Ready to hit the slopes? What to know before heading to California’s popular ski resorts
From the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains to Lake Tahoe and even further north to Mt. Shasta, California is blessed with excellent skiing and snowboarding terrain. And resorts are busy gearing up for visitors, some of whom will be arriving in less than a month.
Planning a trip to the snow this season? You may see some improvements at your favorite resort — high-speed chairlifts, new tubing lanes, thrilling mountain activities (Mammoth is getting a forest roller coaster!), expanded dining options and renovated lodgings. Here’s a rundown of what to expect at the most popular ski resorts in California (plus one in Park City, Utah, a favorite of SoCal schussers).
One thing to note: These season opening dates are projections. Check the resorts’ websites for updates.
Projected season opening date: Mid-November
What makes it special: Only 45 miles from Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Baldy has 26 runs spread over 800 acres and three mountains. It also has a respectable vertical descent of 2,100 feet with wide-open glades, tree runs, bowls, moguls, groomed runs, cornices and quarter pipes. For those who don’t ski or snowboard, Mt. Baldy also offers snow tubing.
What’s new this season: A new snowcat for clearing compact areas (allowing for earlier post-storm openings), new K2 rental equipment and a new terrain park route
Lift ticket prices: $60 to $120. Ski California Gold Pass honored.
Pro-tip: Mt. Baldy has the most steep runs in Southern California. Advanced and expert skiers and snowboarders might want to head to Chair 1 to try “Nightmare,” a 36-degree slope that maintains its drop for 1,000 vertical feet.
Projected opening date: Nov. 10
What makes it special: Despite its name, Mountain High requires no mountain driving to reach it. It has 290 acres of skiable terrain and nearly all of it is served by snowmaking. Nearly two-thirds of Mountain High runs are for novice and intermediate skiers and snowboarders.
What’s new this season: More than $1 million in upgrades, including increased snowmaking, primarily at the East Resort. There are also two new snowcats, new rental equipment at the Rossignol Experience Center and a remodeled Foggy Goggle bar.
Lift ticket prices: $130 to $150. Indy, Cali and Powder Alliance passes honored.
Pro-tip: Families and novices should head for the North Resort, while experts will find challenges at West.
Projected season opening date: Mid- to late November
What makes it special: Snow Valley Mountain Resort has the region’s only six-person chairlift and the only lift-served sledding. This combination makes the resort a family favorite and is one of the reasons that Liftopia has ranked it the top beginner-friendly ski and snowboard area in the region. It’s also popular because it offers night skiing and riding on most Fridays and Saturdays from December through the end of the season.
What’s new this season: Snow Valley has joined Big Bear Mountain Resort, which includes Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. The trio has made upgrades totaling $12 million. Snow Valley added two magic carpets and RFID gates, and remodeled Chair 2, its rental shop, chalet kitchen, restrooms, locker rooms, the Deer Mountain Grille and its repair shop.
Lift ticket prices: $79 to $169. Ikon, Big Bear Mountain Resort, Snow Valley Anytime and Dual Season passes honored.
Pro-tip: Its slopes are often uncrowded, making Snow Valley perfect for a quick, low-key getaway.
Big Bear Mountain Resort
Projected season opening date: Mid- to late November
What makes it special: This resort consists of two areas: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. With more than 200 park features, 12-foot and 18-foot halfpipes, backcountry and canyon terrain and the largest beginner area in Southern California, Bear Mountain is often filled with both kids and hardcore snowboarders. Snow Summit is more traditional, attracting families, novice and intermediate skiers and riders, but it still has more than 20 runs and its own terrain park, Westridge.
What’s new this season: The completion of the Laybacks Bar renovation, improved ADA accessibility and a 12,000-square-foot addition to the resort’s sun deck. In addition, the Sessions Retreat & Hotel opened this summer with a complete remodeling.
Lift ticket prices: $79 to $169. Ikon, BBMR and Dual Season passes honored.
Pro tip: On stormy days, it’s difficult to get to the resort. So if you can, leave the night before.
Projected season opening date: Nov. 10
What makes it special: Mammoth is California’s highest lift-served, four-season resort playground with a lofty summit at 11,053 feet. It offers one of the longest ski seasons in the country, normally running from early November into May and often June and even July.
What’s new this season: Canyon Express (Chair 16) will be replaced with a new, high-speed chairlift, which will help reduce the lift line wait times at Canyon Lodge. Mammoth is also spending $5.5 million to upgrade its snowmaking system.
At Woolly’s Adventure Summit, a two-year construction cycle will begin — improvements include a new full-service day lodge, a new Wiegand Alpine Coaster and the addition of tubing lanes for summer 2024.
The alpine coaster will be a thrilling ride on a track through the forest. Riders will face curves, spiral twists and roller jumps before descending 3,550 feet back to the day lodge.
Around town, the Community Rec Center at Mammoth Creek Park will open this fall. The facility will be a 40,000-square-foot Sprung Performance Arena. The center will be open to the public year-round, with a new ice rink called L.A. Kings Ice at Mammoth Lakes operating each winter season between October and April. During the summer months, the Olympic-sized rink will be transformed into a fully programmable, multiuse RecZone, which will serve as the hub for the expanding parks and recreation department’s summer camps and programs.
A $34-million renovation of the Outbound (formerly Sierra Nevada Resort) is also set for completion this fall. Guests can enjoy deluxe rooms, fireplace suites and chalets with an inviting lobby, a contemporary dining concept and a wine bar. A collection of 10 free-standing cabins will join the property, and a heated pool, two spa tubs and an outdoor food garden will be completed before the upcoming ski season.
Service from Hawthorne and Carlsbad to Mammoth Yosemite Airport on Advanced Airlines will begin in November.
Lift ticket prices: $79 to $200. Ikon Pass accepted.
Pro-tip: Lincoln Mountain Chair 22 has some of the best tree skiing in the country.
Projected season opening date: Dec. 26
What makes it special: Located less than 30 minutes from the town of Mammoth Lakes, June Mountain has some of the most spectacular views in the Sierra Nevada. The surrounding lakes, wide variety of terrain spread out over 1,500 acres, uncrowded slopes and easygoing atmosphere draw many families to the resort.
What’s new this season: Known for its tree skiing, June Mountain now has two distinct adventure zones for kids and families: Enchanted Forest and the Haunted Forest, which both feature animations and enhanced terrain.
Also, a new Mexican cantina called Slims Cantina will open, featuring expansive outdoor seating with 360-degree views.
Lift ticket prices: $99 to $170. Ikon Pass honored.
Pro-tip: Lift tickets are free for kids 12 and younger.
Heavenly Lake Tahoe
Projected season opening date: Nov. 17
What makes it special: Nestled into the Sierra Nevada, Heavenly spans the California-Nevada border, providing a one-of-a-kind skiing and snowboarding experience with its breathtaking views of surrounding peaks and deep-blue Lake Tahoe.
What’s new this season: Toyota Air and Après, tentatively set for March 1-3, will be an adrenaline-packed event where the resort builds a massive 45-foot jump at the bottom of a World Cup run. Professional athletes will showcase their gravity-defying tricks during a light show on the mountain.
Brews and Views, an event featuring great views of Lake Tahoe with food, music and tastings from local breweries, will occur once a month starting in December at Lakeview Lodge.
Lift ticket prices: $130 to $250. Epic, Tahoe Local and Tahoe Value passes honored.
Pro-tip: Heavenly is a huge resort, with nearly 5,000 acres of skiable terrain and 97 trails ranging from groomers for beginners to steep chutes to challenge experts. You’ll want to stay multiple days, and maybe even try a full-moon snowshoe tour on one of them.
Projected season opening date: Dec. 1
What makes it special: Northstar is a laid-back resort. It’s just a long stone’s throw to Lake Tahoe and offers glade skiing through huge trees in Martis Valley. Its village has stunning mountain views, to say nothing of tasty fireside s’mores and hot cocoa. Skiers and snowboarders also like that it receives an average of 350 inches of annual snowfall.
What’s new this season: The Vous (short for Rendezvous) Cafe will feature Lavazza coffee, sweet and savory breakfast offerings, and relaxing après treats.
Winter Wonders is a weeklong event in December filled with festive fun, including live music, ice skating and other family activities.
Lift ticket prices: $127 to $179. Epic, Tahoe Local and Tahoe Value passes honored.
Pro tip: Northstar’s slopes are below the treeline and protected from winds, making its glades an ideal places to ski and ride in storms.
Projected season opening date: Nov. 24
What makes it special: Sugar Bowl is an independently-run resort with an old-school, European vibe. Its terrain stretches over four peaks on Donner Summit near Lake Tahoe, varying between steep tree skiing, wide-open groomers, terrain parks and beginner-friendly zones. Season passes and lift tickets are limited here, so the slopes aren’t crowded.
What’s new this season: The return of the historic Silver Belt Classic race, which was first held in 1940.
Lift ticket prices: $99 to $174. Sugar Bowl and Mountain Collective passes honored.
Pro-tip: Sugar Bowl opened with the backing of Walt Disney in 1939, making it one of the oldest ski areas in North America. At the resort, look out for Mt. Disney, along with the Donald Duck run, off the Disney Express chairlift.
Projected season opening date: Nov. 22
What makes it special: This huge resort is actually the combination of the old Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley, which hosted the Winter Olympics in 1960. The combined areas, now dubbed Palisades Tahoe and linked by the Base-to-Base Gondola, has 6,000 acres of terrain that offer plenty of runs for everyone from beginners to experts. It is also one of only four U.S. resorts featured on the World Cup racing circuit this season, hosting the men’s slalom and giant slalom events in late February.
What’s new this season: The three-person Red Dog chairlift has been replaced with a high-speed six-pack lift. And the Gold Coast mid-mountain lodge is getting a multimillion-dollar makeover with new dining options.
Also, celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, Palisades is one of four U.S. stops for the Audi FIS Ski World Cup races. The competition will be held Feb. 24-26, and will feature world-class athletes, entertainment, fireworks and parades.
Lift ticket prices: $119 to $195. Ikon, Alterra Mountain and California Gold passes honored.
Pro-tip: Palisades is an actual rock feature off the Siberia Chair at the old Squaw Valley Resort and is in an arena where many free-ride legends have made their mark.
Projected season opening date: Dec. 1
What makes it special: Kirkwood is a big mountain with more than 2,300 acres of terrain and a vertical drop of 2,000 feet. It’s steep and deep, producing exciting cliff drops — to say nothing of moguls and open bowls that will make your legs feel like Jell-O by the time the lifts close. While the rugged terrain and prolific deep snowpack beckons shredders for steep lines, the skiing and snowboarding in the Timber Creek base area offers an ideal place to improve skills and enjoy perfect groomers, moderately pitched tree runs and small gullies.
What’s new this season: The My Epic App will feature mobile passes and lift tickets, allowing skiers and boarders to skip the ticket window.
Lift ticket prices: $127 to $179. With an Epic Day Pass, lift tickets can be as low as $69. Other passes honored include the Epic, Tahoe Local and Tahoe Value passes.
Pro tip: The advanced Thunder Saddle area has a northern orientation that offers fresh tracks for days after a storm has passed.
Park City Mountain in Park City, Utah
Projected season opening date: Nov. 17
What makes it special: While not in California, Angelenos love flocking to Park City Mountain. With more than 7,300 acres of terrain, 330 trails, 42 lifts and six terrain parks, it offers the most lift-accessible ski and snowboard terrain in the United States. Dedicated learning areas such as High Meadow Park are ideal for beginners of all ages, while adventure seekers can challenge themselves on high-alpine terrain such as Jupiter Peak, Ninety-Nine 90 or Pinecone Ridge.
What’s new this season: The Red Pine gondola will debut new cabins with floor-to-ceiling windows for 360-degree views. And come February, the resort will host QUEERSKI, a multi-day event with a Pride parade, base camp connection areas and happy hours.
Park City Mountain is also celebrating its 60th birthday this season with special events, including an anniversary party in mid-January.
Lift ticket prices: $199 to $299. Epic and Epic Local passes accepted.
Number of lifts: 42
Number of runs: 330
Pro tip: Unless you really like driving, it’s best to fly to the Salt Lake City airport from Los Angeles. From there, Park City is a 35-minute shuttle.
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