Mammoth Mountain countdown: 100 days to skiing and snowboarding

First day of school? First day of the NFL season? For skiers and boarders, nothing beats the first day of the winter season — and at Mammoth Mountain it's only 100 days away. The resort opens Nov. 11. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

First day of school? No way. Start of the NFL season? Nope. For skiers and boarders, not much tops the first day of the winter season — and at Mammoth Mountain it’s about 100 days away. The resort’s lifts are scheduled to start spinning on Nov. 11. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

By Jerry Rice

While thermometers flirt with triple digits in much of Inland Southern California, we have our eyes on the century mark for another reason: On Monday, it will be 100 days until the Nov. 11 start of the winter season at Mammoth Mountain.

And thanks to the strong El Nino weather pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean, climate scientists are saying that more than normal rain and snow could be on the way, giving skiers and snowboarders a reason to get excited. During the two biggest El Ninos on record — in 1982-83 and 1997-98 — Mammoth received 546 and 451 inches of snow, respectively, according to the website

Last winter, with California in the fourth year of drought, a relatively paltry 238 inches of the white stuff fell at Mammoth.

“As El Nino continues doing its thing, there’s plenty to look forward to,” says resort spokesman Tim LeRoy, pointing to the season ahead.

For one, the resort has a lift and lodging package starting at $99 per person per night. The deal must be booked by Aug. 31 to lock in what LeRoy says will be “the steepest savings offered all year.”

Let the countdown begin!


Whitewater is newest Powder Alliance playground for skiers, snowboarders

Whitewater Ski Resort, famous for its deep powder and seemingly endless terrain, has become the 14th member of the Powder Alliance, a collection of ski and snowboard resorts throughout the western United States and Canada that can be accessed with the use of one “anytime season” pass.

Located in the Selkirk Mountains near the town of Nelson, British Columbia, Whitewater receives an average of 40 feet of snowfall every winter.

“If you don’t know Whitewater, you should — 2,044 vertical feet of steeps, deeps, chutes and bowls. It’s an epic winter adventure with the most unbelievable food,” said John McColly, spokesman for Mountain High resort in Southern California.

Here are some other Whitewater facts:

  • Elevation: 5,333 feet for the base lodge, 7,867 for Ymir Peak
  • Lift system: 1 triple chair, 2 double chairs, 1 handle tow
  • Terrain: 13 percent beginner, 32 percent intermediate, 55 percent advanced
  • Ratings: The resort has the best deeps, bowls and glades, according to Ski Canada.

Other resorts in the Powder Alliance include Crested Butte in Colorado; Mt. Hood Skibowl in Oregon; Snowbasin in Utah; and China Peak, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Wrightwood in California. Information:


Diamond Peak bundles new perks with 2015-16 season passes

By the time snow returns to the slopes at Diamond Peak, the resort's season pass holders will have lots of new benefits. (Diamond Peak photo)

By the time snow returns to the slopes at Diamond Peak this winter, the resort’s season pass holders will have lots of new benefits to enjoy. (Diamond Peak photo)

Diamond Peak season pass-holders this winter will enjoy great skiing, incredible lake views and some new perks, including a bonus resort credit, coupon books, bring-a-friend tickets and additional bonus lift tickets.

The bonus resort credit, $25 for adult full passes or $15 for other paid full passes, will be loaded onto Diamond Peak season passes purchased during the sale, which ends Oct. 31. This credit is similar to a gift card and can be used for buying food, lessons, rentals or other items at Diamond Peak. Skiers and snowboarders who buy their pass during the sale also get a resort coupon book valid for extra discounts on lessons, rentals, repairs and more. Every pass-holder qualifies for four $50 bring-a-friend tickets.

New for 2015-16, Diamond Peak Ski Resort season pass-holders receive 20 complimentary non-holiday bonus days, four each at Boreal Mountain Resort, June Mountain Ski Area, Homewood Mountain Resort, Red Lodge Mountain and Las Vegas Ski & Snowboard Resort. As part of this partnership, Diamond Peak season pass-holders also receive $150 off 2015 and 2016 Woodward Tahoe Summer Camps, 50 percent off Woodward Tahoe CORE Memberships, and a complimentary hourlong Woodward Tahoe Bunker Session.

Special discounts and privileges on the mountain also are available to Diamond Peak season pass-holders, including 10 percent off food and nonalcoholic beverages in the Base Lodge, 10 percent off equipment tuning at the Diamond Peak Rental and Repair Shop, and $5 off Last Tracks event tickets. Diamond Peak also has pass-holder appreciation events like the annual opening day barbecue and toast, parties, raffles and more. For information, visit

Diamond Peak season passes are on sale at early bird rates starting at $249 for adult midweek passes (ages 24-64) or $349 for unrestricted full passes. Kids 6 and younger and 80-plus always ski free. Season passes are available for purchase at, at the Diamond Peak Skier Services Building or the Incline Village Recreation Center.

Heavenly Mountain Resort zips into summer

Riders speed down a four-line zip line at Breckenridge, Colo. When a similar attraction opens this month at Heavenly, riders will be able to race down the four parallel lines at top speeds of 40 mph. (Vail Resorts photo)

Riders race down a zip line at Breckenridge, Colo. When a similar attraction opens at Heavenly, riders will be able to take the four parallel lines at top speeds of 40 mph. (Vail Resorts photo)

By Bob Goligoski

Heavenly Mountain Resort has started construction on a major expansion of its summer attractions that will include a new alpine coaster ride, an extensive zip line network, mountain bike park, multi-use trails and tree canopy tours.

The project, which has been in the works for many years, has steadily been gaining the approval of various governmental agencies. Last month, the final OK came when the Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board voted “yes” on the venture, which is dubbed Epic Discovery.

“This is going to revolutionize the summer guest experience at Heavenly,” said Pete Sonntag, Heavenly COO and vice president. “It is about more than the individual activities; it is a cohesive plan that brings together all components under the unified theme of learning about and engaging with the National Forest.”

Construction on the alpine coaster, similar to those at Park City and Breckenridge, starts this month. It will operate year-round after opening late this year at the South Lake Tahoe resort.

Guests ride individual sleds down an elevated track that winds down amid the pines and rock formations. Gravity takes care of the descent while riders maintain control of how fast they want to go.

Also this month, the resort debuts a new four-line zip line called the Hot Shot Zip Line. An existing zip line, dubbed Blue Streak, is slated to re-open late this month.

Some of the zip lines at Heavenly will incorporate tree canopy tours.

Bikers have long eyed the vast slopes of Heavenly, which stretch for miles across California and Nevada, as a place where they might some day peddle to their heart’s content. They likely will have to wait another couple years as the new mountain bike park will take time to develop before it opens.

Work crews currently are busy toiling on a new permanent 35-foot-tall rock climbing wall, which is slated to open in August. It will feature 18 climbing routes with automatic belay systems and a quick-jump 35-foot rapid descent that emulates free-falling.

Another lane has been added to the tubing hill and will be open late this month.

In September, Heavenly will offer mountain excursion tours via 4×4 vehicles. These guided tours will feature narrations on the mountain with information about the history, culture and environment of the region.

And children will have a crack at the zip line experience when a smaller kid-specific 150-foot long zip line opens later this summer.


Bob Goligoski, a former newspaper reporter, has been writing about the ski industry for various newspapers and magazines for 45 years. He has skied at more than 125 resorts around the world.

Fresh pow means Memorial Day skiing, snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain

(Mammoth Mountain photo)

Mammoth Mountain has received at least 5 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours, giving the ski season a welcome lift three weeks after the start of spring. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

Skiing and snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain on Memorial Day? It’s on. Biking and golfing too.

The latest round of May storms dumped at least 5 inches of fresh snow on the slopes at the Eastern Sierra resort, meaning the lifts will continue spinning at least through May 25, according to spokesman Tim LeRoy.

Mammoth also will be offering a Ski/Bike/Golf package – a rare triathlon – during the holiday weekend. A lift ticket, bike park ticket and nine holes of golf cost $99.

Information: 800-626-6684,

Squaw Valley sends Siberia Express packing to launch a new lift

Squaw Valley's Siberia Express chairlift will be on its way out during the summer and replaced with a high-speed six-passenger chairlift. (Squaw Valley photo by Scott Sady)

Squaw Valley’s Siberia Express chairlift will be on its way out during the summer and replaced with a high-speed six-passenger chairlift. (Squaw Valley photo by Scott Sady)

The Siberia Express, one of the most popular chairlifts at Squaw Valley, will be undergoing an extensive upgrade during the summer.

Currently a high-speed quad, the Siberia Express will become a high-speed six-passenger chairlift designed to improve reliability, efficiency and operational effectiveness, according to a resort spokesman.

“Our team is committed to continually enhancing the mountain experience at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, and providing our guests with access not only to the best skiing and riding in Tahoe, but to an incredible recreational experience in an iconic destination,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, LLC, the parent company of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows mountain resorts.

“Upgrading the Siberia Express lift is guaranteed to have a positive impact on the skier experience on the upper mountain at Squaw,” he added. “In addition, the lift has been designed in a way that will improve its ability to operate during inclement weather.”

The chairlift is used primarily by intermediate and advanced level skiers and riders to access Siberia Bowl, Mainline and the Mainline Terrain Park, as well as the sprawling Gold Coast area. The lift will be replaced in its same location during the summer, and will open during the 2015-16 winter season.

Mammoth Mountain weekend: Snow, sun then more snow

While it was snowy much of the weekend at Mammoth Mountain, the skies cleared on Saturday for a few hours of spectacular bluebird conditions. (Photo by Peter Morning/MMSA)

While it was snowy much of the weekend at Mammoth Mountain, the skies cleared on Saturday for a few hours of spectacular bluebird conditions. (Photo by Peter Morning/MMSA)

Winter’s not finished yet – certainly not at Mammoth Mountain, where 16 inches of new snow fell during the past 72 hours.

“After a slow start, winter has come roaring back to the Eastern Sierra,” says Tim LeRoy, resort spokesman.

The fresh powder gives skiers and snowboarders a base depth of 32 inches at McCoy Station and 48 inches at the summit.

Even today, the white stuff continues to fall at Mammoth. The forecast calls for another inch of snow by 6:30 p.m. with nighttime temps dipping into the mid-teens.


Snow alert! At Northstar, 16 inches of fresh powder … and counting

Snow, snow and more snow. Here was the scene at Northstar California Resort today at 9 a.m. (Northstar photo)

Snow, snow and more snow. The scene at Northstar today at 9 a.m. (Northstar photo)

As of 11 a.m. today, Northstar California Resort has received 16 inches of fresh snow in less than 24 hours.

The mountain continues to experience very intense snowfall and an additional 6 inches of snow is forecast for tonight. Overnight temperatures are expected to dip into the teens and low 20s.


Cold temps help Diamond Peak get back in the snow business

Little help from Mother Nature? No problem at Diamond Peak, where crews have been busy making as much as 5 feet of new snow since Saturday night thanks to an abundance of chilly temperatures.

The Incline Village resort currently has nearly half of its trails open (59 percent in trail acreage) with top-to-bottom skiing on runs that drop 1,840 vertical feet. Open terrain includes two major trails off Crystal Quad Express – Flume and Crystal Ridge (voted one of the world’s top 100 best ski trails by CNN Travel).

“Our mixture of snow-making technologies allow us to maximize our ability to make snow across the resort,” said Brad Wilson, the resort’s general manager.


Here’s a video that shows the snow-making team in action:

Snow alert! With lots of fresh powder, Mountain High is set to reopen Tuesday

Lots of new snow fell in the past 24 hours at Mountain High, allowing the resort to reopen on Tuesday. (Mountain High photo)

Several inches of new snow fell in the past 24 hours at Mountain High, allowing the resort to reopen on Tuesday. (Mountain High photo)

Mountain High will be back in business for skiers and snowboarders starting Tuesday thanks to a healthy dose of new snow.

As many as 10 inches of fresh powder fell on Sunday and early this morning at the Wrightwood resort, which was closed for the better part of a week. The forecast was calling for another inch or two of snow today, giving way to sunny skies through at least Friday when another storm was expected to roll through.

The resort has discounted its lift tickets to $45 for adults and young riders, a $24 savings off the regular price.

Night operations on the slopes and daytime activities at the North Pole Tubing Park are being evaluated for reopening later this week, according to a resort spokesman.

“Forecasters are calling for a snowier than normal March,” said John McColly, Mountain High spokesman. “Winter isn’t over yet in Southern California.”


— Jerry Rice