Mammoth Mountain, Lake Tahoe have more of what is wanted: fresh snow

Mammoth Mountain will have 100 percent of its terrain available for skiing and snowboarding this weekend. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Mammoth Mountain will have 100 percent of its terrain available for skiing and snowboarding this weekend. (Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

By Jerry Rice

The calendar says “April,” but it’s looking a lot more like winter – finally – at Mammoth Mountain and resorts in the Lake Tahoe area.

Mammoth received 18 inches of fresh powder this week and more than 36 inches since March 26. At Lake Tahoe, Squaw Valley’s seven-day snow total is 47 inches, and at Northstar California, about six miles north of of the lake, the resort welcomed 34 inches of new snow during the last several days – just in time for this weekend’s Spring It On! festival and pond skim contest.

“We’ve received so much fresh snow just before some of our most anticipated spring events, which means phenomenal skiing and riding and added excitement to this weekend’s festivities,” said Bill Rock, senior vice president and chief operating officer at Northstar.

Back at Mammoth, the new snow means a special on-mountain experience.

“Lift lines are typical for this time of the year, and skiers are able to spread out due to 100 percent of the terrain being open,” said Tim LeRoy, resort spokesman.

For more information, visit…
www.mammothmountain.com
www.northstarcalifornia.com
http://squaw.com

Dropping in for a Sochi to California comparison on vertical descents

Sochi Downhill

We’ve been watching a lot of NBC’s Winter Olympics coverage – speed skating, slopestyle skiing, halfpipe, hockey – and have been wrapped up in much of it.

A few minutes ago, @NBCOlympics posted on Twitter the image above with course info on the downhill portion of the men’s super combined. The vertical drop of 3,205 feet caught our attention, and we thought it would be worth checking http://mountainvertical.com to see how the mountains near Sochi compare with the ski resorts in California. Here’s what we found:

Mammoth: 2,885
Heavenly: 2,735
Squaw Valley: 2,389
June Mountain: 2,420
Northstar-at-Tahoe: 2,276
Diamond Peak: 1,741
Bear Mountain: 1,665
Mt. Rose: 1,635
Homewood: 1,625
Kirkwood: 1,622
Sierra-at-Tahoe: 1,590
Mountain High: 1,588
Alpine Meadows: 1,555

The best U.S. match to the 3,205 vertical descent of the mountain where the Olympics competition is happening now is the Lake Placid/Whiteface Mountain Ski Resort – the area where the 1932 Winter Olympics took place.

– Jerry Rice

‘Amazing’ ski, snowboard conditions at Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood

Northstar has some of its best conditions of the winter for skiing and snowboarding. Spectacular views of Lake Tahoe are available year-round. (Northstar photo)

Northstar has some of its best conditions of the winter for skiing and snowboarding. Spectacular views of Lake Tahoe are available year-round. (Northstar photo)

Heavenly Mountain Resort, Northstar California and Kirkwood Mountain Resort have received 5 to 8 feet of snow during the most recent winter storm at Lake Tahoe – which adds to a two-week accumulation total of more than 10 feet.

“With such powerful recent storms, the ski conditions at Kirkwood, Heavenly, and Northstar are amazing, and guests on both sides of Lake Tahoe are so excited for more terrain,” said Bill Rock, senior vice president and chief operating officer. “We’ve worked around the clock to offer a bounty of new terrain, and each resort plans to open some their most legendary terrain and trails for the approaching holiday weekend.”

The three resorts have a combined 173 trails via 39 lifts available for skiing and snowboarding. Newly opened signature runs – such as Wagon Wheel Bowl and Palisades at Kirkwood; Milky Way Bowl, Pinnacles and Ski Ways at Heavenly; and Challenger, Rail Splitter and Sierra Grande at Northstar – are among many trails now available to guests.

Additionally, all three resorts forecast opening some of their mountains’ most famous, iconic terrain prior to the weekend:

  • Kirkwood anticipates opening 100% of the mountain – the first Tahoe resort to do so this winter.
  • Heavenly aims to open some of its most popular terrain, including Mott Canyon and Galaxy.
  • Northstar expects to offer 100 percent of its Backside trails.

Combined, the resorts will offer more than 8,500 acres of skiable terrain starting this weekend.

Snow makers rescue big Sierra resorts as drought bakes smaller ones

Daniel Crandall monitors a fan gun snowmaking machine on the upper slopes at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. The lack of rainfall this winter has left the tourism trade in the Lake Tahoe area in shambles as ski resorts struggle to survive without snow. (Daniel Crandall monitors a fan gun snowmaking machine on the upper slopes at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 10, 2014. The lack of rainfall this winter has left the tourism trade in the Lake Tahoe area in shambles as ski resorts struggle to survive without snow. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News)

Daniel Crandall monitors a fan gun snowmaking machine on the upper slopes at Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe, Calif. on Friday, Jan. 10. The lack of rainfall this winter has left the tourism trade in the Lake Tahoe area in shambles as ski resorts struggle to survive without snow. (Gary Reyes/San Jose Mercury News)

By Lisa M. Krieger
San Jose Mercury News

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE — These are the unlikely saviors in the lofty peaks of the serene Sierra: high-tech snow machines, roaring like jets and spewing million-dollar crystals.

“If it wasn’t for snow making, we probably wouldn’t be open,” said Barrett Burghard, head snow maker at Heavenly Ski Resort, who is propping up the beleaguered mountain economy with his vast computer-driven complex of snow guns, pumps, compressors, pipes, hydrants, nozzles and miles of hoses.

Mother Nature, always fickle, has been especially cruel this drought year to the resorts and mountain communities that depend on snow for their economic survival. Instead of fluffy powder, there’s just granite, mud and manzanita.

So Burghard and other snow makers are fabricating winter where it isn’t.

As the eastern sky turns pink with dawn’s rising sun, his 165-gun system performs alchemy, mixing massive drafts of water, air and electricity to prepare 14 miles of bare ski runs for thousands of visitors. Every night, snowcat crews push piles of the precious product back up the slopes.

Innovations in technology — such as the $40,000 Super PoleCat, with a built-in automated weather station that alters man-made snow characteristics — make it possible to produce an acre of thigh-deep snow in an hour.

That’s enough to blanket a football field with snow 8 feet deep during a three-hour game.

In this dry and balmy winter, the small, historic and family-owned resorts without extensive snow making — such as Donner Ski Ranch or Dodge Ridge — haven’t opened, costing jobs and starving local businesses. The National Winter Trail Days event at Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski and Snowshoe Center was canceled.

But big corporations running Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain have made major investments in snow-making tools. Squaw Valley alone has spent $5.2 million since 2012. This month virtually all of the snow at the resorts came out of machines.

The goal is to survive not just dry years, but what could be a parched future.

“The larger resorts have the capital resources to do extensive snow making,” said Bob Roberts of the California Ski Industry Association.

At South Lake Tahoe’s Powder House, where equipment rentals have fallen from 120 to 60 a day due to lack of natural snow, technician Michael Breshears said “they have technology on their side, and Heavenly has by far the best snow making around.”

“It is the saving grace,” said skier Colleen Tanaka. Tracking California’s weather from her home in Hawaii, she says “we were a little bit bummed. It is a little disappointing. But thank goodness that Heavenly makes their own snow so we can still have a nice white winter.”

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Breckenridge gets second freeski, snowboarding Olympic qualifier event

By Jason Blevens
The Denver Post

Breckenridge is getting a second round of Olympic qualifier freeskiing and snowboarding.

The third stop of the Olympic qualifying season for slopestyle and halfpipe skiers and snowboarders — from Jan. 8-12 — is moving from California’s Northstar ski area to Breckenridge, which hosted the first stop of the season with its Dew Tour.

“We were looking forward to competing at Northstar but unfortunately Mother Nature isn’t cooperating at the moment,” said Mike Jankowski, coach of the U.S. Olympic snowboarding and freeskiing teams. “So going back to Breckenridge is really the next best thing. Their pipe and park are world class and we love competing in Breck. So it will all work out.”

Northstar ski area has a base of 18 inches, with only 213 acres of its 3,170 acres open. Breckenridge has a 32-inch base, with 1,432 acres of its 2,358 acres open. Colorado had a strong early start to the season and cold temperatures in November enabled speedy park and pipe construction. Bringing the Jan. 6-12 Grand Prix event back to Breckenridge gives Colorado its third Olympic qualifying week with the world’s top snowboarders and freeskiers competing in both slopestyle and halfpipe.

The International Ski Federation, or FIS, said in a statement that the move was based on Breckenridge’s contest-ready venue and warm weather at Northstar.

“Despite good quality snow conditions at Northstar, the region was not getting sufficiently cold temperatures for snowmaking teams to ensure the huge production of snow required for building a competition halfpipe and slopestyle venue,” read the statement.

Jason Blevins: 303-954-1374, jblevins@denverpost.com or twitter.com/jasontblevins

 

Heavenly, Northstar get the winter excitement rolling

Heavenly Mountain Resort and Northstar California, both in the Lake Tahoe area, opened Saturday with limited operations. Heavenly had been scheduled to start its winter season on Friday, but high winds prompted the resort to postpone the debut.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort is scheduled to open this morning at 9, and Mount Rose-Ski Tahoe and Squaw Valley are expecting to follow suit on Wednesday – just in time for skiers and boarders to work off those extra Thanksgiving dinner calories.

Boreal and Mammoth Mountain opened in early November, giving California’s ski and snowboard season a pre-Veterans Day launch, and Mountain High joined them on Sunday.

Back at Heavenly, here’s what it looked like on opening day. >>>

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work you’ll go – after getting the job

Resorts throughout California are ramping up for the 2013-14 snow season by hiring thousands of seasonal employees. Here’s a sampling…

Alpine Meadows, Squaw Valley: The Lake Tahoe resorts are looking to hire nearly 1,000 workers, and will host a hiring fair on Saturday, Nov. 2, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Olympic House at Squaw Valley. Interviews will be conducted for a wide range of positions including ski/snowboard school instructors, lift operations, grooming, terrain parks, culinary services, rental services, retail, security, product sales and services, and parking. Opportunities include full-time and part time positions. Skiing or snowboarding abilities are not required for all available positions. Apply online and schedule interviews prior to Nov. 2, however walk-ins will be permitted the day of the hiring fair. For information, call the resorts’ Human Resources Department at 530-452-7112 or visit www.squaw.com and www.skialpine.com.

Boreal: Meet with Boreal Mountain Resort managers in-person on Oct. 19 in the Boreal Cafe located on the second floor of the Boreal Base Lodge. Interview for one or several winter positions available for the 2013-14 ski season. The job fair will offer interviews on a first-come, first-serve basis. Apply at http://rideboreal.com/winter/jobs/benefits.

Northstar: During the 2013 winter job fair on Oct. 26, Northstar will be hiring full- and part-time and holiday/on-call positions. Information: 530-562-3510, www.northstarcalifornia.com

Sugar Bowl-Royal Gorge: The annual job fair will be Saturday, Oct. 19, in the Coldstream Room at Judah Lodge, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Positions are open in many departments, from terrain park, hotel, food and beverage, and more. Managers and supervisors conduct interviews, with many positions offered that day for exceptional candidates. Sugar Bowl employees enjoy free unrestricted season passes, discounted tickets for friends and family, 50 percent off food, discounted lessons and rentals, and more. Sugar Bowl also offers employee housing on property, as well as at Donner Summit Lodge. Information: www.sugarbowl.com

Epic adventure has a big payoff: free skiing, snowboarding for life

Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass now includes 26 mountains in four countries, and the company is calling all globetrotting, Epic Pass-holding, die-hard skiers and snowboarders for The Epic Race – a season-long competition to visit each resort this winter. The first 10 people to complete the race will receive an Epic Pass for life.

“When we launched the Epic Pass with five resorts in 2008, I said our guests wouldn’t be able to out-ski or ride this pass,” said Rob Katz chairman and chief executive officer of Vail Resorts. “Five years later, after adding three more countries and 21 additional resorts, we’re throwing down the gauntlet. If you can be one of the first to ski the world, you’ll ski for life.”

Starting Nov. 1, guests can register to ski the world by visiting www.snow.com/epic-pass/info/epic-race.aspx. Each racer will need to ski or ride all 26 resorts on the Epic Pass (Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone, Arapahoe Basin and Eldora in Colorado; Canyons in Park City, Utah; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood at Lake Tahoe; Afton Alps, Minnesota; Mt. Brighton, Michigan; Verbier, Switzerland; Arlberg, Austria – St. Anton, Lech, Zürs, St. Christoph and Stuben; and Les 3 Vallées, France – Courchevel, La Tania, Méribel, Brides-les-Bains, Les Menuires, Saint Martin de Belleville, Val Thorens and Orelle). Epic Racers will be asked to document and share their experience at each resort they visit to be eligible to win.

“If there was any doubt that the Epic Pass is by far and away the snowsports industry’s best and most comprehensive pass, the experiences these contestants share should put the question to rest,” Katz said. “What other pass allows you to enjoy the steep and deep of the Sierra Nevada, the amazing powder of the Wasatch, the majesty of the Rockies, the urban hills in Michigan and Minnesota, the interconnectivity of the French Alps and the world’s largest linked ski area, the unmatched off-piste skiing and riding of the Swiss Alps, and the birthplace of modern Alpine skiing technique in the Tyrolean Alps?”

Epic Racers will be responsible for their own expenses in undertaking the Epic Race and no racer will be permitted to ski or ride more than one resort per day in the U.S. and two resorts per day in Europe to ensure they capture and enjoy the full experience of each mountain. Race winners receiving an Epic Pass for life will be able to ski or ride only the resorts operated by Vail Resorts in any given year. All rules and guidelines will be posted here on Nov. 1 and included in the registration materials provided to guests.

“The Epic Pass is more attractive than ever, not just because of the access it provides to 26 mountains in four countries, but also because of the unprecedented on-mountain improvements of $130 (million) to $140 million across our resorts for the upcoming season,” said Kirsten Lynch, executive vice president and chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts. “Not since the opening of Blue Sky Basin at Vail have we seen such a significant terrain expansion at a Colorado ski resort as with the addition of Peak 6 at Breckenridge. We’re also adding a new high-speed six-person lift in Mid-Vail to get guests into the Back Bowls faster and opening a new on-mountain restaurant at the base of Beaver Creek’s famed Birds of Prey race course. And then there’s the fourth generation of EpicMix – Epic Academy – which offers a unique way to earn and share your accomplishments in our world-class ski and ride schools.”

California Ski Industry Association reports successful season

By Bob Goligoski

Skier and snowboarder visits to Sierra winter resorts were up “substantially” during the 2012-2013 season, according to the California Ski Industry Association. The association, which represents about 30 resorts, said early and timely snow storms insured that the season would be a success.

Bob Roberts, association CEO and president, said in an interview that “we got off to a tremendous start with good snow for the Christmas season.” Then the other two big money-makers for the resorts – President’s weekend and Martin Luther King’s birthday weekend – also still had abundant snow that drew thousands of skiers and riders to the mountains.

Most of the resorts had profitable seasons, noted Roberts, and “this should result in a few more lifts and runs being developed this summer. But these likely will occur only at the major resorts.”

It was a strange season because after the splendid start, the snow gods virtually turned off the tap for the rest of the season starting in mid-January. The snowfall totals at Squaw Valley mirrored those of most resorts. Only 326 inches of snow fell at Squaw during the season compared with 355 the year before and 810 inches in 2010-11.

“Most of the resorts took a financial bath during the 2011-2012 season,” said Roberts.

During that season, skier and snowboarder visits were down about 25 per cent from the previous year as only six million visits were recorded. The exact numbers for the season just concluded have not been tabulated, but Roberts is confident they will be up “substantially” from the previous season.

One bright spot for resort owners was an increased number of Asian and Latino skiers and riders. But this was partially offset by the continuing downward trend among snowboarders as growth in that segment of the market has flattened out in recent seasons.

Vail Resorts Inc., which operates seven California and Colorado resorts including Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood, reported good growth during the past season including a 5.5 percent increase in skier-snowboarder visits and an 11 percent hike in ski school revenue.

Ski/snowboard season for Vail Resorts? In a word, ‘heavenly’

A snowboarder takes full advantage of the snow, slopes and scenery at Heavenly Mountain Resort on Christmas Eve. (Heavenly Mountain Resort photo)

Associated Press

Skier visits this season at Vail Resorts Inc.’s seven resorts in California and Colorado and have risen 5.5 percent from last season, with growth picking up through spring break and the Easter holiday, CEO Rob Katz said Monday.

Meanwhile, season-to-date lift ticket revenue, including

some season pass revenue, was up about 10 percent from the comparable period a year ago. Dining revenue was up about 13 percent, ski school revenue was up more than 11 percent, and retail and rental revenue was up almost 9 percent, the company said.

Exact revenues and skier visit numbers weren’t released. The results were for the season through April 14 and didn’t take into account the reopening of Vail and Breckenridge resorts last Friday through Sunday for one more weekend of skiing and riding after both resorts got hammered with new snow.

The results don’t include recently acquired Afton Alps in Minnesota and Mount Brighton in Michigan. Results were adjusted as if Vail Resorts had owned the newly acquired Kirkwood resort last winter too.

Katz said season pass sales for next season are off to a strong start. He didn’t release details.

Vail operates the Vail, Beaver Creek, Breckenridge and Keystone ski areas in Colorado; Heavenly, Northstar and Kirkwood in the Lake Tahoe area; Afton Alps in Minnesota; Mount Brighton in Michigan; and the Grand Teton Lodge Co. in Jackson Hole, Wyo.