First tracks! Snow! Mammoth Mountain opens for winter

Cheers go out from the skiers and boarders riding the first chair of the winter at Mammoth Mountain this morning. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Cheers go out from skiers and boarders riding the first chair of the winter Thursday morning at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Let the skiing and snowboarding begin!

Mammoth Mountain opened Thursday morning for the 2014-15 winter season with some snowy weather – hopefully a preview of the months ahead. Flurries added to the 12-16 inches of natural and manmade snow already at the resort.

Broadway Express was running with access to Broadway and Upper Main Park. The Unbound Terrain Park crew set up 10 jibs and one jump in Upper Main Park, which was quickly filled with freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

After first chair, Greg Dallas, Mammoth Mountain’s COO, offered his greetings: “Thank you for being here and sharing the excitement and passion of opening day with us. … Here’s to a great year!”

That’s what we’re hoping for too.

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

Finally, a healthy snowfall with 10 days until Mammoth opens for winter

Mammoth Lakes welcomed about a foot of new snow over the weekend, and it couldn’t have come at a better time because Mammoth Mountain Ski Area opens for the winter in 10 days. Peter Morning braved the cold to take some great pics of the white stuff coming down. A sampling…

Mammoth's snow-making operations get a helping hand from Mother Nature at the Broadway Express lift.

Mammoth’s snow-making operations get help from Mother Nature at the Broadway Express lift.

Resort's iconic mammoth is covered in white.

Resort’s iconic mammoth is covered in white.

A building is there there somewhere.

A building must be in there somewhere.

Time for a selfie.

Gotta take a selfie.

California ski, snowboard resorts get a Halloween treat: snow!

The Village at Squaw Valley became a winter wonderland this morning as several inches of snow fell at the resort and throughout the Lake Tahoe area. (Squaw Valley photo)

The Village at Squaw Valley became a winter wonderland this morning as several inches of snow fell at the resort and elsewhere in the Lake Tahoe area. (Squaw Valley photo)

About the time kids were trick-or-treating on Friday night, mountain resorts throughout California were starting to get a special treat: snow. In some cases, it was the first white stuff of the season, raising hopes that the lengthy drought – fingers crossed – will come to an end this winter. There certainly was lots of excitement to go around:

Mountain High: The first snow of the season fell this morning at Mountain High Resort giving the area a crisp glow and solidifying the coming of winter. Traditionally, Mountain High opens in mid-November but it all depends on the season. Three times in the past 10 years, the Wrightwood resort has opened in October. Mountain High’s 10-year average is a Nov. 16 opening. For a gallery of “first snow of the season” photos, click here.

Heavenly: Winter has arrived at Tahoe, and Heavenly Mountain Resort received 3 inches of new snow overnight. 

Northstar: Three inches of fresh snow has accumulated and snow continues to fall. Temperatures have remained in the low 20s and the mountain’s snowmaking team has activated Northstar’s state-of-the-art snowmaking system. The National Weather Service has forecast an 80 percent chance of snow throughout the remainder of the day and into the evening, with expected additional accumulation of up to 3 inches. Snow showers are predicted for Sunday at a 20 percent chance.

Sierra-at-Tahoe: The resort received as much as 6 inches of snow overnight in the base area near the new Solstice Plaza. Early season snowfall is a reminder that winter and the ski and snowboard season are right around the corner.

Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows: The winter storm sweeping through the Sierra Nevada has brought 10 inches of fresh snow to Alpine Meadows’ upper mountain and 6 inches to Squaw Valley by late Saturday morning, with snow continuing to fall at both mountains. This is the first significant snowfall of the 2014-15 winter season, and comes less than a month before Squaw Valley’s scheduled opening date of Nov. 26. Alpine Meadows is expected to open on Dec. 12.

Snow! Heavenly Mountain Resort gets a taste of what’s (hopefully) to come

Milky Way Bowl at Heavenly Mountain Resort received a dusting of snow on Monday night. (Heavenly Mountain Resort photo)

Milky Way Bowl at Heavenly Mountain Resort received a light covering of snow on Monday night. (Heavenly Mountain Resort photos)

Granted, it’s not much, but considering that California is in the midst of a multi-year drought, any snow – even a little – is more than welcome. So after Heavenly Mountain Resort received a dusting of powder last night, we were excited to see the photos that were sent out today. The resort is scheduled to open for skiers and snowboarders on Nov. 21.

Mott Canyon, on the Nevada side of the mountain, after last night's light snowfall.

Mott Canyon, on the Nevada side of the mountain, after last night’s snowfall.

Help wanted: Bear Mountain, Snow Summit resorts host job fair

Big Bear Mountain Resorts is ramping up for opening day, but first comes the annual Bear Mountain and Snow Summit job fair. It happens Saturday at Snow Summit from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While offering a fun work environment, Big Bear Mountain Resorts offers great privileges to all employees. Among them: free skiing and snowboarding for employees and their immediate eligible families under the age of 18 at both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, discounted rental equipment, free and discounted lessons, discounted food and beverages and discounts in retail shops.

“Our goal is to provide our guests with the best possible service and experience. We’re looking for hardworking and dedicated employees that are personable, out-going and have a passion for snow sports,” said Chris Riddle, director of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “Most of our employees, including myself, have worked here for over 10 years and we know firsthand how incredible a career in the snow sport industry is, as we get some of the coolest perks around.”

Full-time and part-time positions are available in both indoor and outdoor areas, including ski and snowboard instructors, snowmakers, snow sport lessons promoter, sport shop sales, parking, lift operators, food servers, bartenders, dishwashers, cooks and guest services.

For more information, call employee services at 909-866-5766, Ext. 140; email employeeservices@snowsummit.com or fill out an application and bring it to the job fair.

Mammoth Mountain owner buys Bear Mountain, Snow Summit ski resorts

 

Despite the warm temperatures this winter, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have been taking advantage of snow-making capabilities to improve conditions on the slopes. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Bear Mountain, a popular place for snowboarders, is one of two resorts being acquired by the owner of Mammoth Mountain. Snow Summit also is part of the deal announced this morning. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, owner of Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, has entered into an agreement to acquire Big Bear Mountain Resorts, which operates both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Big Bear Lake. The two SoCal ski and snowboard resorts host nearly 800,000 visitors every winter.

The combination of these four iconic California mountain resorts creates diverse and unique offerings of both summer and winter experiences for day trips, weekend getaways and extended vacations, resort officials say. Bear Mountain and Snow Summit offer a full complement of outdoor activities from action sports to first-time family experiences, making it an excellent fit with the world class, big-mountain destination experience offered at Mammoth, they added.

“We couldn’t be more excited to enter into this agreement with Big Bear Mountain Resorts. These two uniquely Southern California resorts have been providing great skiing, riding and biking experiences to visitors from California and beyond. Millions have enjoyed their first mountain resort experience on the slopes of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and we look forward to expanding upon the legacy that Dick Kun and his people have created over the past six decades,” said Rusty Gregory, chairman and CEO of Mammoth Mountain.

“This acquisition represents the beginning of a renaissance for both Mammoth and Big Bear and is the first step in the next era of skiing and riding in California. In the coming months we will be announcing exciting new development and expansion plans for each of our four resorts designed to attract visitors from down the street, across the country, and around the world,” he added.

Mammoth has announced a new season pass that includes unrestricted access to all four mountains at $689 for adults. The new Cali4nia Pass will go on sale at the Hot Dawgz and Hand Rails event at Bear Mountain on Saturday, and then will be available online at www.snowsummit.com and www.Cali4niaPass.com.

“The Cali4nia Pass will cut through the clutter in the market by providing the most diverse set of resort options available in California by allowing you to ski where you want, when you want and as often as you want,” Gregory said.

This transaction will create one of the nation’s largest ski companies with more than 2 million visitors per year.

Dick Kun, the driving force behind skiing and riding in the Big Bear region and long-time CEO of Big Bear Mountain Resorts, said, “Mammoth has always been the natural long-term fit for the Big Bear family and we are thrilled to enter this agreement. I am deeply grateful to the employees, shareholders, and the Big Bear community for their work and support during the 63 years of our operations.

“Mammoth’s experience and leadership will ensure that Southern Californians will continue to enjoy recreating in the local mountains and will undoubtedly bring in a new era of experiences and opportunities for all of our constituents.”

Vail Resorts expands Epic Pass to include skiing at Park City

Vail Resorts, Inc. has announced that with the company’s acquisition of Park City Mountain Resort, the iconic resort in Utah will join the Epic Pass, expanding the collection of mountains offered on the season pass to 22 resorts and more than 32,000 acres of skiing and riding.

“We’re thrilled to be able to offer unlimited skiing and riding at Park City Mountain Resort on the Epic Pass for the 2014-15 winter season,” said Kirsten Lynch, chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “We continue to provide even greater value and variety in skiing and riding with the Epic Pass and significantly invest in the guest experience at our mountain resorts, including new chairlifts, on-mountain dining options and innovative snowmaking expansions for the coming winter.”

The 2014-15 Epic Pass features unlimited, unrestricted skiing and riding at Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Arapahoe Basin in Colorado; Park City and Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mt. Brighton in Michigan.

Also, Epic Pass holders have the opportunity to extend their skiing and riding adventures globally with up to five consecutive free days (when booking in-resort lodging) at the renowned mountain resorts of Les 3 Vallées, France (Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle) and Verbier, Switzerland, and five consecutive free days at Niseko United, Japan.

Vail Resorts is offering the season pass at $749 for adults and $389 for children (ages 5-12). Information: www.parkcitymountain.com

It’s hot out there, and Mammoth Mountain is already thinking ‘winter’

Mammoth Opening WeekendWith less than two months to the start of the ski and snowboard season at Mammoth Mountain, the resort is offering some early bird deals. They include:

  • Single-day lift tickets starting at $76, a 23 percent savings from last year’s price.
  • Two-day lift tickets for $151, a $47 savings from last year.
  • Three-of-four day lift tickets for $200, which works out to about $67 per day.

The tickets will be valid through the end of the snow season, although there are some blackout dates during the Christmas/New Year holidays and in mid-February.

For information, visit Mammoth Mountain’s website for “early bird lift ticket packages,” here.

Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows reduce pass prices for upcoming ski season

Starting today, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows are reducing the base price of the 2014-15 Tahoe Super Pass to $379, which is a $50 savings for skiers and snowboarders. The discounted Bronze Pass is available at www.tahoesuperpass.com.

The price cut comes 11 days before an important season pass deadline: Current pricing for the 2014-15 Tahoe Super Pass is guaranteed through Monday, Sept. 8, though the $379 Bronze Pass price is only available while quantities last.
 
For a little extra, the resorts’ Gold ($809) and Silver ($579) passes offer skiers and riders access to 9,650 acres of terrain across four Lake Tahoe Resorts: Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Sugar Bowl Resort/Royal Gorge Cross Country.

Squaw Valley is scheduled to open Wednesday, Nov. 26, in time for the Thanksgiving holiday. Alpine Meadows is scheduled to open Friday, Dec. 12. Opening dates are dependent on weather and snow conditions.

#Winter2014: Colorado skier visits surge to 12.6 million, a new record

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, thanks, in part, to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo By Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

During the past winter, Vail and other Colorado resorts welcomed more skiers and snowboarders than ever, at least in part due to disappointing snowfall at resorts in California. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

By Jason Blevins
The Denver Post

Colorado ski resorts broke a visitation record in 2013-14, thanks to an early start, a late finish, a drought in California and, of course, steady snowfall all season.

The state’s 25 ski areas logged 12.6 million visits, up 10 percent from last year — the strongest year-over-year surge in recent history and an 8 percent increase over the five-year average. The 2013-14 season is now the benchmark, unseating the 12.56 million high set in 2006-07.

“It’s been eight years and a Great Recession since the last new visitation record, and that feels great,” said Melanie Mills, president of resort trade group Colorado Ski County USA, which announced the season’s visitation at its 51st annual meeting at Copper Mountain.

Visitation was up across all categories, with the number of out-of-state skiers growing alongside international visitors and pass-wielding locals.

While California skiers have long ranked as a top market for Colorado resorts, the snow-gobbling drought there fueled a double-digit percentage increase in Californians on Colorado ski slopes this season.

Colorado resort leaders never wish a decimating season on their peers from other states, but there’s hope the 2013-14 season might turn some California skiers on to Colorado.

“We think that all those visitors that came to Colorado had a great experience,” Mills said, “and we think that gives us an opportunity to get them back.”

Colorado Ski Country’s 21 member resorts saw 7.1 million visits in 2013-14. Vail Resorts’ Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek and Keystone ski areas drew 5.5 million visits.

Vail, the nation’s largest resort operator, last month reported solid growth in the 2013-14 season, despite poor performance at its California resorts, with visitor spending reaching near-records on increases in lessons, lift tickets, dining and retail.

Colorado’s ski communities reported strong spending during the season as well, with many resorts — like Vail, Aspen, Breckenridge and Telluride — posting record sales-tax revenues for the ski season.

Mills said member ski resorts enjoyed similar boosts in spending.

“A number of member resorts had a record year (for revenues), and everybody had a strong year,” she said. “It was the perfect snowstorm this year, with a snow message that started early and it was authentic … we just had snow every month.”

Monarch ski area saw a record 190,000 visits, up from 168,000 the previous year, spokesman Greg Ralph said. The Chaffee County hill harvested record revenues too, Ralph said.

Aspen Skiing Co.’s four Roaring Fork Valley ski areas posted the highest visitation since 1997-98, company spokesman Jeff Hanle said. Lodges in both Aspen and Snowmass saw highest-ever occupancy in March, with the season falling just shy of the all-time occupancy record set in 2006-07, said Bill Tomcich, president of Stay Aspen Snowmass, the reservation hub that books lodging across the valley.

“We had a really good start and an incredible finish,” Tomcich said.

Colorado’s skier visitation growth bested the 6.4 percent annual increase for the Rocky Mountain region, which includes resorts in Utah, Montana and New Mexico.

The snow was a blessing, and the international media’s sensationalized focus on Colorado when the state legalized recreational marijuana in January certainly helped.

Mills called legalized marijuana “the PR event of the year and the operational nonevent of the year,” meaning resorts barely noticed the new laws but welcomed the attention.

“From a PR perspective,” Mills said, “we did not view it as a negative that everyone was talking about Colorado as of January first.”

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasonblevins