Manufactured snow keeps SoCal resorts in the game with skiers, snowboarders

(File photo from Bear Mountain Resorts)

While natural snow has been lacking this winter at places like Bear Mountain, Southern California resorts still have something to offer snowboarders and skiers thanks to the ability to manufacture snow. (File photo from Bear Mountain Resorts)

Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on Feb. 11.

By Art Bentley

As mid-February approached, the best ski conditions in California remained right here in the land of the endless summer.

To find better, Inland Empire skiers and snowboarders would have had to drive about 400 miles to Brian Head, Utah, which claimed a 38-inch base of what the Beehive State bills as the greatest snow on earth. It may well be, but unlike the resorts here in the Southland, Brian Head and other Utah ski areas depend exclusively on natural forces.

And if the local talent craved a stiffer challenge than the 1,400-foot vertical rise Brian Head offers, Park City and the Cottonwood canyons, home to Snowbird, Alta and Solitude, are some 250 miles farther north. Not that they’re wallowing in snow either. Measurements in Little Cottonwood Canyon showed bases of about 70 inches at the powder meccas of Snowbird and Alta, which are stops on a Salt Lake City municipal bus line. That’s not a lot, not enough to justify a journey of at least 650 miles.

It’s also not enough to permit a rational practitioner to put equipment in peril by venturing off the groomed runs and into the really outstanding steep terrain at both. One doesn’t go lightly to the trouble or expense of traveling to Snowbird or Alta to ski only groomers. One goes primarily to ski off piste in two feet of feather-light, untracked, legendary Utah powder on outrageous steeps.

Nor at first glance would the 8-to-24-inch base depths advertised at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain at Big Bear Lake, the Southern California pacesetters, seem to indicate a lot of cover either. But there’s been more than enough snow since late December to blanket nearly every open run sufficiently, including the steepest at each. One need not worry about hitting rocks or other obstacles.

The reason? Manufactured snow, which represents an overwhelming majority of the flakes on the ski runs in another extraordinarily dry California winter, tends to be appreciably denser than the natural variety and therefore packs into a more solid base. The result is very good pavement for skiing that holds up day after day, regardless of what nature throws at it.

The two other resorts operating in Southern California, Mountain High near Wrightwood and Snow Valley near Running Springs, are advertising bases of 6 to 10 inches. Like Summit and Bear, almost all of their snow is manufactured as well.

By comparison, Mammoth Mountain, which is in the process of acquiring Summit and Bear, reported a snow depth on Feb. 13 of 24 to 48 inches, far from enough for adequate coverage of many of the slopes, especially the steeper ones. Why leave Southern California for that?

The same question applied to the Lake Tahoe resorts, where rain fell recently on lower slopes. Alpine Meadows on the north shore reported 18 to 42 inches. On the south shore, Heavenly confessed to 35 inches.

And while we’re at it, winter has not been especially kind so far to Colorado or New Mexico.

But as long as the water supply holds out, there’ll be decent ski conditions in Southern California. Water is the primary ingredient in the manufacturing process that, when combined under pressure, yields snow. And when the source of water is Big Bear Lake, rather than wells on which many ski areas are forced to depend, the supply is unlimited.

“We can’t do it without water,” said Chris Riddle, marketing vice president for both resorts. “And the lake is a game changer for us. In weather like this, people tend to forget about us. But we’ve known for a long time that we’re going to have dry years in Southern California, and we’ve built a system that lets us have good years whether we have natural snow or not.”

Snow Summit embraces 2-for-1 lift tickets for Valentine’s Day

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Your dollars for skiing and snowboarding will go twice as far on Valentine’s Day with Snow Summit’s 2-for-1 lift ticket promotion. The tickets are for the night session, so you can bring your sweetie for a romantic time under the stars. Or, make it a group outing and have Mom, Dad, the kids and a few friends come along.

Tickets must be purchased 48 hours in advance — by Thursday afternoon, basically.

For details, call 909-866-5766 or visit bit.ly/RomanticSlopes.

North Lake Tahoe resorts are decorated in a fresh coat of white

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Thanks, Mother Nature.

A snowy weekend has resulted in a wealth of skiing and snowboarding opportunities at North Lake Tahoe resorts. Seven locations in the area have opened a combined 230-plus runs – with excellent conditions reported on terrain ranging from beginner to expert.

Here are the numbers for each of the resorts:

Alpine Meadows
Storm total: 16 inches
Lifts: 7
Runs: 36

Boreal Mountain Resort
Storm total: 15 inches
Lifts: 4
Runs: 23

Diamond Peak Ski Area
Storm total: 22 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 15

Mt. Rose Ski Resort
Storm total: 30 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 40

Northstar California Resort
Storm total: 19 inches
Lifts: 13
Runs: 70

Squaw Valley
Storm total: 23 inches
Lifts: 14
Runs: 23

Sugar Bowl Resort
Storm total: 18 inches
Lifts: 3
Runs: 31

For information about snow conditions in North Lake Tahoe visit, www.gotahoenorth.com. For lodging, activity and ski deals, visit www.gotahoenorth.com/cooldeals.

Snow alert! Mammoth Mountain welcomes tons of fresh powder

After receiving 13 inches of snow over the weekend, Mammoth Mountain is nearing 100 inches of snow so far this winter. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

After receiving 13 inches of snow during the weekend, Mammoth Mountain is nearing 100 inches of snowfall this winter. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

How was your weekend? … Mammoth Mountain had a snowy one, with the resort receiving 13 inches of heavy powder courtesy a weather system that also drenched Northern California, Oregon and Washington.

The new snow left Mammoth with a base depth of 48 inches at the 11,053-foot summit, and 32 inches at McCoy Station at 9,600 feet.

And more may be on the way. The 10-day Weather Channel forecast says there’s a 10- to 20-percent chance of snow showers on Sunday and again Feb. 17-18.

Last winter, Mammoth received 68.5 inches of snow in February – making it the snowiest month all season.

Snow alert! Fresh powder will be served all weekend in Lake Tahoe

It was a winter wonderland today at the Village of Northstar, where a trio of skaters had the 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink apparently all to themselves. (Northstar photo)

A snowy winter wonderland enveloped the Village of Northstar, where earlier today three skaters seemed to have the 9,000-square-foot ice skating rink all to themselves. (Northstar photo)

Just what skiers and snowboarders have been wanting: snow, snow and more snow.

Here’s the latest from the slopes in the Lake Tahoe area. Check back for updates.

Northstar: “Heavy, intense” snowfall was reported Friday afternoon. New accumulation was expected to reach 4-8 inches overnight, with 6-12 inches coming Sunday and another 5-10 inches on Monday.

Sierra-at-Tahoe: 3 inches of snowfall since the storm started late Friday morning and, according to a resort spokeswoman, “We expect to receive much more overnight.”

Sugar Bowl is rated a sweet place to tie the knot on the slopes

While offering skiing and snowboarding in the winter, Sugar Bowl also is a popular wedding venue throughout the year. (Sugar Bowl Resort photo)

While offering skiing and snowboarding during the winter, Sugar Bowl also is a popular wedding venue throughout the year. (Sugar Bowl Resort photo)

Sugar Bowl isn’t just a place for skiing and snowboarding. It’s also for weddings, as the resort recently earned three awards – including its fourth consecutive “Best of Weddings” award – from The Knot, the nation’s most visited wedding planning website.

Sugar Bowl also was inducted into The Knot’s Best of Weddings Hall of Fame, making it one of only six venues the Sacramento/Lake Tahoe/Reno area to earn the distinction.

Wedding experts at The Knot select the annual award from top venues nominated by the site’s brides. Venues selected for a Best of Weddings award four or more times receive an honorary place in the Hall of Fame.

Sugar Bowl’s wedding venue, a secluded mountain lodge with an adjoining private lake, is just hours from the Bay Area, and run by expert staff noted for their attention to detail and personalized approach to wedding planning, according to the resort.

In addition to being recognized by The Knot, Sugar Bowl also was selected for a 2015 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Award, ranking it among the top 5 percent of venues listed on the website. The recognition is given based on reviews by couples who chose Sugar Bowl as their wedding venue. Dozens of brides and grooms gave Sugar Bowl high ratings for attributes such as “responsiveness,” “professionalism” and “value.”

Tahoe Unveiled also included Sugar Bowl in its Top 5 Receptions of 2014 for “Venue with the Best View.” Tahoe Unveiled was impressed by photographs of a wedding reception at Sugar Bowl that illustrated the rich depth of the scenery experienced by a newlywed couple and its party.

The resort’s High Sierra location features blooming wildflowers, a rolling creekside lawn, and large, open-air fire pits. Sugar Bowl also offers unique details like a private chairlift ride to the top of Mt. Disney for drinks and appetizers on a mountaintop sundeck.

“Sugar Bowl is honored to be selected numerous times this year as an award-winning wedding venue by the brides who have been married here,” said Meghon Shrewsbury, wedding and event manager for Sugar Bowl Resort. “Wedding parties choose Sugar Bowl because of the resort’s unmatched natural beauty and the secluded and intimate setting, but also because our wedding staff is dedicated to getting each detail perfect.”

Sugar Bowl is celebrating its 75th anniversary as a ski resort. On Feb. 14, the popular destination will host its anniversary celebration at Mt. Judah Lodge. There will be live music, numerous activities, and giveaways.

Information: www.sugarbowl.com/weddings

On the slopes: 2015 guide for skiing, snowboarding at June Mountain

One season pass — the Cali4nia Pass — is good for skiing at June Mountain and three other resorts. Mammoth, Bear and Snow Summit also are part of the deal. (June Mountain photo)

One season pass — the Cali4nia Pass — is good for skiing at June Mountain and three other resorts. Mammoth, Bear and Snow Summit also are part of the deal. (June Mountain photo)

This is the fifth in a series of updates from mountain resorts in California and Nevada.

What’s new: The Cali4nia Pass allows all-winter access to the slopes at June, Mammoth (where they’re generally more crowded), Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

For the family: Kids 12 and younger ski for free at the resort all season long.

Hidden gem: “The face at June has some of the best power skiing at any resort — and I’ve skied most of them, particularly in the U.S.,” says Rusty Gregory, chairman and CEO at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, which also operates June. “It’s not that hidden because it’s the first run you see. The geography at June is very European oriented, so it’s steep at the bottom. The face is my favorite run there, and on a powder day my favorite run period.”

Social connections: @JuneMountain on Instagram and Twitter; www.facebook.com/JuneMountain

Information: 800-586-3686; www.junemountain.com

— Jerry Rice

On the slopes: 2015 guide for skiing, snowboarding at Snow Summit

Skiing and snowboarding at Snow Summit offers this bonus: spectacular views of Big Bear Lake. (Snow Summit photo)

Skiing and snowboarding at Snow Summit comes with this bonus: spectacular views of Big Bear Lake. (Snow Summit photo)

This is the fourth in a series of updates from mountain resorts in California and Nevada.

What’s new at Snow Summit: Like its sister resort, Bear Mountain, the season’s biggest new attraction is the Cali4nia Pass, which allows access to the slopes at Summit, Bear and also Mammoth and June mountains.

Best eats: The View Haus, at the top of the hill, dishes up delicious barbecue and, as its name implies, great views of the San Bernardino National Forest. Specialties include the Blazin’ Pulled Pork, with pork shoulder; and the tri-tip sandwich, with meat that’s grilled outdoors and served on bread that’s baked fresh daily.

Après hot spot: Summit’s Slopeside Pub, which serves a variety of brews and hot chocolate.

Hidden gem: Dickey’s Run will reward the more skilled skiers and riders with beautiful views of the Snow Summit pine tree forest and Big Bear Lake. “Exhibition Run (at Bear Mountain) and Dickey’s Run are the favorite spots for locals looking for some good, challenging slopes,” says Dustin Murphy, spokesman for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “The powdery white snow and the steeper inclines are what makes these runs unique.”

Spotted last season: Paula Abdul, Coolio, Emilio Estevez, Justin Timberlake and Dennis Quaid have been at Snow Summit or its sister resort, Bear Mountain, in recent years.

Social connections: @snow_summit on Instagram and Twitter; www.facebook.com/SnowSmt

Information: 909-866-5766; www.snowsummit.com

— Jerry Rice

On the slopes: 2015 guide for skiing, snowboarding at Mountain High

As its name might suggest, it's possible to see Catalina Island from Mountain High's quarter-mile Catalina Run. (Mountain High photo)

As the name might suggest, it’s possible to see Catalina Island far in the distance from Mountain High’s quarter-mile Catalina Run. (Mountain High photo)

This is the third in a series of updates from mountain resorts in California and Nevada.

What’s new at Mountain High: Terrain features for both beginner and advanced riders, increased snowmaking and the debut of the fourth edition of the resort’s app for iPhone and Android. It features new map tracking to record your runs, a calorie counter and digital badges to earn.

Best eats: The family owned Grizzly Café (760-249-6733, http://grizzlycafe.com) is a casual dining spot known for its large, delicious burgers. For breakfast, order a cinnamon roll then burn off the calories on the slopes.

For the family: The North Pole Tubing Park is the largest tubing facility in Southern California. Tickets are $20 for two hours of tubing.

Hidden gem: Catalina, a quarter-mile run that’s off the beaten path at the top of the East Resort. “It’s one of the highest and most scenic runs in Southern California,” says John McColly, resort spokesman. “You can see the Pacific Ocean and Catalina to the west, the backside of Mount Baldy and Mount Baden Powell to the north and south, and the Mojave Desert stretching out to the east. It’s a unique experience, and you feel like you’re at the top of a mountain range, at Mammoth or Tahoe, looking over the Sierras.”

Spotted last season: Adam Sandler

Social connections: @mthighsnow on Instagram; @mthigh on Twitter; www.facebook.com/mthigh

Information: 888-754-7878; www.mthigh.com

— Jerry Rice

On the slopes: 2015 guide for skiing, snowboarding at Bear Mountain

Bear Mountain is known as a hotspot for snowboarders. (Bear Mountain photo)

Bear Mountain is a hot spot for snowboarders. (Bear Mountain photo)

This is the second in a series of updates from mountain resorts in California and Nevada.

What’s new at Bear Mountain: The Cali4nia Pass was introduced in late September and is good for unrestricted, season-long skiing and boarding at Bear and three other resorts — Snow Summit, Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain.

Best eats: Silver Mountain Eatery offers three primary cuisines — Asian, Mexican and Italian — along with salads, smoothies and more.

Après hot spot: World Famous Beach Bar has live music acts performing regularly on a 13,000-square-foot sundeck.

Hidden gem: Exhibition Run, which is one of the steeper runs at the resort. “Most intermediate and advanced skiers and snowboarders enjoy this run because it’s the least-crowded run,” says Dustin Murphy, spokesman for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “Riders can take their time enjoying the slopes and cruising down, while taking in the view of Big Bear Lake.”

Spotted last season: Eva Longoria and Dermot Mulroney out on the runs. In recent years, Paula Abdul, Coolio, Emilio Estevez, Justin Timberlake and Dennis Quaid have been at Bear or its sister resort, Snow Summit.

Social connections: @Bear_Mountain on Instagram and Twitter; www.facebook.com/BearMtn

Information: 909-866-5766; www.bearmountain.com

— Jerry Rice