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

(Mammoth Mountain Ski Area photo)

Mammoth Mountain has received more than 75 inches of natural snow this winter, as of Jan. 15. When conditions have allowed, the resort has added to that total with machine-made snow. (Mammoth Mountain Ski Area photo)

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

What’s new at Mammoth Mountain: While there were no major capital projects to introduce this winter, the resort is part of the new Cali4nia Pass, which also includes June, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Also, four acres of bowls, berms, banks and bumps await all skill levels at Mammoth’s Rhythm Ridge. This winter’s expansion of direct air service from Las Vegas and Denver is making it easier for skiers and boarders from the East Coast and overseas to get to the resort. (The United Kingdom has long been a big market for Mammoth.) Flights to and from Denver started Dec. 20, while service to and from Las Vegas started Jan. 15. Also new: a promotion for kids 12 and younger who will get to ski and stay free in February and March.

Best eats: The Brasserie at Mammoth Rock ’n’ Bowl (www.mammothrocknbowl.com) has a menu that was created by executive chef Fredric Pierrel, who was classically trained in Gerardmer, France, and graduated with honors from Lycee Hotelier et Culinairer. Selections include braised Australian lamb shank, elk medallions and natural pork mignon — certainly not your traditional bowling alley fare. For pre- or post-dinner entertainment, there are 12 bowling lanes, ping-pong tables, foosball, dartboards, golf simulators and a bar/lounge with a dance floor.

Après hot spot: Mammoth Tavern (www.mammothtavern.com). “They serve up the freshest cocktails in the coolest rustic alpine space with fun, creative dishes like the swordfish BLT and fried chicken sliders,” says Lauren Burke, Mammoth spokeswoman, adding that the Tavern Margarita is a must-try. “I’m claiming it as the best in town,” she adds. Another option is the Mammoth Brewing Company tasting room (www.mammothbrewingco.com), which is located at Main Street and Lake Mary Road just below the gondola, and has 13 beers on tap, including Imperial Root Beer.

For the family: Woolly’s Tube Park has high-speed snow tubes, a large snow play area and merry-go-round tubes for the littlest ones. There will be tubing under the disco lights on select dates in January and February.

Hidden gem: Coyote, between chairs 3 and 5. “People know about it, but it’s not intuitive how to get to it,” says Rusty Gregory, Mammoth’s chairman and CEO. “You ski down the face of Chair 3 and make a right and kind of go past some trees and then you’re in this great run that drops you to the bottom of Chair 5. That’s my favorite getaway spot at Mammoth.”

Spotted last season: Jonas Brothers, Gavin Rossdale and his family, Adam Sandler, Seal, Gwen Stefani, Harry Styles from One Direction, Ashley Tisdale

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

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

— Jerry Rice

#Winter2014: Skiing, snowboarding at Homewood Mountain Resort

Homewood Mountain Resort has 64 runs and spectacular views of the Lake Tahoe basin from each one of them. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Resort)

Homewood Mountain Resort has 64 runs and spectacular views of the Lake Tahoe basin from each one of them. (Photo courtesy Homewood Mountain Resort)

Continuing our look back at the winter that was, it’s time to visit Homewood Mountain Resort near the west shore of Lake Tahoe.

Season start/finish: Dec. 11, 2013, through March 23, 2014. The opening date was typical of past seasons, and the closing date was two to three weeks than was planned.

Snowfall: Well short of the typical 450 inches per season, although figures were not provided. Snowmaking made up some of the difference.

Season highlight: A series of big winter storms arrived just before the President’s Day holiday weekend and the mid-winter break for many schools in Northern California. “The conditions were the best they had been all season during what is typically a very busy weekend/week for us,” said Paul Raymore, resort spokesman. “At that point, every skier and snowboarder in Northern California had been ‘jonesing’ for fresh powder for months, so it was fantastic to be able to finally offer some when many had time off work or school.”

Comment:The lack of our typical abundance of natural snow in Tahoe certainly made the 2013-14 ski season a challenging one; however, that’s not to say it wasn’t a fun year,” Raymore said. “Savvy Lake Tahoe skiers and snowboarders, who knew where to look to find the best conditions, were still able to find great snow at the smaller resorts such as Homewood, where the lack of crowds really helped to preserve the snow on the mountains.”

Looking ahead: Homewood has major changes planned for the 2015-16 ski season, with a wholesale redevelopment of the resort scheduled to begin in summer 2015. Improvements will include a new high-speed gondola taking skiers to mid-mountain, a new 5-star hotel at the base of the mountain, new skier services buildings and amenities, as well as construction of a number of residences at both of the base areas. Information about the Homewood Master Plan is at www.SkiHomewood.com/MasterPlan

#Winter2014 recap: Skiing, snowboarding at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit

OK, we know that winter 2014 was a bummer of a snow season, but we’re going to take a look back anyway with dispatches from many of California’s ski and snowboard resorts – starting today with Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

Season start/finish: Bear Mountain, Nov. 27-March 30; Snow Summit, Dec. 6-March 17.

Snowfall: 20-30 inches at each resort; the season average is 75 to 100 inches.

Comment: Despite a shorter season and lack of natural snowfall, we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish for the 2013-14 season at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “Each year we strive to provide the very best conditions, and this year was no different. Thanks to our advanced snowmaking system and our dedicated park crew, we were able to offer some of the greatest skiing and snowboarding in California – especially earlier in the season. We were able to successfully keep open the vast majority of our runs, with some of the very best conditions in the state. It was a great achievement for us.”

Looking ahead: Big Bear Mountain Resorts will be reducing the price of all passes for the 2014-15 winter season, with savings up to $110 from last winter’s rates. Dual-mountain pass holders will have unlimited access to 26 lifts, 438 developed acres and more than 55 runs.

Media: Here are video highlights from the slopes at each resort. First, Bear Mountain. >>>

Now it’s Snow Summit’s turn. >>>

Park City Adventures: Main Street offers many interesting sights

By Correspondent Marlene Greer

Take a stroll down Park City’s historic Main Street and you can’t miss Loosey the Moose all dressed up in her finest, the intriguing wind sculptures, the wonderful Park City Museum, and the chairlift where you can take a ride up to Park City Mountain Resort.

The Park City Museum is housed in the former city hall and territorial jail built in 1885. It tells the story of the city’s silver mining heritage and its transition to a ski resort.

Visitors can climb into an old mining cage and feel what it was like to be transported miles underground and explore the life of a miner. The many exhibits, historical artifacts, interactive displays and running documentaries will keep you busy for a good hour or two.

One fascinating tidbit was how two miners started the area’s first ski resort. But to get to the hill, skiers had to ride a mining car three miles underground, then step into a mining cage to ascend 1,800 feet to the surface. The trip took an hour.

It was snowing the day we wandered around town, so we couldn’t take in more than a quick glimpse of the many sculptures and outdoor artworks along Main Street.

We spotted the well-dressed and primped Loosey, a bear on a bench in case a visitor wanted to snuggle for a photo and a very realistic looking Native-American ready to let fly with an arrow.

There were also many intricately patterned metal windmills, the work of world-renown artist Lyman Whitaker, who for 30 years has been “gracefully capturing the spirit of the wind through his kinetic art.”

There are a dozen or more art galleries along Main Street, showcasing a variety of work from local and nationally known artists. Several have an emphasis on Western art and feature painted and sculpted bison, horses and bears, and canvases of pastures, wranglers and beautiful alpine autumns.

But there are also the wild and wacky, the delicate glassworks and the Hollywood icons.

Park City Adventure: History lines the ski runs on Park City Mountain

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

We often stopped to read the signs about the historic mining buildings lining some of the ski runs at Park City Mountain resort.

Visitors can take a free guided historic mountain tour and learn the history behind Park City. Tour guides provide a wealth of knowledge, as well as fun stories of how the runs got their names and behind-the-scenes vignettes from the 2002 Olympics.

Here are some fun facts you’ll learn:

• $450 million in silver was mined at Park City Mountain from 1,200 miles of tunnels.

• Park City’s silver mines produced 25 millionaires.

The tour is offered 10 a.m. daily at the Eagle Statue in the plaza or at the Summit Demo Center at 1:30 p.m.

A light snow started in the morning and would continue off and on for the rest of the day. Not a heavy Sierra snow, but the fine, dry snow that Utah is famous for. Its flakes were just big enough to sting your face if you took off your face mask.

Shooting by a terrain park we saw several boarders trying their luck on the jumps. Park City has three parks, including Eagle superpipe and Merrill minipipe.

Late in the day, we caught some high winds at the summit, but it was fine once you skied down into the valleys. It turned out to be another great day in our Park City adventure.

Park City Adventure: Park City Mountain offers 3,300 acres of skiing

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin

Park City Mountain offers 3,300 acres of skiing. There are also nine, count them nine, bowls with 750 acres. That’s a lot of territory to cover, and coverage was excellent when we arrived in February.

We decided to warm up on Homerun, which turns out to be the longest trail, measuring 3 1/2 miles. Quite the warm-up.

Park City actually has 114 trails, with more than half listed as intermediate, while 31 percent are advanced.

The snow was a fine powder as we schussed under cloudy skies. At times, a pale white sun would barely pierce the cloudy veil, lending a cold, bleak light. But the skiing was hot.

As in our visits to other Park City ski resorts that week, there were hardly any lift lines. Park City has a total of 16 lifts, including four high speed six-packs and three high speed quads.

The mountain boasts a total uphill capacity of 31,000 skiers an hour, which would be tested on President’s Day that weekend with every hotel room booked solid.

But we beat the rush and could ski as much as we wanted. We were often alone on our own section of the mountain.

Park City Adventure: Park City Mountain celebrating 50 years

By Staff Writer Richard Irwin 

It’s not often that a chairlift will drop you off in the middle of town. But then, Park City, Utah, is a special place, where skiers take their sport very seriously.

So we laughed as we watched skiers and snowboarders jump on the town lift to take them up the hill to the huge Park City Mountain Resort. Must be nice to catch a few runs after school, which more than a few students looked like they were doing. Skiers originally traveled underground through a mine shaft to a hoist, where they were lifted 1,400 feet to the mountain. Now you can just jump on the city chairlift.

We had a little bit of everything at the ski resort, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Wind, snow, fog — but we still had a great time exploring this Utah ski resort nestled up against the city with the same name.

We met up with our group at the Eagle Statue in the lovely resort plaza at the base of the mountain. It looks great with shops, restaurants and services on the first floor and lodging on several floors above.

Disabled youth, adults learn to ski at Pico Mountain in Vermont

Vasu & MGreer at PicoBy Marlene Greer

Vasu Sojitra sped down the hill with abandon. He skied backward with ease. He maneuvered through the trees and even managed a helicopter turn or two.

The teenager, pictured above with the author, learned to ski on his one leg nine years ago through Vermont Adaptive Ski & Sports. He skis on one fat ski using specialized poles with skids. And as happens with most people who learn to ski when they are young, Vasu seems fearless.

We took a day off from skiing Killington and headed over to nearby Pico Mountain, a 10-minute shuttle ride from the Killington Grand Hotel. There we met Vasu, an intern for Vermont Adaptive.

Vermont Adaptive has its headquarters in the newly completed Andrea Mead Lawrence Lodge at Pico. Its programs serve nearly 1,300 children, youth and adults with disabilities. Vasu is one of 400 interns and volunteers who assist in teaching those with disabilities how to ski using specialized equipment. He’s also one of the program’s many successes. Keeping up with him was a challenge.

Pico is a much smaller mountain than Killington – only 468 skiable acres with 57 trails and seven lifts. But its abundance of intermediate terrain, short gladed trails, and wide, green groomers make it a great place for a day of casual skiing and an ideal hill for Vermont Adaptive students to experience the thrills of skiing.

But there was nothing casual about skiing with Vasu. He joined us in an afternoon exploration of the mountain and tore down everything he encountered. A couple of times we took the easy route and met up with him at the bottom of the hill.

We asked the New England native what he loved most about the sport.

“Backcountry skiing,” he said without hesitation. “It’s the best.” This brought up another question of how he manages the uphill in the backcountry. He explained how he attaches small snowshoes to the feet of his poles, giving him the ability to walk in the snow.

It seems nothing will keep a skier from doing what he loves.

Canyons Resort is great for intermediate and advanced skiers in Park City, Utah

By Correspondent Marlene Greer

The Canyons is immense and glorious for intermediate and advanced skiers, with so much variety of terrain to choose from, it’s not to be done in one day. At least not for me and my group of nine.

But there’s not much at Canyons for beginners. Just 10 percent of the trails are marked green, and those trails cover little of the ski area’s vast territory.

The Canyons, one of the three major ski resorts in Park City, Utah, is four miles from downtown Park City and 32 miles from the Salt Lake City Airport. Several shuttle services offer transportation from the airport to the resort and to Park City for a reasonable price. Free public buses from Park City run all day between Park City and Canyons.

If you like to ski groomers and opt to try Canyons on your own without a guide, pick up the daily grooming report at the base lodge. It’s invaluable.

Great guide leads us to best spots in Canyons Resort in Park City, Utah

Our mountain guide gave us great tips to ski better. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Our mountain guide gave us great tips to ski better. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Correspondent Marlene Greer

When I’m not familiar with a ski area and I’m by myself, I like to sign up for a guided mountain tour. Canyons offers one daily at 10:30 a.m.

For me, a guided tour is a good way to get around and get to know the mountain without landing on a mogul minefield or finding myself looking over an abyss, thinking, “What am I doing here?”

Mountain guides know which runs are groomed and which runs are suitable that particular day for their group. I find the tours enjoyable and informative. Plus, I get to meet people from all over the world.

Our group of nine was a joyful band of good skiers who wanted to take it easy. No big bowls, no trees and definitely no moguls. Just nice, easy cruisers with good pitch and maybe some powder on the side.

We were a group of West Coasters — California, Oregon and Washington. Seems we were all fleeing the dry conditions in the West for the more favorable Utah snow.

Fortunately, we were graced with a fresh dusting of it — 6 inches of snow fell the day and night before, leaving a blush of powder over hard-packed groomed.

We wanted to see as much of the area as possible — boundary to boundary, as one skier in our group put it. A hardy task given the ski resort covers nine peaks and five bowls with 4,000 skiable acres and counts itself among the largest ski areas in the nation.

Roger Seaborn, our affable Australian tour guide, however, was unflappable. He took our request seriously. This was no tour for slackers.

With 182 trails to choose from, we got busy. With Roger leading the way, we managed to find one or two of the best blues, groomed double blues, and a bit of powder off each lift, skiing nearly end to end and top to bottom throughout the resort.

For those in the group who wanted a challenge here and there, Roger would stop on a run and point out another way down and we would all meet up at the bottom.

One place we skipped was the double-black terrain off the resort’s notorious Ninety-Nine 90 Express (so called because it rises to the resort’s highest elevation at 9,990 feet). This is expert-only terrain. Roger told us a couple of out-of-bounds skiers had triggered an avalanche on a bowl just outside the resort’s boundary only two days before.

Roger is also a certified instructor. Though it wasn’t part of the program, he offered ski tips to anyone in the group open to suggestions and improvement, which was all of us.

“Marlene, it’s your turn. Get in behind me,” he called out just as we were making our way off the Orange Bubble Express and down yet another nice groomer. “I want you to follow my tracks.”

Easier requested then accomplished. Roger was trying to get me to work on more rounded — and more graceful — turns. Others in the group he instructed to bend more at the knees, roll the ankles and lean more forward. I think the instructor in him just couldn’t help himself.

If he saw one of us doing something, he first asked permission in a nice way if you minded a little instruction — then proceeded to offer his advice, which we greatly appreciated.