Can it happen again? In California and across the West, skiers and snowboarders certainly hope so. “It” would be a historic, snow-choked winter like last one, when:
Mammoth Mountain in the eastern Sierra remained open for daily skiing and snowboarding until July 28, concluding a nine-month “winter” season — tying with 1982-83 as its third longest on record. Its season ended with 492 inches — 41 feet — of snow at the main lodge and 718 inches — nearly 60 feet — at the summit. The resort’s annual average: 450 inches.
Mt. Rose, between Reno and Incline Village, is typically one of the first resorts in California and Nevada to open due to its high base elevation. Last season’s snow total: 493 inches.
At Sugar Bowl Resort, atop Donner Summit west of Truckee, Calif., 623 inches of snow accumulated last season, marked by a record-high of 281 inches in February.
Here’s what’s new and newsworthy in California and the West.
At Big Bear Mountain Resort (Snow Summit and Bear Mountain), Bear debuts the first phase of a $5-million base area renovation, nearly doubling the size of its sun deck to 26,000 square feet and creating more outdoor seating for special events and concerts. Bear also adds new features to its terrain parks.
Snow Summit hosts its 55th torchlight parade and party on New Year’s Eve.
Mountain High adds 30 new Sno-Go bikes to its rental inventory and a new snowcat grooming vehicle. The resort also has remodeled its mountaintop Grand View Bistro.
Snow Valley’s nearly $1 million in improvements include better access (electronic upgrades to three chairlifts) to Slide Peak, with some of Southern California’s steepest descents. The new Mountaintop Terrace has picnic tables and interpretive maps describing the surrounding San Bernardino Mountains.
Mammoth Mountain’s Canyon Lodge, in the second phase of its renovation, adds a new bar; the new Canyon BBQ restaurant is offering brisket, pulled pork and ribs; and more than 200 new seats. At the Eagle Lodge, the new Fowl Language restaurant serves Southern-style chicken sandwiches and tenders. Mammoth also invested $1.3 million to upgrade its snow-making infrastructure.
Boreal Mountain unveils a new on-mountain dining option, the Hub & Spoke. The resort also introduces radio frequency identification for hands-free ticketing and direct-to-lift access for season pass, daily lift ticket and Ski California Gold Pass holders. Woodward Tahoe debuts Woodward Mountain Parks at Boreal, an initiative to introduce freestyle terrain to more skiers and snowboarders.
Heavenly returns its Helly Hansen Après Tracks for a second season. The program allows guests staying on a Sunday evening at Gondola Vista, Lakeland Village or Zalanta to ski a run with the ski patrol after Heavenly closes for the day and attend an après party.
Homewood Mountain Resort doubles its snow-making capabilities and adds a new winch snowcat to improve grooming of its steepest terrain.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort offers fat-tire bikes for guests to explore 37 miles of groomed trails at its cross-country and snowshoe center.
Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe’s $1.5-million investment includes a new RFID ticketing and lift-gate system; snow-making and trail improvements; and a new snowcat grooming vehicle.
Northstar California opens Bourbon Pub Northstar in the village. Restaurateur Michael Mina’s “reinvented” pub fare includes starters such as truffle tater tots and cheddar brats wrapped in puff pastry with jalapeño mustard. Entrees include al pastor pork ribs, mesquite-grilled steaks and fennel-stuffed salmon.
Sierra-at-Tahoe debuts RFID-enabled gates at all lifts and reloadable daily lift tickets and season passes, including Ski California Gold Passes.
At Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, the new Treeline Cirque high-speed quad chairlift at Alpine Meadows carries skiers and riders from the base area to Sherwood Ridge in five minutes; the new lift also provides a mid-station exit for access to some of Alpine’s best low-intermediate terrain. At Squaw, marking its 70th season, the new Tram Car Bar is a restored 1970s-era Squaw tram cabin that’s been placed on the Olympic House deck.
Sugar Bowl/Royal Gorge Resort’s upgrades include a new covered surface lift for beginners; remodeling of Sugar Bowl Hotel’s rooms; renovation of the Mid-Mountain Lodge; a 13-foot mini-pipe; and a top-to-bottom terrain park with all new features.
Tahoe Donner Cross-Country Ski Area marks its 20th anniversary. Among its scheduled events this season: a guided snowshoe hike on New Year’s Eve; a week of clinics during the Alpenglow Mountain Festival Feb. 15-23; and the Great Ski Race, the 30km fundraising event for Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue, on March 1
Brian Head Resort’s nearly $6 million in capital improvements includes a new high-speed detachable quad chairlift, replacing a fixed-grip triple; new grooming equipment; snow-making enhancements; and new and upgraded rental ski and snowboard equipment.
Brighton adds additional snow-making on its Canyon run near the Milly base area.
Deer Valley’s $7.6 million in improvements includes new RFID ticket and gate technology; new digital signage at the resort’s three base lodges (Snow Park, Silver Lake and Canyon) providing real-time information on ticketing availability and pricing, lift operations and grooming status; and snow-making enhancements.
Park City Mountain Resort’s popular Tombstone barbecue food truck has built a permanent restaurant, with indoor seating for as many as 50 on the truck’s old site. Outdoor picnic tables remain. A new fixed-grip quad chairlift, Over and Out, carries guests from near the bottom of the Tombstone lift to near the top of the Sunrise lift on the mountain’s front side.
Snowbasin Resort’s Earl’s Lodge is adding grab-and-go food options and new food and beverage stations. The resort also adds snow-making to the area around Mt. Ogden Bowl Road, enabling the early-season opening of the John Paul lift.
Snowbird’s newest dining experience, SeventyOne at the Cliff Lodge, is a throwback to the mountain’s early roots in the 1970s. The new restaurant features American grill favorites and an open kitchen.
Woodward Park City, said to be the nation’s first all-in-one action sports and ski resort, featuring year-round indoor and outdoor action sports, opens this winter with lift-accessed snowboarding, skiing and tubing.
Arapahoe Basin’s Il Rifugio, said to be the highest lift-served restaurant in North America at just over 12,500 feet, begins its first full winter season, serving charcuterie, wine, espresso and views of the Continental Divide.
Aspen Snowmass has a new modern Italian restaurant at Snowmass, a $2.5 million remodel of the old Sam’s Smokehouse at 10,620 feet atop Sam’s Knob. The new Sam’s, with an open kitchen and outdoor deck, serves antipasti platters and pasta made in-house daily. Snowmass’ 10-year, $600-million base village development continues with a new community center, the Collective, featuring a new restaurant, Mix6; the Moxibar; and a community lounge and game area.
Adjacent to Aspen Mountain, the Little Nell hotel unveils a remodeled Ajax Tavern and marks its 30th anniversary. In the spring, the hotel will close for its final phase of renovation, the living room and lobby.
Breckenridge’s Peak 8 base debuts a new 22,000-square-foot guest-services building adjacent to the Colorado SuperChair and Rocky Mountain SuperChair lifts. It features a children’s ski and snowboard school and child-care facilities.
Crested Butte Mountain Resort opens a new fixed-grip quad chairlift, replacing the Teocalli lift. The lift increases uphill capacity by 50%.
Copper Mountain’s new fixed-grip triple chairlift, Three Bears, serves 273 acres of the resort’s best expert terrain on 12,400-foot-high Tucker Mountain. The terrain previously was accessible only by snowcat or hiking.
Winter Park’s Mary Jane area has a new $6-million high-speed Sunnyside lift, replacing a fixed-grip triple. The six-seater, which loads at the bottom of Parsenn Bowl, reduces ride time from eight minutes to less than four minutes.
Steamboat debuts a $15-million, eight-person gondola, replacing an existing gondola and increasing uphill capacity from the base’s Gondola Square to the mid-mountain Thunderhead Lodge by nearly 40%.
Telluride’s 40 new acres of glade terrain around Lift 9, appropriate for advanced and expert skiers and riders, offers steep natural chutes and rock drops.
Elsewhere in the West
New Mexico’s Taos Regional Airport on Jan. 9 begins direct charter-flight service to and from Los Angeles’ Hawthorne Municipal Airport and Carlsbad’s McClellan-Palomar Airport. The charter service will offer a complimentary ground shuttle between the airport and Taos Ski Valley’s newest hotel, the Blake, and complimentary ski and snowboard rentals for four days.
Idaho’s Sun Valley unveils 56 acres of glade skiing and riding in the Frenchman’s area of Bald Mountain.
Montana’s Big Sky Resort debuts a new food hall offering sushi, ramen and crepe stations. New on-mountain: private guided headlamp night skiing.
Wyoming’s Jackson Hole Mountain Resort opens the new Eagle’s Rest quad chairlift, running from the base area to the Solitude Station learning complex and surrounding beginner terrain.