It’s still summer, but at Mammoth Mountain it’s already snowing!

The slopes received a nice dusting overnight at Mammoth Mountain. (Photo by Peter Morning)

By Jerry Rice

Summer still has a few days left, but that didn’t stop Mother Nature last night from dusting the mountains at Mammoth with snow.

“The transition from Summer to Winter has begun,” said a posting this morning on the resort’s Facebook page.

Indeed it has.

This is the last weekend for summer activities at the Mammoth base area, including the Mammoth Bike Park, says a resort spokesman. Then the focus turns to the 2019-20 ski and snowboard season, which starts Saturday, Nov 9.

The resort is offering discounts on lift tickets and lodging, if purchased by Nov. 8. For information, visit www.mammothmountain.com/email-landing-winter/earlywintersavings

With lows in the 20s tonight and Friday night, there’s the potential for a little more of the white stuff, according to The Weather Channel.

(Photo by Peter Morning)

At Mammoth Mountain, skiing and snowboarding until the dog days of summer

(Photo by Peter Morning/MMSA)

By Jerry Rice

And the snow keeps coming.

The slopes at Mammoth Mountain have received 29 inches of snow since the first of the month — and, remember, this is the merry, merry month of May, not December, January or February.

The total is a May record for the resort, breaking the previous mark by an inch set in 2015. And with even more snow predicted for Sunday, look for even more records.

Mammoth Mountain announced the record-breaking month this morning in a tweet:

All that snow adds up to even more skiing and snowboarding before the extended winter season is done. Previously, it was announced that Mammoth Mountain would be open until at least the Fourth of July. Now it appears the resort will be open into August.

The season’s snow total is approaching 500 inches — and 715 inches at the summit.

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

Ski Utah: Brighton and Solitude are two Wasatch wonders

Solitude Mountain Resort features more than 1,200 acres of skiing and riding, with about half divided between beginner and intermediate terrain, and the other half advanced. (Photo courtesy Solitude Mountain Resort)

By Bob Goligoski

God blessed Utah with two remarkable side-by-side canyons — Little Cottonwood and Big Cottonwood.

Little Cottonwood Canyon is better known as it is the home of Alta and Snowbird. But any skier or snowboarder who ventures into the Salt Lake City area really has to visit Brighton and Solitude — two resort gems up near the top of Big Cottonwood canyon.

Smaller in stature than Alta and Snowbird, Brighton and Solitude share the same Wasatch mountain terrain and are hit with the same light powder storms that regularly dump about 500 inches of fluff every winter. It has been a sensational snow season. By mid-February, Solitude already had racked up 342 inches.

Brighton, with 1,875 feet of vertical, has 66 runs, five terrain parks and four high-speed quad chairlifts. Solitude has 79 runs, three bowls and eight chairlifts spread across 2,047 feet of vertical.

From the top of the lifts at both resorts, there are many avenues to the bottom ranging from double diamond to mellow intermediate runs. We found the grooming impeccable at both resorts.

Half the runs at Solitude are rated novice or intermediate. But the place has plenty of chutes and other gnarly terrain for the skilled skier or rider. With injuries and age behind me, my days of skiing off-piste are over. So I rely on one reviewer who noted after a day at Solitude that “this is some of the most impressive off-piste terrain in the country.”

For a very scenic jaunt, you can ski or ride from the slopes of Solitude down into the terrain at Brighton. Look for the Solbright run off the Summit Express lift at Solitude.

At Brighton Resort, 100 percent of its terrain is accessible by high-speed quads. (Photo by Jovvany Villalobos, Courtesy Brighton Resort)

Skiers discovered Brighton in the 1930s. Some ski clubs and individuals started cobbling together surface lifts. There was no owner. But gradually the place found some investors who turned the place into a ski resort.

Solitude was founded in 1957 by uranium miner Robert Barrett. As the yarn goes, he decided to build his own ski resort after he was denied use of the restrooms at Alta which concluded he was not an official guest there.

Each resort has charms and selling points. You can ski under the stars at Brighton six nights a week until 9 p.m. And if you are 10 and younger, two of you can ski and ride free when accompanied by one adult.

Solitude has a nordic center and 20 kilometers of cross-country trail. If you would rather snowshoe, the resort has a 10-kilometer network of snowshoe trails.

Brighton attracts some of the best terrain park amateur artists that I have ever seen. Ride the Majestic chairlift and you have a front row seat to the show-off performers who fly over the berms with an array of mind-blowing tricks.

Over at Solitude, one pleasure stop to catch your breath between runs is the Himalayan Hut in the Roundhouse. Sit back on the sun-splashed deck and enjoy some curry fries, saag paneer and a brew.

Solitude has quite an attractive base village with lodging at the 46-room Inn at Solitude and an array of shops, condos, bars and cafes. There are 10 places to dine on the peak and in the village.

Frequent guests at Brighton camp out in the rustic 20-unit Brighton Lodge by the lifts. The hot tub always fills up by 4.

Most visitors elect to bed down in Salt Lake City, which is usually a 40-50 minute drive to the two resorts. We rode the UTA bus (www.skicity.com) which has some nice connections — and good price deals — between the city and Brighton, Solitude, Alta and Snowbird.

Speaking of prices, there are several reduced price options online for lift tickets.

If you are an adult and just walk up mid-week, the ticket is $109 at Solitude and $89 at Brighton.

Information

Brighton Resort: www.brightonresort.com

Solitude Mountain Resort: solitudemountain.com

Alta and Snowbird – Utah neighbors share a bounty of exquisite powder

Alta Ski Area receives more snow than nearly any other mountain resort in Utah — 540-plus inches on average every year. (Photo by Amy David/Courtesy Alta Ski Area)

By Bob Goligoski

Alta and Snowbird sit side-by-side about 45 minutes outside Salt Lake City in one of the snowiest places in the country. That would be Little Cottonwood Canyon where some 550 inches of light, low-moisture powder drifts down virtually every winter.

These two have been elevated by skiers into a Ski Resorts Hall of Fame. Alta opened in 1938 and Snowbird in 1971.

Way back when, this was mining country. I did not see many vestiges of the mines when I visited the two resorts in late January. But the canyon still sticks to its traditional values which I guess is why snowboarders are banned from the Alta slopes.

Snowbird is big, full of powder-happy bowls, cliff jumps and daring terrain. Some 168 runs cascade down from the 11,000-foot summit of Hidden Peak. Eleven speedy lifts, including the 125-passenger tram to the top, keep snowboarders and skiers on the slopes.

Snowbird also has the longest ski tunnel in the country which skiers and riders glide through on their way to Mineral Basin.

Alta boasts 116 runs and a bevy of quick lifts. It has more of an intimate feel than Snowbird and has more terrain for novices and intermediates. The slopes are tighter and have more trees that makes for better visibility on flat light days.

If you go, plan on lunch at the Summit at the top of the Snowbird tram. The place is full of healthy organic dishes based on French rotisserie traditions. The menu includes gluten-free pizza.

I like groomed single black diamonds and there are few better than Regulator Johnson off the top. Or take the slower, winding Chip’s run which spirals down for 2.5 miles. The best intermediate slopes are in Gad Valley.

For those who search for impeccably groomed intermediate runs, Alta has many choices. Two of the best were Rock ‘N Roll and Rollercoaster.

The two resorts are widely known for some of the lightest powder in the West. The weather Gods dump the higher moisture snow around the West Coast and by the time the storms hit Utah, the powder is insanely fluffy.

Snowbird has a variety of terrain so all skill levels can enjoy time on the slopes. (Photo courtesy Snowbird)

Utah is having a great snow year. In early February, Alta and Snowbird were already approaching nearly 400 inches of snow. But all that snow can come with a price. In mid-January, an avalanche shut down the road to the two resorts for nearly 24 hours.

Andria Huskinson, public relations manager at Alta, told me that thanks to the superb snow and other factors, business was up 30 percent so far over the previous season.

Both resorts typically have an extended late season. Alta usually gets about seven feet of snow in April.

Snowbird has several high-rise hotels at the base. Alta has a number of more traditional sleeping spots including Alta Lodge, Snowpine and Rustler Lodge. Expect to really lighten your wallet if you sleep at the resorts.

We opted to check in to a hotel in Salt Lake City. That was after we perused the Ski City website — www.skicity.com — for info on bus connections.

It really worked out. For $400, our Ski City pass entitled us to ski four resorts in Little and Big Cottonwood canyons and the pass was good for bus transportation to and from the resorts.

Take some time to explore the historical facets of the two resorts. At one time, Alta boasted 18,000 residents, making it the largest city in Utah. Now the year-round population has dwindled to about 400.

Information

Alta: www.alta.com

Snowbird: www.snowbird.com

Mammoth Mountain: Super snowfall slams Sierra Nevada resort

Windshield wipers give away the location of several vehicles buried under the snow. (Photo courtesy Peter Morning/MMSA)

By Jerry Rice

While Super Bowl LIII may not have been all that super, “super” is the perfect word to describe the amount of snow that has dropped on Mammoth Mountain and neighboring June Mountain since Saturday.

More than 10 feet of fresh powder has pounded the resorts in that time, and there’s more on the way. Here are four highlights:

  • Main Lodge at Mammoth Mountain is closed due to blizzard conditions, as is the road to Main Lodge
  • June Mountain remains entirely closed, with crews working to reopen the resort
  • R3 chain controls (all vehicles must have chains, no exceptions) are in place in the town of Mammoth Lakes
  • At last report, the base depth at Mammoth’s McCoy Station is 165 inches, and there’s 195 inches at the summit.

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

Check out this video, courtesy Peter Morning and the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area:

For California’s mountain resorts, the holiday season was a hit

Coming off a successful year-end holiday season, the neighboring resorts of Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows recently reported more than 130 inches of snowfall this season. (Photo courtesy Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows)

By Bob Goligoski

Skiers and snowboarders enjoyed spectacular conditions in the Sierras over the Christmas-New Year’s holiday period as the resorts had one of their best holiday spans over the last five years.

And when conditions are right, the resorts can get about one-fourth of their annual seasonal revenue over the holidays. This can translate down the road into to major improvements including new lifts and runs.

The 2017 holiday season “was challenging for some resorts,” says Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association. “But this season, we had some good snow storms right before Christmas and everyone walked away with a smile from the holidays — and that included guests and resort owners.”

Alex Spychalsky, spokeswoman for Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, said, “The weather was good and that kept the snow in good condition. There were only a few brief periods of strong winds.”

Skiers and riders were delighted to find key runs at both resorts — slopes usually not open until January for lack of snow — open at Christmas. Those runs included Granite Chief at Squaw and Sherwood and Lakeview at Alpine.

While spokesmen for the Sierra resorts we contacted could not be specific about how good business really was, they did acknowledge that there were no sell-out days.

In Southern California, Mountain High experienced a 48 percent increase in business over the 2017 holiday period, according to a report in The Snow Industry Letter. President/CEO Karl Kapuscinski noted that “the major trend was that all first-time beginner programs were selling out daily — over 70 percent of that group was non-Caucasian, with the majority being Asian.”

Up north in Oregon, Mt. Bachelor had its second busiest holiday period since 2003. Visits were up 28 percent over the same period the year before.

Mike Pierce, marketing director at Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, said that the holiday season at the Nevada resort was one of the top five of the last five years. The only downer over the holidays was a burst of strong east winds that prevented the resort from shooting off its annual New Year’s fireworks celebration.

At Diamond Peak, “We got a foot of snow Christmas Eve and that brought the crowds out,” said Jaclyn Ream, marketing coordinator. “The crowds were large but we had all the runs open. The parking lot was full.”

Stephanie Myers, communications manager at Northstar, said, “We had a white Christmas and we were in full operation. December 26 was a ‘bluebird’ day. And the village was very festive with all the holiday activities.”

Tahoe Donner, at the top of Donner Pass, is quite exposed to the weather. But, according to marketing chief Derek Moore, there “were no noticeable impacts to either resort (alpine and nordic) as a result of road closures or high winds.”

The resort’s new Snowbird chairlift moved the skiers and riders along quickly, he added. And with all the fresh snow, Tahoe Donner was able to open about 50 kilometers of nordic terrain.

Mammoth Mountain opens 2019 with snow, snow and more snow

Mammoth Mountain received a nice amount of snow overnight both Saturday and Sunday. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

By Jerry Rice

Looking for fresh powder for skiing and snowboarding? Mammoth Mountain has it. Lots of it.

The resort received 4.5 feet of new snow at the summit and 3 feet at Main Lodge thanks to a productive storm that passed through the Sierra Nevadas over the weekend.

And that’s only part of the story.

Weather.com predicts Mammoth Mountain will receive snow or snow showers during six of the next 10 days — certainly adding to the resort’s 60- to 80-inch base.

“Crews are working diligently to safely open terrain, but it will take some time with that amount of snow,” says spokesman Tim Lyman. “Check the Mammoth Mountain website for real time terrain updates.”

It’s a winter wonderland of white on the streets in Mammoth. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Roads are being cleared of snow. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Workers are busy shoveling snow at the lodge near the Broadway Express chairlift. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

A Mammoth Mountain marker rises above the snow — but not by much. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Skiing in the Sierras starts with the help of new snow-making systems

Electric power needed to run the lifts at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows now comes from 100 percent renewable sources under a deal with Liberty Utilities. (Photo courtesy Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows)

By Bob Goligoski

This year’s Sierra ski season started with the whimper, not a bang. A couple of the usual early starters — Boreal and Mt. Rose — opened with minimal novice-type terrain on man-made snow in late October.

Snow-making systems cranked up big time in mid-November as temperatures dropped. Northstar, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Soda Springs, Mammoth and others opened then with limited terrain. Finally, forecasters said the first storms will arrive in late November.

Mother Nature is fickle. Ski resort owners know that. So they bought even more snow-making equipment for this season to keep things white.

Sugar Bowl was the big spender, investing $3 million in a planned $8 million expansion of its snowmaking network. More than 100 new snow guns were installed along with 17 tower-mounted fan guns.

Mt. Rose in Nevada added a bevy of snow guns as part of a $2 million outlay in new mountain projects for this season. The man-made snow systems are now reaching into the Subway terrain area at Alpine Meadows. Boreal opened a new snow-making system near its bunny terrain.

“There is no doubt that the ski resorts are less dependent now on natural snow then they were five or 10 years ago,” said Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association. “So much snow-making has been added in recent years.”

The new Snowbird fixed-grip triple chairlift, which replaces a ride up the mountain installed in 1971, improves access to the beginner terrain at Tahoe Donner. It’s one of several improvements debuting at the resort this winter. (Photo courtesy Tahoe Donner Association)

New lifts, terrain parks

Skiers and riders will find a few new lifts and terrain parks in the Sierra this season. Tahoe Donner erected a new triple chair called Snowbird, which replaces an old chair that opened in 1971.

Boreal built a new lift dubbed the California Cruiser. It’s for novice skiers and riders and is designed to help them progress into more difficult terrain. Diamond Peak carved out a new terrain park on its lower mountain which visitors can access by taking the Red Fox lift.

Family friendly tubing comes to the Overlook above the village at Northstar. This new experience will debut Dec. 21 and will be open days and most evenings.

Heavenly took over management of nearby Lakeland Village, a townhouse style resort, to give guests a lake-side home while they ski. The resort also will start hauling visitors around the upper reaches of the peaks in utility task vehicles — a sort of plush scenic tour.

Mammoth Mountain has introduced a couple back-country programs which will allow the adventuresome to explore new terrain with instructors and guides.

This season, all the electric power needed at Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will come from renewable sources under a deal worked out with Liberty Utilities.

Some $1.4 million was spent at Alpine Meadows for extensive base area renovations. The base lodge will have a new look and several features including a self-serve barista bar and a bigger Last Chair bar.

Passes and prices

Liesl Hepburn, public relations director at Squaw/Alpine, noted that this will be the first full-season for the new Ikon Pass at the two resorts. It’s a season pass that allows skiers and riders to visit the two resorts and also provides access to 34 other resorts around the world.

“Because of the new pass, we expect to see new skiers and riders here who have never visited before,” she said.

Can skiers and riders, without season passes, expect to pay more at Sierra resorts this season? There is no clear answer as the answer differs from resort to resort depending on pricing policies.

A number of resorts, including Squaw/Alpine, use a dynamic pricing model which means that pricing varies with demand and other factors.

“The earlier you buy online, the greater your chances are of getting the lowest prices,” Hepburn said.

A dining tip for peak lovers: Probably the tastiest chow I have had in the Sierra is at the Smokehouse BBQ at the top of Sierra-at-Tahoe. It just had a major face-lift which now gives diners sweeping views of Lake Tahoe and the Desolation Wilderness.

Some lower elevation resorts in the Sierra, such as Homewood and Dodge Ridge, may be opening a little later this year. Dodge has set its opening for Dec. 22.

Spring skiing is in mid-winter form thanks to ‘March madness’ snowstorms

The summit at Sugar Bowl is sporting a base depth of 100 inches, made possible by more than 300 inches of snowfall this winter. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

The spring ski season is on big time in the Sierra.

Thanks to a “March madness” of epic storms, several ski resorts have extended their closing dates. And those that typically shut down Memorial Day or later – Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Mammoth Mountain – will be open at least until the late May holiday, weather and snow conditions permitting.

Heavenly is set to close a week later than usual – April 22. Mt. Rose also will stay open later – until April 29 – marking yet another six-month season at the Lake Tahoe resort. Homewood has pushed out its shut down date to April 15.

Other resorts are undecided on a closing day, so check with them before you head up the mountain.

Most Sierra resorts enjoyed a March miracle when 18 to 20 feet of snow blanketed the slopes.

Liesl Hepburn, spokeswoman at Squaw and Alpine, recalled a major dump around March 1 that brought seven feet of snow and a mid-March storm hit with another five feet of white gold.

Sugar Bowl, where nearly 100 runs were still open earlier this week, is another resort continuing to benefit from the late winter/early spring snowfall.

Mike Pierce, director of marketing at Mt. Rose, stressed that “we had an excellent season despite the general vibe that Tahoe had a lean snow start. With a high base elevation and extensive snowmaking, Mt. Rose opened on Oct 27. We also experienced a 40-inch (snow) storm in November when others received rain.”

Kevin Cooper, a senior communications official for Heavenly and Kirkwood, said March had some huge crowds because of all the pent-up demand. There was mostly clear driving on mountain highways which helped resorts attract thousand of skiers and riders during peak holiday periods.

“Our snowmaking systems were absolutely critical this season,” said Hepburn. “While we shut them down earlier in March when ‘Miracle March’ started rearing its head, our snowmaking and grooming teams truly carried the weight for much of the season. We got a lot of comments from guests who noticed the day-to-day additions that our snowmakers were able to make.”

Thea Hardy, communications manager at Sierra-at-Tahoe, added that “we do not yet have a projected closing date. Traditionally, we close in mid/late April. Closing date depends on the longevity of the current snowpack as well as temperatures and changing conditions.”

Northstar, which also benefited from a large snowmaking system, will close April 15.

Many resorts typically have enough snow to stay open longer than they do each season. But when the warm days of spring arrive, many skiers and riders turn their attention to golf, tennis and other pursuits, making it tough for resorts to attract enough guests to turn a profit.

Some of the smaller Sierra resorts, such as Dodge Ridge and China Peak, had a rough time financially this season. Andy Wirth, president and CEO of Squaw Valley Ski Holdings, was quoted in the Wall Street Journal in mid-March stating that Squaw and Alpine revenues were down about 20 percent from a year ago.

Mt. Rose noted that its revenues and crowds for the season were up about four percent from the previous season.

The Nevada resort is wasting no time planning for next season, announcing that the 2018-19 ski and snowboard season will start on Oct. 26, 2018.

Mammoth Mountain + more March snow means skiing until Memorial Day

Workers shovel the snow off the roof of the Mammoth Mountain Community Foundation. (Photo by Kevin Westenbarger/Courtesy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

By Jerry Rice

Thanks to another a huge storm that dumped 5 feet of new snow (and counting) in the last 24 hours, it was announced this morning that Mammoth Mountain will be open for skiing and snowboarding through at least Memorial Day.

With 132-plus inches of snowfall since March 1, this month has been by far the best of current winter season. January brought 36 inches of fresh powder.

The latest snowfall brings the season total to 238 inches at Main Lodge; there’s a 140-base at McCoy Station and 175 inches at the summit. The weekend forecast calls for highs in the low 20s on Saturday and Sunday — winterlike conditions a few days into spring.

Mammoth Mountain is closed today due to the heavy snowfall, and is expected to open Friday at 8:30 a.m.

Information: www.mammothmountain.com