Sierra ski resorts mix snow with turkey for Thanksgiving weekend

Sugar Bowl Resort, which has already received more than 6 feet of snow, opened Friday with top-to-bottom skiing and riding. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

Sugar Bowl Resort, which already has received more than 5 feet of snow, opened Friday with top-to-bottom skiing and riding. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

By Bob Goligoski

It took a last-minute flurry of minor snow bursts but many of the Sierra ski resorts got their big wish – a Thanksgiving weekend opening. And with long-range forecasts promising off-and-on snow for December, along with temperatures dropping enough to make snow, it looks like the resorts will enjoy a white Christmas.

Mt. Rose and Boreal actually opened a little earlier in mid-November. But turkey weekend was the season debut at Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Sugar Bowl, Northstar, Alpine Meadows and Kirkwood. As usual, Mammoth opened in early November.

Initially, skiers and riders will not find all of their favorite lifts and runs open on their first visit. But more terrain and lifts will be opening all the time so be sure to check with your target resort as to how much of the mountain is open.

Some resorts were luckier than others. Sugar Bowl, perched at the top of Donner Pass, opened with top-to-bottom skiing and riding. Mt. Rose, with the Tahoe region’s highest base elevation at 8,260 feet, had numerous runs open early.

Some later season openings include Homewood on Dec. 9, June Mountain on Dec. 10 and Diamond Peak on Dec. 15.

Thanks to the long drought the Sierra experienced in recent years, many resorts expanded snow-making networks. Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, now under the same ownership, spent $8 million on snow-making equipment over the last six years and then paid out another million to beef up snow-making even more for this season.

Sam Kieckhefer, a spokesman for the two resorts, explained that “snowmaking can occur once air temperatures drop below 39 degrees. However, as relative humidity increases, the ambient temperatures required to make snow decrease.”

The California Ski Industry Association noted that “history suggests a snowy winter ahead. For example, when the Lake Tahoe region receives more than 8 inches of rain in October, the region has above-average snowfall more than 75 percent of the time. More than 19 inches of rain fell on Tahoe in October.”

It’s been a blockbuster ski, snowboard season for Sierra resorts

Abundant snowfall this winter at Mt. Rose resulted in lots of scenes like this, which was taken on Jan. 15. The resort reported one of its best winters for skier visits in several years. (Photo by Billy Jesberg for Mt. Rose)

Abundant snowfall this winter at Mt. Rose resulted in lots of scenes like this, which was taken on Jan. 15. The resort reported a record year for visitors. (Photo by Billy Jesberg for Mt. Rose)

Bob Goligoski

Frequent snowfalls, early and late snow, well-timed storms, few highway shutdowns and pent-up demand from skiers and snowboarders added up to a blockbuster season for Sierra resorts in California and Nevada.

“We had a fantastic winter,” said Ashley Quadros, marketing content coordinator at Tahoe Donner. “This was the best season in history for both our cross country and alpine areas. Mother Nature was very good to us.”

Most Sierra resorts do not reveal visitor numbers but the California Ski Industry Association predicts that this season will far surpass the long-term average of 6.5 million visits a year at the Sierra resorts.

Association president Michael Reitzell said that the number so far this season is well past the 4.6 million visits recorded last year.

“With a number of resorts open into May, we have a chance at a record year,” he said.

The old record was set during the 2004-05 season when about 8.5 million visits were recorded by the resorts.

“We had great snow all over California,” Reitzell added. “From Shasta and Dodge Ridge to China Peak, Mammoth and the Tahoe resorts, it was a phenomenal season.”

Most of the resorts are closing around mid-April, but Mammoth, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Mt. Rose will be open into May.

“Mammoth hasn’t closed before Memorial Day in 28 years and that streak won’t end this year,” said Tim LeRoy, a resort spokesman. “With a healthy base of 200 inches (at the summit), Mammoth will remain open through at least Memorial Day and likely later. In years with similar snowfall totals, Mammoth has remained open all the way to July 4.”

I was at Northstar in March and noticed that the coverage was amazing. By that time, it had snowed more than 400 inches; as of earlier today, the total exceeded 455 inches.

Communications manager Marcie Bradley noted that “with all this snow, we are having a great season.”

So many riders and skiers had come to Mt. Rose by early April, officials there said that the resort had broken its visitor records.

“We are still enjoying mid-winter conditions on the mountain,” said Mike Pierce, Mt. Rose director of marketing. “The skiing and riding is so great, we’ve decided to extend the season into May (closing May 8), pushing the ski season to over six months and making this the longest season in Mt. Rose’s history.”

Similar comments came from Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, now under the same ownership.

“We will be Tahoe’s longest-running resort this season,” said Liesl Kenney, public relations manager for the two resorts. “And with Squaw’s High Camp hot tub and parties across the mountain, the spring skiing capital will be in full swing. With the closing date scheduled for May 30, conditions permitting, this will be the longest season we have had in the last 10 years.”

While much improved compared with recent years, Sierra resorts did not enjoy a huge snow season. Totals were pretty much close to what was average before 2010, when a multi-year span of skimpy snow seasons started.

Kevin Cooper, senior communications manager for Heavenly and Kirkwood, explained that snow fell in perfect increments, arriving at a rate of 4 to 9 inches at a time. No storm dropped several feet at once, shutting everything down.

“At Tahoe, we had the best snow in the country this season,” he added. “On Christmas Day, we had 24 inches of powder. A lot of people did not get up to the mountains in the last two or three years, so many people were quite excited to get out and ski or snowboard again.”

Sugar Bowl Resort presented a scenic winterscape in mid-January. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

Sugar Bowl Resort offered a scenic winterscape in mid-January. (Photo courtesy Sugar Bowl Resort)

Kevin Mitchell, general manager at Homewood, said that “the snow continued to pile up all season long and gave us the ability to launch new initiatives including our snow-cat skiing operation and on-mountain drone photography program.”

Peter Avedschmidt, the marketing and sales manager at Sugar Bowl, said that the resort, which is high atop the Donner Pass, “had more powder days than we have had in years. We had high skier counts and this was our best season in the last five years or so.”

The resort caught some of the state’s best snow this winter. As of April 1, some 547 inches had fallen, exceeding the annual average of 500 inches.

Paul Raymore, marketing manager at Diamond Peak, said there is “actually a chance that we’ll break our all-time record of 163,000 skier visits by the time the resort closes.”

Marc Gendron, a spokesman for Bear Valley, noted that “it is the timing of snowfall that is most important, and this season could not have been better. We hit every holiday and most weekends perfectly.”

It was difficult to determine if this winter’s profitable season will result in capital improvements this summer. Most resorts reported that any plans about more lifts or runs had not been finalized.

One spokesperson noted that a big source of spending at many resorts is making snow, but thanks to the generosity of Mother Nature, snow-making equipment was silent much of the season, which added to the bottom line at many resorts.

Snow alert! Mammoth Mountain is pounded with nearly 5 feet of powder

Must be time to reflect on a tremendous run down the slopes with all that fresh powder. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Must be time to reflect on a tremendous run down the slopes with all that fresh snow. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Spring skiing in March? Not at Mammoth Mountain, where winter is in full force after a weekend storm dropped 56 inches of snow – and there’s more on the way.

Forecasters at Weather.com are predicting several more inches of the white stuff today and tonight, with a chance for even more snow starting this Sunday.

Mother Nature has been nice this winter to Mammoth, where the latest snow brings the season total to 307 inches. The base depth at Main Lodge is 110 inches and a whopping 165 inches at the summit.

Photographer Peter Morning spent yesterday in the midst of the snowfall and came back with several great shots. Enjoy!

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Lots more where those came from at www.mammothmountain.com

#WinterIsHere, so Mammoth Mountain opens early

Mother Nature gave Mammoth Mountain a a beautiful 12- to 30-inch base for the winter season, which opens at the resort on Thursday. (Mammoth Mountain Ski Area photo)

Mother Nature gave Mammoth Mountain a beautiful 12- to 30-inch base to start the winter season, which opens at the resort on Thursday. (Mammoth Mountain Ski Area photo)

By Jerry Rice

For skiers and snowboarders eager to get back on the slopes, the wait will be over in a few hours.

Mammoth Mountain, which received up to 30 inches of fresh powder from the first major snowstorm of the season, will be opening Thursday — a week earlier than planned. Which means the #WinterIsComing hashtag can now be replaced by #WinterIsHere.

“Opening day is always a blast, add in a couple feet of powder and you’ve got the recipe for a great opening,” said Lauren Burke, resort spokeswoman.

Broadway Express (Chair 1), Facelift Express (Chair 3) and Discovery (Chair 11) will be spinning with access to Saddle Bowl, Broadway, Andy’s Double Gold and Sesame Street. Lift tickets for opening day are $50, and first chair is at 8:30 a.m.

With conditions taking shape that forecasters predict will lead to a lot of precipitation, this could be the winter skiers and snowboarders have been dreaming about for years.

“We’re expecting a great winter in Mammoth with the strong El Nino, but for the snow to come this early and this heavy is a huge bonus.”

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

Mammoth Mountain countdown: 100 days to skiing and snowboarding

First day of school? First day of the NFL season? For skiers and boarders, nothing beats the first day of the winter season — and at Mammoth Mountain it's only 100 days away. The resort opens Nov. 11. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

First day of school? No way. Start of the NFL season? Nope. For skiers and boarders, not much tops the first day of the winter season — and at Mammoth Mountain it’s about 100 days away. The resort’s lifts are scheduled to start spinning on Nov. 11. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

By Jerry Rice

While thermometers flirt with triple digits in much of Inland Southern California, we have our eyes on the century mark for another reason: On Monday, it will be 100 days until the Nov. 11 start of the winter season at Mammoth Mountain.

And thanks to the strong El Nino weather pattern developing in the Pacific Ocean, climate scientists are saying that more than normal rain and snow could be on the way, giving skiers and snowboarders a reason to get excited. During the two biggest El Ninos on record — in 1982-83 and 1997-98 — Mammoth received 546 and 451 inches of snow, respectively, according to the website mammothsnowman.com.

Last winter, with California in the fourth year of drought, a relatively paltry 238 inches of the white stuff fell at Mammoth.

“As El Nino continues doing its thing, there’s plenty to look forward to,” says resort spokesman Tim LeRoy, pointing to the season ahead.

For one, the resort has a lift and lodging package starting at $99 per person per night. The deal must be booked by Aug. 31 to lock in what LeRoy says will be “the steepest savings offered all year.”

Let the countdown begin!

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

Fresh pow means Memorial Day skiing, snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain

(Mammoth Mountain photo)

Mammoth Mountain has received at least 5 inches of new snow in the past 24 hours, giving the ski season a welcome lift three weeks after the start of spring. (Mammoth Mountain photo)

Skiing and snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain on Memorial Day? It’s on. Biking and golfing too.

The latest round of May storms dumped at least 5 inches of fresh snow on the slopes at the Eastern Sierra resort, meaning the lifts will continue spinning at least through May 25, according to spokesman Tim LeRoy.

Mammoth also will be offering a Ski/Bike/Golf package – a rare triathlon – during the holiday weekend. A lift ticket, bike park ticket and nine holes of golf cost $99.

Information: 800-626-6684, www.mammothmountain.com

Mammoth completes buy of Big Bear ski resorts

Rusty Gregory signing agreement.

Rusty Gregory signing agreement.

Mammoth Resorts has completed the acquisition of Big Bear Mountain Resorts as first outlined in September, becoming the leading four-season mountain operator in California.

Mammoth Resorts now includes Mammoth Mountain, Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, and ​June Mountain, which collectively host two million annual skier and snowboarder visits.

Uniting these four resorts under one umbrella paved the way for the Cali4nia Pass, providing skiers and riders with access to 200+ named runs on approximately 4,000 acres of terrain, serviced by 54 lifts.

Beyond the winter season, with the addition Mammoth Resorts will now operate two of the top mountain bike parks in North America ​along with numerous lodging properties, multiple golf courses and other guest attractions.

“This is more than a merger of ski resorts, we’re creating greater access to year-round mountain experiences with a distinctly southern California feel,” said Mammoth CEO Rusty Gregory. “At Big Bear Mountain Resorts our goal is to provide the best first-time ski, snowboard and mountain bike experience in the country.”

Seasoned resort executive Dave Likins has been named Chief Operating Officer of Big Bear Mountain Resorts with long-term CEO Dick Kun stepping back from day-to-day operations.

“The sale of Big Bear Mountain Resorts to Mammoth Resorts is a win-win for shareholders, suppliers, local businesses, the Big Bear economy, and most importantly, Southern California’s skiers and snowboarders,” said Dick Kun. “I am both humbled and proud to have been able to help lead the way in making the sale happen as the culmination to my life’s work.”

About Mammoth Resorts Mammoth Resorts is the leading four-season mountain resort operator in California. The company owns and operates a variety of recreation, hospitality, real estate development, food and beverage and retail enterprises.

This includes Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain and June Mountain, which collectively host two million annual skier/snowboarder visits.

Mammoth Resorts is also the owner-operator of Tamarack Lodge and Resort, Mammoth Mountain Inn, Juniper Springs Resort, the Village Lodge, Mammoth Mountain Bike Park, Snow Summit Bike Park, Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures, Sierra Star Golf Course, and Bear Mountain Golf Course.

For more information visit MammothMountain.com or www.bigbearmountainresorts.com.

Mammoth Mountain weekend: Snow, sun then more snow

While it was snowy much of the weekend at Mammoth Mountain, the skies cleared on Saturday for a few hours of spectacular bluebird conditions. (Photo by Peter Morning/MMSA)

While it was snowy much of the weekend at Mammoth Mountain, the skies cleared on Saturday for a few hours of spectacular bluebird conditions. (Photo by Peter Morning/MMSA)

Winter’s not finished yet – certainly not at Mammoth Mountain, where 16 inches of new snow fell during the past 72 hours.

“After a slow start, winter has come roaring back to the Eastern Sierra,” says Tim LeRoy, resort spokesman.

The fresh powder gives skiers and snowboarders a base depth of 32 inches at McCoy Station and 48 inches at the summit.

Even today, the white stuff continues to fall at Mammoth. The forecast calls for another inch of snow by 6:30 p.m. with nighttime temps dipping into the mid-teens.

Information: www.mammothmountain.com

Ezakimak promises to be one crazy 5k under a pink moon

EZAKIMAK 11,053′ FULL MOON CHALLENGE

Date / Time
Apr 04 / 4:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Location
Category
Winter Events, Family Fun, Entertainment, Cross Country Ski, Après
Challenge yourself.  Race from the base of Mammoth Mountain to the top of Eleven53 on cross country skis, snowshoes or by foot.  The Ezakimak will bring participants from 9,000ft to 11,053ft in a winter trial featuring both competitive and novice classes.

Spectators and family can take an evening gondola ride to witness the spring Pink Moon from atop the Sierra and cheer on their participant.  The top of the mountain will be buzzing with indoor/outdoor fun for the whole family including the Ezakimak finish line, music, food and drinks, kids activities and more.

5K | 2,000ft of Elevation Gain

Dates: Saturday, April 4, 2015
Time: 4pm-10pm 

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About Ezakimak

Ezakimak is Kamikaze spelled backwards.  Our legendary Kamikaze mountain bike trail spans from Mammoth Mountain’s peak, weaving through the “backside” of the mountain and finishing at our Main Lodge.  We’re bringing summer fun to the snow with a backwards race, we’re sending you uphill.  Participants can cross country ski, snowshoe or run their way up the Kamikaze trail under the light of a spring full moon.

Event Registration

11,053 Ezakimak Ski/Run/Show Challenge | $40*

Entry fee includes race, finishers beer, bag check at registration, gondola ride down

after race, food & water stations, on-course DJ’s and bag check delivery to the top.
Race classes:
–Open Run (Male/Female)
–Open Ski (Male/Female)
–Open Snowshoe (Male/Female)
–Novice Run
–Novice Ski
–Novice Snowshoe

Register Today on Active.com

Event Schedule**

  • 4pm-6:30pm – On-site registration and bib pick up in the Main Lodge Ticket Office
  • 5-6:30pm – Ezakimak Practice on Lower Minaret Mile (Chair 11)
  • 6:30pm – Panorama Gondola Opens and Activities Begin at Eleven53
  • 7pm – Ezakimak Challenge Starts at Broadway Express (waves)
  • 8:20pm – Ezakimak Awards at Eleven53
  • 9:45 pm – Activities at Eleven53 close
  • 10pm – Panorama Gondola closes

– See more at: http://www.mammothmountain.com/winter/events/event-detail?url=11-053-ezakimak-ski-run-show-challenge-mammoth-pink-moon#sthash.A3dIIiAt.dpuf

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.