, ID: 448”

Mt Bachelor, OR: 438”

Arizona Snowbowl, AZ: 398" (still with a 10-foot base depth in April!)

Purgatory, CO: 374”

These totals really helped out the water basins with impressive snow-water equivalent tallies. Parts of Nevada, Arizona, Utah, and California are running more than 150% of normal...GREAT news to put a dent in the ongoing drought.   

 

East

Okay, okay. We get it. The West had a banner year. The West is a lot higher in elevation and has a drier climate, so naturally there's more snow than the lower and more humid East, but that doesn't mean there wasn't some great skiing this season. You just had to know where to look!

Pockets of the Great Lakes region and New England had some incredible days. While the majority of winter was warmer than average, we saw one-off snow storms and lake effect influence to boost totals and bring huge powder days. In all, the East did have a below average snow season up until January, but turned around late in the season boosting snow cover in February and March. 

Here were some top totals of remaining open ski areas by state across the Northeast:

Jay Peak, VT: 349" (top tally in the East. Photo on the right from the March 14 powder day)

Mt. Bohemia, MI: 232"

Sugarloaf, ME: 171"

Bretton Woods, NH: 148"

See who's still open in the Northeast, Midwest (yes, there are a few!), and Quebec.

And while we don't want to leave out the Southeast, we've definitely had stronger seasons. Warm and wet weather dominated this year, causing much below average snow amounts. But like the rest of the East, we found some sweet times.

The season lasted a total of 138 days (38% of the year!) from start to finish: Sugar Mountain Resort and Cataloochee Ski Area (both in North Carolina) opened on November 14, 2022 and Snowshoe Mountain Resort closed it all up on Sunday, April 2.  The top ski area total went to Canaan Valley, WV with a total of 62.4", which fell short of the annual average of roughly 150". 

The Real Apres-Ski

With that, it's "apres-ski time" for me and SnoCast. I hope you have loved reading my weekly forecast updates and took advantage of new snow and amazing conditions on the slopes. 'Til next season, enjoy what's left out there, and have an amazing off season. Hope to see you again next fall when the flakes start flying again. 

-Meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin

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SnoCast: Making Turns Into April With More Snow

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Yep. We're still going!

This week's SnoCast honors the incredible season behind us, while keeping sights ahead at the forecast and where you can still find new snow as we make the turn into April. With a potentially record-long ski season for several Western U.S. mountains, new snow is the icing on the geographical cake. 

I'm following at least two more storms out West to keep this already epic season rolling, a battle ground in the central U.S., and bittersweet springtime weather across the East. Whether you are amped for skiing into July, or ready to take those final buttery spring turns, here's what to expect, weather-wise, from coast to coast in SnoCast for March 30-April 5, 2023. 

 

East

A potent spring storm will impact the Midwest and Northeast late Thursday through Saturday with a variety of precipitation types, depending on your location. Much like many late March storms, we'll find a battle zone as seasons clash. Snow on the front and tail end, will be interrupted by a conveyor belt of warm springtime air, introducing high wind, the chance for icy mix, as well as thunderstorms!

Midwest

Northern Wisconsin and the UP of Michigan sees a burst of snow late Thursday night, as otherwise wet and stormy weather (many storms turning severe) continues just to the south. We'll likely see disruptions to the ski areas still turning chairs from southern Wisconsin through Michigan. 

However, as the storm lifts northeastward from southern Wisconsin into southern Quebec Saturday, colder air returns on the backside of the system, allowing a period of snow to develop for northern Wisconsin, the UP of Michigan where winter storm watches are in effect. A fast with 3-7" and blizzard conditions are expected. Look to Granite Peak, Ski Brule, and Big Powderhorn and others nearby for new snow and wind by early Saturday, turning calmer and less windy on the slopes through Sunday.

Outside of ski interests, this storm will be powerful. NOAA's Weather Prediction Center tweeted out an impact graphic to see the big picture. 

 

 

Northeast

Ahead of the storm center, we'll find a similar brief period of snow Friday for the mountains in New York and New England before a turn to wet weather on (no joke) April Fools Day, Saturday. Likewise, just enough cold air returns on the back end by overnight Saturday to squeeze out 1-4" of snow across Vermont and northern New York peaks. Look to the tall-boys, like Stowe, Jay, and Whiteface by early Sunday for a bit of new snow. 

West

It's still going out West. This season has delivered unreal snow totals, especially for California and Utah (did you see Mammoth hit a new all-time snow record?).  Mother Nature will spread the wealth again through next week. 

Thursday, a trough continues to dig across the Western U.S. generating mountain snow for most of the Southwest and Rockies, heaviest for the southwest facing ranges, including Utah's Wasatch Mountains, the Bitterroots of Idaho/Montana, and the Caribou Ranges near the Idaho/Wyoming line. These areas could see up to a foot of snow, while other slopes around the West see lesser amounts, but still freshies, through Friday.

By Saturday, the next front and trough dig in across the Pacific Northwest, dumping a widespread 1-2 feet of snow over the Cascades and B.C. Coast Ranges, and 8-16" over the Idaho peaks. Locally higher amounts may fall at the highest passes through Sunday.

Through early next week, this system moves south and east, spreading light to moderate totals over the north and central Rockies  (not shown on the map below, which only shows snow through early Sunday, April 2). 

 

I'll see you next week right here on SnoCountry.com for one more SnoCast with a season summary and top totals around the country! 

-Meteorologist Kerrin Jeromin

 

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California's Ski, Snowboard Season Just Keeps Going And Going And Going ...

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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.

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SnoCast: Atmospheric River Out West; Nor'easter Possible Next Week

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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.

 

West

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. 

East

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. 

 Keep up with the latest forecast information around the U.S. from the National Weather Service, or I'll also tweet information about these upcoming storms, too, @KerrinJeromin on Twitter

 

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Differences Aside, Compatriots Mammoth and June Deliver The Full Package

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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.

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Storm Update: Snow Falling in the Northeast, West

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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.

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SnoCast: Stormy Pattern Continues Out West

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A busy weather week continues nation-wide with a fast storm pattern. We'll see multiple waves of snow out West, and changeable conditions in the East heading into the first weekend of December. Let's dig into this week's SnoCast.

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Early Snowfall Gets Southern Sierra Season Off To Snowy Starts

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SnoCast: First Widespread Cold Snap of the Season

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Hallelujah! After a wild weather week, Mother Nature is about to chill out...literally. Following hurricane remnants in the East and a blizzard in the Plains, the first cold snap of the season will deliver a much needed jolt to kickstart ski season.

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West's Resorts Begin To Fire Up Snow Guns For Opening Day

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With opening dates on the horizon, crews at many resorts in the West have been testing snow guns -- and looking longingly to the skies -- in hopes of putting down a base of snow in October.

Most ski and snowboard resorts have announced their anticipated opening days, although persistent warm weather in some regions may have something to say about that. A frequent check of resort websites is recommended.

However, hints of winter whiff the air and the high-country leaves are turning, so it's time to haul skis and snowboards out of storage and get them ready for the season.

The informal race to be the first to open in the nation falls upon the highest-elevation mountains along the spine of the Colorado Rockies. Traditionally, it's been Arapahoe Basin, Keystone and Loveland that vie for the title, but Wolf Creek surreptitiously snuck in last season by firing up its chairlifts on Oct. 16.

This year -- if official dates are to be believed -- Keystone will lead the pack by opening on Oct. 21, followed by Arapahoe Basin on Oct. 22, and Loveland and Wolf Creek on Oct. 29.

In California, 7,700-foot-high Boreal on Donner Pass is optimistic to begin on Oct. 28, while Mammoth Mountain plans to be in second place with an Nov. 11 opening. Tahoe's Heavenly has penciled in Nov. 18 for its first chairs.

Despite having middle-of-the-pack summit elevation, Lookout Pass (5,650 feet) on the border of Idaho and Montana has pushed its first day all the way up to Nov. 6 -- a full two weeks ahead of its previous earliest opening. Schweitzer, Sun Valley and Tamarack all plan to follow later in the month.

A pair of Utah mountains -- Brian Head and Park City Mountain -- hope to be the first in the Beehive State with openings on Nov. 18.

Skiers and riders in Washington will have to wait until December for Stevens Pass (Dec. 2) and 49 Degrees North (Dec. 3), while Oregonians will have to bide their time until Mt. Hood Meadows and Timberline (Dec. 11). Mt. Bachelor expects to follow close behind on Dec. 12.

In New Mexico, Sipapu has had a lock on first-to-open in recent seasons. For 2022-2023, the family resort tucked into the Sangre de Cristos has tabbed Nov. 18 to begin spinning its lifts.

 

 

 

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'Iron Paths' Climb Some Of Most Iconic Walls In The West

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Via ferratas require rock-face, cliff-y terrain, so it's no surprise that "iron paths" in the West can be found on ski and snowboard mountains known for their steeps.

Fixed “protection” on the rock, such as cables, steps, pegs and ladders allow inexperienced climbers to hook in and safely ascend on rock faces. Some via ferratas even incorporate hanging bridges. Reservations required for guided tours from 90 minutes to four hours. Here's a look at the "iron roads" within the trail-map boundaries of five resorts in the West.

The highest elevation for a via ferrata sits in Arapaho Basin's East Wall. A chairlift ride to mid-mountain, then an OHV ride gets to the base of the climb at 11,800 feet elevation. The full-day climb ascends 1,200 feet to the 13,000-foot top ridge of A-Basin. A shorter version goes to an abandoned mine shaft for a history lesson.

In the northern Rockies, Jackson Hole built the most extensive via ferrata in the West. A gondola ride delivers climbers to extensive route layout in upper-mountain Casper Bowl. A dozen routes – from introductory to most difficult – and a 120-foot suspension bridge await. Rates include two-hour practice climb, half-day option or six-hour full day on the rock, all spread across rock face with 500 feet of vertical drop.

In the southern Rockies, Taos Ski Valley has open a via ferrata complex on the famous cliffs of Kachina Bowl. At 11,500 feet above sea level, beginner and intermediate routes criss-cross the Kachina face and include a 100-foot-long bridge suspended 50 feet in the air. More advanced climbers move over to the infamous K Chutes that has a 50-foot cable walk.

In California, Mammoth Mammoth is one of two resorts in the state with a via ferrata. A gondola ride to mid-mountain McCoy Station arrives below the Caldera Overlook. Six routes await: three beginner, two moderate with a suspension bridge between, and one expert. Climbs are 180 feet long for three-hour private and 90-minute group tours.

The other is Palisades Tahoe, where the lower mountain's iconic Tram Face is ideal for fixed-route climbing. A 4x4 ride and short hike gets climbers to four routes of varying difficulty that ascend some 800 feet of rock wall. Routes were designed with kids in mind, and 4x4 await at the top for return ride to the Olympic Village.

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No Surprises Among Western Resorts Staying Open Late

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The usual suspects will extend the 2021-2022 ski and snowboard season through May and beyond, as a flurry of late-season storms has reinforced the snowpack throughout the West.

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Is This The End Of The Trail Map?

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At ski resorts around the country, the familiar paper map is disappearing, as mountains push skiers to use apps and other digital resources. But some skiers are pushing back.

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SnoCast: Will March Come in Like a Lion or Lamb?

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This first weekend of March features a more "lion-like" and snowy setup across the West, while the East sees lamb-like signs of spring time weather. Let's dig into the forecast in this week's SnoCast.

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California’s Original Ski Resort Is One of the Sierras’ Best Kept Secrets

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When it comes to classic California ski trips, Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain are the big two — but nestled among towering red fir and lodgepole pines above the Yosemite Valley floor, Badger Pass has been a local “in the know” spot for generations.

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Waiting For The Snow: Weather Expected To Turn Favorable For Resort Openings

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The 2021-22 ski and snowboard season has gotten off to a rocky start, with only the highest-elevation slopes open and all others waiting impatiently for more snowfall and colder temps.

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