Ski Pakistan? Absolutely! CNN follows heli-skiers to near the top of the world

Talk about a ski adventure.

The Karakoram Mountains in Pakistan include many of the world’s tallest peaks, and a thrilling challenge for any skier. While the highest paved international road – connecting China with Pakistan – is part of the landscape, the adventurers featured in a recent CNN report by Saima Mohsin avoided this road less traveled and flew in by helicopter.

Click here to catch their wild ride.

#freshpow day on the slopes at Bear, Snow Summit and Mountain High

Snow Summit is a winter wonderland in March, thanks to productive cold-weather systems that went through Southern California on Thursday and this morning. This photo has attracted a lot of reaction since it was posted on Facebook earlier today. (Snow Summit photo)

By Jerry Rice

Fresh powder days in March are rare in Southern California – especially ones with storms that leave behind more than a foot of snow – so it may not be surprising that social media is burning up today with the latest reports from Bear Mountain, Snow Summit and Mountain High.

The photo of snow-covered tables and chairs at Snow Summit (above) has received more than 950 “likes” and 139 “shares” since it was posted this morning. Because a photo really is worth a thousand words, many of the comments have been appropriately brief: “Wonderland!” (from Freddie Merz), “Yes!!!” (Kelsey Elizabeth Stern) and “Wooooo Hoooooo” (Snuggle Bear Cabin).

Others said they were on their way up the hill (presumably after they called the boss to say they suddenly came down with some “ailment”), or that they would be there during the weekend.

With 12-14 inches of new snow at Bear Mountain, it appears to be time for some fresh-powder runs at the resort. (Bear Mountain photo)

Snow Summit reported 12 to 14 inches of fresh powder in the last couple days – about the same amount that fell at the resort’s corporate sibling, Bear Mountain, where the photo on the right was taken. Since being posted on Facebook today at about 10 a.m., the shot has received nearly 400 “likes” and 25 “shares.”

Snow Summit is 100 percent open, and only Bow, Deer and Goldmine canyons are closed at Bear, according to information on their websites. Also, skiers and snowboarders should note that Snow Summit will be holding its final night session of the 2012-13 season on Saturday.

With fresh powder at Mountain High, the snow depth on the slopes is 12-24 inches. (Mountain High photo)

At Mountain High in Wrightwood, they’re also excited about the conditions after receiving 6 to 8 inches of new snow. “We love fresh pow,” said the Facebook entry that was posted with the action shot on the left. “Share this photo if you love new snow as much as we do!”

The last time we checked, 61 of the resort’s Facebook fans followed through on that request.

Welcome to Begaebong, a North Korea ski area that outsiders rarely get to see

By Jerry Rice

Never thought I’d see the words “ski resort” and “North Korea” in the same sentence – much less type them myself for a post on this SnoWonder site – but here they are.

Eric Lafforgue has made a name for himself by taking amazing photographs the world over, from Cambodia to Kazakhstan to the Papua Islands (with many more locales listed on his website, www.ericlafforgue.com). One of those other places is Begaebong, in North Korea’s Mount Paektu region, where he visited a small ski area.

OK, with a ski run that’s barely 875 yards and a lift with only 80 chairs, there’s no chance this place will ever be mistaken for the resorts at Heavenly or Mammoth. But his video offers a rare glimpse at an attraction that makes for some interesting viewing. We noticed, for example, that there are no skiers whatsoever on the slopes.

Mount Paektu, by the way, is an active volcano that erupts two or three times a century. It has been in the news of late because of warnings that earthquakes from North Korea’s nuclear tests may trigger an eruption.

Step aside Gangnam Style, it’s time for the Harlem Shake

By Jerry Rice

Sorry, Psy, but Gangnam Style is so 2012. The dance of this moment is the Harlem Shake.

With tens of thousands of Harlem Shake videos on YouTube — including nearly 9,000 uploaded today alone — it’s safe to call it the latest craze that’s sweeping the nation. Students at campuses around the country, office workers, firefighters, grandmas, and a unit of the Norwegian Army are all busting a move to the techno beat.

Anderson Cooper (inset) watches a video of his staff doing the Harlem Shake.

One video asks whether Wolf Blitzer would do it. His CNN colleague, Anderson Cooper, apparently wouldn’t. When the “Anderson Live” crew interrupted a morning meeting to shake it, they couldn’t get Cooper to join in.

“I gotta say, I was horrified. It made me so uncomfortable,” he said on Tuesday’s show.

Many of the videos are called “original.” Perhaps the one with the best stake to that claim was posted by five bored Australian teens who were stuck indoors during a storm. Their version, “The Harlem Shake v1 (TSCS original),” has 6.3 million views (and counting) in its first week on YouTube. Their story was told by The Courier-Mail in Brisbane.

A quick search came up with several Harlem Shakers in the Inland Empire, so we featured them in a Daily Bulletin story.

Skiers and snowboarders at Mountain High also have gotten in on the act. Here’s their version:

Squaw Valley plans Super Bowl viewing party for 49er faithful

By Jerry Rice

Even while Colin Kaepernick and his teammates were still on the field in Atlanta celebrating the San Francisco 49ers’ return to the Super Bowl, the alert went out: Squaw Valley is planning a big party for the big game.

Anthony Dixon of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates the team’s win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game. (Photo by Nhat V. Meyer/Bay Area News Group)

Bring the skis and snowboards along with San Francisco 49er jerseys, join the largest on-mountain Super Bowl party and celebrate “one of the greatest football teams in the country and of all time,” the resort said in a release.

OK, so while the resort’s PR department may have been showing a little 49er fanaticism — and this Jerry Rice has no problem with that — the viewing party will be a benefit for a great cause: the High Fives Foundation.

Founded by Roy Tuscany and based in Truckee, Calif., the High Fives Foundation is dedicated to raising money and awareness for athletes who have suffered a life-altering injury while pursuing their dream in the winter action sports community. Information: www.highfivesfoundation.org.

Squaw will show the Super Bowl on a 16-foot by 21-foot, 49-panel “diamond vision” screen at the KT Base Bar, located at the base of the KT-22 lift. There will be festivities planned throughout the day including giveaways and promotions before, during and after the game.

“We couldn’t pass up this opportunity to celebrate, in the biggest way possible, the success of a football team that our customers are wild about,” said Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows.

After today’s 28-24 win over the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game, the 49ers will be making their sixth appearance in the Super Bowl. The game will be played in New Orleans on Feb. 3.

For more information about the Super Bowl event at Squaw Valley, visit www.squaw.com or call 800-403-0206.

Learn how to make those cool ski flicks

By Jerry Rice

While it may not be as celebrated as the School of Cinematic Arts at USC, the Canadian Mountain Holidays Film School has put together some impressive productions.

The CMH Film School, in Revelstoke, British Columbia, is where nascent ski filmmakers come to sharpen their skills. The program is featured in the February issue of Ski Magazine.

“Our legs ache from a day spent blasting arcs in the high alpine, and now we watch as Guy Clarkson, a cinematographer who owns Raven HD, makers of award-winning documentaries, dices and splices clips as fluently as he skis,” writes Joe Cutts.

Clarkson comes with an impressive resume: besides film work, he’s a licensed pilot, sailor, rancher and military trainer. And he’s been to the top of the world, watching the sun rise on Mount Everest.

The film school’s courses aren’t cheap, but they come with lots of neat bonus features. The cost of the Feb. 4-9 session at CMH’s K2 Lodge is $6,080, and the March 28-April 1 course at Revelstoke is $4,038. Both include lodging, heli skiing, equipment and meals.

In the story, Cutts recalls a recent crash course on editing with Clarkson.

“We go through footage he shot on a professional-grade camera and stuff clients shot with their GoPros and his guidance,” Cutts writes. “We’re learning the techniques and decision making that make the magic happen — how to have the skier ski into the shot, how to fade out on a spray of snow, even how to ski for the camera ourselves.”

For information, visit www.canadianmountainholidays.com. Here’s a sample of their work:

They give Oscars to ski films, don’t they?

By Jerry Rice

The Academy Award nominations will be announced early Thursday morning. While there’s nary a snowflake in several of the leading best picture candidates — “Argo,” “Beasts of the Southern Wild,” “Silver Linings Playbook,” “Zero Dark Thirty” — there are many prize-worthy films that have been released over the years about skiing and snowboarding.

We surveyed Taylor Rhoads, who listed his five favorites in his blog, at www.liftopia.com/blog/top-5-ski-flicks, and included some of his comments about each. His picks:

“All.I.Can” movie poster

1. “All.I.Can.” (2011), Sherpas Cinemas “‘All.I.Can’ has insane cinematography, a little bit of an artsy feel, and some gnarly shredding in super exotic places that you may or may not ever be able to afford to visit in real life.”

2. “Swift. Silent. Deep.” (2009), Teton Gravity Research  “These are skiers that, at the time, had not yet accepted their own mortality, which is a killer mentality to watch on screen.”

3. “The Dream Factory” (1997), Teton Gravity Research  “In typical TGR fashion, this film is all style/we’re better than you at this (real talk). We get some sweet perspective on the pioneers, as well as the new generation of free-skiers that are transforming the Alaska scene into the next decade.”

4. “Revolver” (2010), Salomon & Poor Boyz  “This film is basically the dream team of skiing on one DVD.”

5. “The Eighty Six” (2012), Stept Productions  “If you’re into urban shredding, this is your jam.”

Shopping for deals on the slopes

At Mountain High, the Express Pass opens the way to money savings on the slopes and several special features. (Mountain High photo)

By Jerry Rice

OK, everyone knows that skiing and snowboarding can be expensive – traveling to the resort, lodging, equipment rentals, lift tickets…

But there are many ways to save on costs without cutting cut corners on the fun. Some examples:

> Free rentals for first-timers, ages 8 to adult, when a beginner lesson package is purchased at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit during the month of January. It’s part of a Learn to Ski and Snowboard Month promotion in partnership with the National Ski Areas Association. Information: 909-866-5841, www.snowsummit.com

Mammoth Mountain’s January midweek pass is $249 – $50 less than last season. With regular adult lift tickets at the resort running $99 per day, the cost of the special midweek pass essentially means it more than pays for itself after three days on the slopes. Other price levels are $179 for youth, $69 for children and $199 for seniors. The pass is valid Monday-Friday through Feb. 1, but must be purchased by Monday. Information: 800-626-6684, www.mammothmountain.com

> At Mountain High, spend $10 on a rechargeable Express Pass, load it with almost any lift ticket and start saving – $10 on all flex ticket options – and enjoying other benefits. Those other benefits include guaranteed reservations in case of a sellout, a free eight-hour non-holiday ticket after every five visits, and the ability to track the number of runs you’ve completed, the total vertical feet and other individual stats. Information: 888-754-7878, www.mthigh.com 

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Snow much fun for the holidays at Mammoth Mountain

By Jerry Rice

It was a merry Christmas and it’s shaping up to be a happy new year at Mammoth Mountain, where 224 inches of snow has fallen so far this season. Should Mother Nature continue her generous ways – more white stuff is in the forecast for today and Sunday – last winter’s total of 263 inches may be eclipsed sometime in January.

That’s great news for the resort that boasts the most open terrain in the country. And it couldn’t come at a better time than now, when many skiers and snowboarders are out of school and off work for the holidays.

“It’s a big part of our business, that Christmas to New Year’s break, because we can have high visitation over a seven or eight day period, instead of seeing that high visitation just on the weekends,” said Joani Lynch, spokeswoman for the Mammoth Mountain ski resort.

With that, here’s a look at some recent action at Mammoth, set to the music of Professor Kliq’s “The Most Beautiful Day.”

Santa sightings on the slopes

By Jerry Rice

Santa Claus has a big job to do come Dec. 24, so if the Big Guy wants to have some fun before the Big Day it’s probably best to cut him some slack — otherwise you may find coal in your stocking on Christmas morning. The Jolly Old Elf has been visiting several ski resorts during the last several days …

Santa offers a helping hand to the snow-making crew at Mountain High. (Mountain High photo)

One cameraman caught him making snow at Mountain High (www.mthigh.com). The Wrightwood getaway was in big need of the white stuff, as there was none of it on the slopes as recently as Dec. 12. That was just before a storm moved through and dumped 6-12 inches of snow, and also brought with it the below-freezing temps that were desperately needed for the resort to turn on its extensive snow-making system.

Santa carves up some fresh powder at Snow Summit. (Snow Summit photo)

Elsewhere in Southern California, Santa parked his sleigh for a fun outing at Snow Summit (www.snowsummit.com), where he pulled off a maneuver that yours truly has never attempted — at least not on purpose.

At that Big Bear Lake resort, St. Nick found favorable conditions — 12-18 inches of snow, with a surface that ranged from machine groomed packed powder to hard pack — to perform all sorts of acrobatics.

We’re not sure how Santa landed a second or two after this shot on the right was taken, but we would like to see how it scored with the judges.

We recall last winter when the ski/snowboard season got off to a disappointing start at resorts throughout California. Mammoth Mountain (www.mammothmountain.com), for example, didn’t receive its first significant snowfall until late January. By then, much of the lucrative ski/snowboard season was lost.

Santa jumps for joy at Homewood Mountain Resort. (Homewood Mountain Resort photo)

This winter, thankfully, has been different. Mammoth has a base of 7.5 feet, and since early November it has received nearly 13 feet of snow — with more on the way tonight and Saturday.

Snow also is in the weekend forecast at Lake Tahoe, where Homewood Mountain Resort (www.skihomewood.com) reports as much as 45 inches of it has fallen this winter on the slopes at the higher elevations. That news apparently has Mr. Claus, at left, really excited.

We figure there will be Santas galore at Whistler Blackcomb (www.whistlerblackcomb.com) on Saturday morning. That’s when the resort will be giving a free lift ticket to the first 75 people who arrive at the Garibaldi Lift Company in full Santa or Mrs. Claus attire. They will be invited to ride up the hill at 8 a.m., then board or ski to the bottom of the Emerald Express for a group photo.

At Whistler Blackcomb, lots of Santas will be checking their lists while riding the lifts. (Whistler Blackcomb photo)

It’s an annual tradition at the Canadian resort. A cameraman for the local Pique Newsmagazine captured last year’s festivities, and some of the highlights were edited into a cute 48-second YouTube video. It shows a sea of red suits and bushy white beards moving down the mountain, some more gracefully than others.

With that, we offer Santa this important reminder: There are only three more skiing/snowboarding days left until Christmas.