Spring conditions combine with specials at Bear Mountain, Snow Summit

Despite the warm temperatures this winter, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have been taking advantage of snow-making capabilities to improve conditions on the slopes. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Despite the warm temperatures this winter, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have been taking advantage of snow-making capabilities to improve conditions on the slopes. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

It may have been a warm winter, but Big Bear Mountain Resorts does have plenty of snow and more than 85 percent of both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are open.

“We have up to three feet of snow at both resorts and we continue to make snow at every opportunity,” said Chris Riddle, Big Bear Mountain Resorts spokesman. “We’re excited to have such great spring skiing conditions right now. We’re featuring some of the best deals of the season to get skiers and boarders up the mountain to experience it for themselves.”

Skiers and snowboarders can take advantage of some serious deals before hitting the slopes for some early spring skiing, including:

Plenty of snow Sundays
Skiers and boarders can enjoy a Sunday fun day at BBMR with mid-week priced lift tickets every Sunday. That’s a full day adult lift ticket for $60, young adults (13-21) and seniors (62+) for $50 and children for $25. Restrictions may apply.

Calling all season pass holders
Season pass holders from any other resort – from Mammoth to Squaw Valley to Mountain High – can head to Big Bear and receive half off their BBMR lift ticket. Restrictions may apply.

Bring a friend for half price
BBMR season pass holders can now bring a buddy for half price. Pass holders can bring their season pass and a lucky friend to the Guest Services office at either Snow Summit or Bear Mountain to score 50 percent off a buddy lift ticket for that day.

Half-off blacked out passes
On any day that a BBMR season pass is blacked out and not valid for use, pass holders can now take it to the Guest Services office at Snow Summit or Bear Mountain and receive 50 percent off a lift ticket for the day.

On all of the above offers, see the resort’s discounts and specials page for additional info.

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

Two for one lift tickets on Valentine’s Day in Wrightwood

Spend a picture perfect day on the slopes then top it off with a romantic, mountaintop dinner. Mountain High is offering couples two adult 8-Hour tickets for the price of one this Valentine’s Day, Feb. 14.

Guests save $59. Tickets must be pre-purchased at https://shop.mthigh.com/p-115-valentine-special-2-for-1.aspx and are valid Feb. 14 only. No refunds.

Following your day, enjoy a four-course meal at the Bullwheel Grill for $50 per couple. Dinners include champagne, appetizers, desert and choice of four entrees.

A complimentary scenic sky chair ride is also available so couples can enjoy the lights overlooking the city. Limited reservations are being taken from 4:30 to 9:30 p.m. so call (760) 316-7818 to book your Valentines Day package early.

Mountain High reports best ski conditions in months

Cool, crisp air makes it feel like winter again in the mountains. And temperatures in the teens have allowed resorts like Mountain High to make snow, adding to its base and open new terrain.

For advanced skiers and snowboarders, Calamity has reopened offering a challenging thrill. And Conquest lift and trail opens this weekend providing more intermediate terrain.

Mountain High now has a 12- to 16-inch base with mid-winter surface conditions that range from packed powder to hard packed snow. Lesson and rental packages are available for ages 4 and older; night skiing takes place Thursday through Sunday from 5-10 p.m.

“The conditions are the best they’ve been in months and there is more snow in the forecast,” said John McColly, resort spokesman.

Several inches of new snow are expected Friday and Mountain High will continue to make snow whenever possible to ensure consistent conditions on all open trails. The Wrightwood resort has been making snow for the past five nights and will continue to do so as long as conditions permit.

Here’s what it looks like on the slopes at Mountain High. >>>

Mountain High celebrates Chinese New Year with $36 lift ticket.

Mountain High is celebrating the Year of the Horse with discount lift tickets through Feb. 14. Any guest who pre-purchases their tickets at https://shop.mthigh.com/p-114-chinese-new-year.aspx will receive an adult, 8-hour lift ticket for $36.

There’s a limit of one ticket per guest. This offer is not valid in conjunction with any other discount or promotion. Tickets must be used by Feb. 14 and refunds are not available.

“I’m thrilled Mountain High is celebrating the new year like this. Come ring in the Year of the Horse with me at Mountain High,” said snowboard instructor Xiaoyan Cindy Li.

Most of the West Resort is open with terrain for every age and ability. The base lodge offers sport shops, rentals, restaurants and lesson.

Information: http://www.mthigh.com

Mountain High lowers ticket price for SoCal residents

Mountain High is offering big savings on lift tickets for Southern California residents.

For a limited time, adult 8-hour tickets start at $36 each day when guests purchase them online at least five days before visiting the Wrightwood resort. Only 50 tickets are available each weekday at that rate; 25 on weekends.

While there are no refunds, the price is a healthy discount off the $69 regular price.

“$36 for an adult 8-hour ticket is unheard of,” says John McColly, resort spokesman.

Information: www.mthigh.com

70 is the magic number at Southern California ski resorts

By Art Bentley

Old age, it is said, is not for wimps. But it could be just the lift ticket for those who would like to ski or ride a snowboard without charge.

To do that in Southern California, all you have to do is live for 70 years and be able to prove it. Once you’ve met those two simple requirements, just stride, stroll, lurch or hobble to the ticket windows at Mountain High near Wrightwood or the guest services office at Snow Valley near Running Springs, display a valid driver’s license, pay a nominal one-time processing fee, pose for a photograph and you’re the owner of a season pass that’s good any time.

Mountain High charges $10 and Snow Valley $20. If you’d rather not pay at the latter, Snow Valley will give you a day ticket whenever you show up with valid identification. The double sawbuck, however, provides the advantage of being able to head directly to the lifts upon arrival.

“We feel these people 70 and over have been supporting the industry most of their lives,” Snow Valley marketing director Chris Toth said. “We want to recognize that and have them come up and ski our mountain. And they might bring the rest of their family and spend some money. That doesn’t hurt.”

Mountain High and Snow Valley, like just about any resort in western North America, could use more snow. Open runs are limited at both resorts. At Mountain High, the east side is shuttered, pending the arrival of natural snow or a cold snap of sufficient strength and length to permit the manufacture of enough of the white stuff to ski on. Slide Peak, beyond the reach of the Snow Valley snow guns, also is idle.

John McColly, chief marketing officer at Mountain High, also doesn’t feel the resort is hurting itself financially by giving away the product to senior skiers and snowboarders.

“For us, it’s a way to give back,” he said. “Not a lot of our guests are over 70, so it’s not a big financial liability and people over 70 really enjoy it. We like to see them up there.”
Continue reading

Technology helps Mt. Baldy ski area to combat water evaporation

Ron Ellingson, president of Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts Inc., holds one of the hollow plastic conservation balls produced by Glendora-based manufacturer XavierC LLC.

Ron Ellingson, president of Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts Inc., holds one of the hollow plastic conservation balls produced by Glendora-based manufacturer XavierC LLC.

By Sandra Emerson

Ron Ellingson will be watching the Mt. Baldy reservoir closely this ski season.

The 10-million-gallon reservoir is used to make snow during the ski season and like any body of water, succumbs to evaporation, but for Ellingson, president of Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts Inc., the evaporation means higher costs and less snow for skiers.

So, to keep costs down and provide more snow to visitors, Ellingson contracted with Glendora-based manufacturer XavierC LLC, to install hollow plastic conservation balls to reduce the evaporation.

“It really helps if we have a good ski season,” Ellingson said. “We depend on man-made snow right now, unless Mother Nature helps with a big storm.”

The company started delivering the balls in November, but due to the change in season, the rest will be delivered in the spring.

The balls are 4 inches in diameter and float along the top of the reservoir to reduce evaporation by up to 90 percent.

As the water level rises and lowers, the balls adjust by piling on top of each other or by spreading out across the surface. Water is pumped to the large reservoir from a smaller million-gallon reservoir that is filled from natural underground wells.

The use of the balls could save Ellingson about $10,000 a month in pumping costs and boost the production of the man-made snow they depend on for their ski runs.

“If we don’t have a full reservoir at the beginning of the year, we can’t cover all the runs and makes it so the skiing isn’t as good as it would be if we have them all covered,” Ellingson said.

The owner of XavierC LLC, Sydney Chase, approached Ellingson at the Mt. Baldy Lodge, which he owns, about the product. Chase has been visiting Mt. Baldy for 10 years and saw the need for her product.

“I knew it could help him and he really agreed, so we ended up getting as many (plastic conservation balls) as we could on before the big freeze and we will finish up in early spring,” Chase said. “He will be saving great amount of money by May, April of next year.”

The company has contracted with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power to install $7 million to $8 million balls on its reservoirs.

“We’ve been approached by municipalities, water districts, we’ve been approached by several different ski resorts waiting and watching to see how Ron’s goes,” Chase said.

Snow Summit, Bear Mountain light up for New Year’s Eve

(Snow Summit photo)

The slopes at Snow Summit are all aglow for part of the resort’s New Year’s Eve celebration. (Snow Summit photo)

Ringing in the new will be an enlightening experience at Snow Summit, where the annual New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade begins at 7 p.m. The parade is free and open to all ages for viewing.

It begins when more than 200 employees descend the mountain on skis and snowboards, each caring a torchlight. This amazing display illuminates the night sky and gives the mountain an astounding glow. After the parade, onlookers are encouraged to join Big Bear Mountain Resorts to help ring in the new year. Guests will have two parties to choose from, one at Snow Summit and one at Bear Mountain.

“The Snow Summit Torchlight Parade is an incredible New Year’s Eve tradition,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “With two great parties this year following the parade, there’s no better place to spend New Year’s Eve than here at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.”

At Snow Summit, guests can enjoy live music from DJ Slip Matt from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the Slopeside Pub and can dance the night away with DJ Desi at the Bullwheel Bar. At Bear Mountain, partygoers can ring in the new year at The Scene Bar with live music by Club George. Both parties begin at 9 p.m. and end at 1 a.m., and will have specialty drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and a New Year’s Eve countdown.

The New Year’s Eve parties at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain are 21 and older only. Tickets are $25 for each party, and can be purchased at the door.

Information: www.snowsummit.com

Mammoth Mountain: The resort that Dave built celebrates a milestone

While no longer under the leadership of its founder,
the Eastern Sierra getaway is still going strong at 60

Mammoth Mountain’s original warming hut, which opened in 1953, was nicknamed “The Pit.” In part of the design, Dave McCoy incorporated a downward-pointing arrow, using black rocks from Westgard Pass, to show skiers that this was the place to be, according to the book “Tracks of Passion” by Robin Morning. (Photo courtesy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Then: Mammoth Mountain’s original warming hut, which opened in 1953, was nicknamed “The Pit.” In part of the design, Dave McCoy incorporated a downward-pointing arrow, using black rocks from Westgard Pass, to show skiers that this was the place to be, according to the book “Tracks of Passion” by Robin Morning. (Photos courtesy Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

By Jerry Rice

Mammoth Mountain.

The name says everything a skier or snowboarder needs to know about a resort with some of the country’s most desirable terrain, spread across 3,500 acres and reaching an elevation of 11,053 feet.

But for many veterans of this place, it’s more affectionately known as “Dave’s Mountain.” That’s in deference to Dave McCoy, the legendary founder of the ski area that this winter is celebrating its 60th anniversary.

Dave McCoy, founder of the Mammoth Mountain ski resort, on the slopes likely in the 1980s.

Dave McCoy, founder of the Mammoth Mountain ski resort, on the slopes likely in the 1980s.

McCoy, who was born in 1915 in El Segundo, has been in the area since 1935 when the freshly minted high school grad landed in the nearby hamlet of Independence. He started earning money as a soda jerk — the same job he was working when he met his future wife, Roma Carriere — and saved up to buy his first Harley-Davidson.

In 1937, McCoy wanted to set up a rope tow on McGee Mountain, just off Highway 395 south of Mammoth. He used his motorcycle as collateral for an $85 loan to get parts for the device, which was powered by the motor from a Ford Model A truck. Eager skiers paid 50 cents to be pulled up the hill, and a business was born.

Soon, McCoy found work as a hydrographer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, sometimes in the winter skiing 50 miles a day to measure snow depths so officials could predict how much water would be available in the spring and summer.

“I enjoyed being outdoors all the time,” said the 98-year-old in a recent phone interview. “You enjoy life a lot more if you’re doing what you want to do.”

When the Forest Service sought bids to build a full-fledged resort in the area, McCoy used his knowledge of snowfall and snowpack trends and picked what he thought would be a prime location. In 1953, he was awarded a permanent permit to operate Mammoth Mountain. He built a warming hut that summer, and by November, shortly after the birth of their sixth child, McCoy told Roma he was quitting his job to put all of his energies into building the ski area.

Much of McCoy’s story — which is intertwined with that of the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area and the town of Mammoth Lakes — is documented in “Tracks of Passion,” written by local historian Robin Morning. In snippets of text and lots of vintage photos and illustrations, it captures the challenges McCoy et al. needed to overcome to turn a stunning mountain in a remote area into what has become a world-class destination.

More recently, that transformation included the 2003 opening of a four-story, pedestrian-oriented shopping and condominium complex, the Village at Mammoth, and then McCoy’s decision in 2005 to sell his controlling interest in the company to Starwood Capital Group for $365 million — one of the highest prices ever paid for a ski resort at that time.

Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge today offers all of the amenities that skiers and snowboarders have come to expect – apparel and gift shops, equipment rentals and demos, restaurants and other diversions. (Photo by Peter Morning)

Now: Mammoth Mountain’s Main Lodge today offers all of the amenities that skiers and snowboarders have come to expect – apparel and gift shops, equipment rentals and demos, restaurants and other diversions. (Photo by Peter Morning)

What makes Mammoth such a special place? Ask McCoy, and his answer is simple and direct: “The snow and the mountain.”

For many, if not most, of the 1.3 million skiers and snowboarders who frequent the resort every winter, that truly is the long and short of it.

Others may point to the fact that Mammoth Lakes is essentially a 4.5-square-mile island in the middle of hundreds of thousands of acres of undeveloped public lands. That’s a big part of the appeal for Jack Copeland, president of the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce.

“There’s no urban or suburban sprawl here,” he said. “We don’t have a cute little 19th century mining town because the ones we did have burned down in the 19th century. What we have now is close proximity to unspoiled wilderness and fabulous weather — great for summer and for winter.”

It likely will remain that way since much of the region is national forests, national parks and property overseen by the Bureau of Land Management. The DWP also is a huge player, after it bought up nearly all of the land in the Owens Basin and the accompanying water rights that stretch essentially to the foot of Mammoth Mountain.

So, in effect, one outcome of the California water wars of the early 1900s is that the region around Mammoth Lakes will never get built up like many other winter destination communities, such as the ones along Interstate 70 in Colorado or those in the vicinity of Park City, Utah.

That, Copeland adds, is a good thing.

“I know a lot of people who like Park City, but the main attraction at a lot of those other big resorts is not about skiing, it’s about retail, frankly,” he said. “We really specialize in outdoor wilderness and mountain experiences. That’s who Mammoth is for — people who want to be close to the mountains and either actively participate in recreational activities or want to relax and enjoy the view.”

It’s the same outdoors, and the same mountain, that Dave McCoy embraced all those years ago.

>>>>>

5 RESORTS: NEW ON THE SLOPES

Ski and snowboard resorts invested big during the off-season. Here are highlights from five California locations. For information about resorts throughout the state, visit www.dailynews.com/travel and www.insidesocal.com/snow.

Bear Mountain
43101 Goldmine Drive, Big Bear Lake
909-866-5766, www.bearmountain.com
• What’s new: For snowboarders, the Red Bull Plaza has been revamped and now includes a city-inspired parking structure, billboard wall ride, Dumpsters, close-out rails and a multi-use object called the City Center.
• Social connections: @Bear_Mountain, www.facebook.com/BearMtn

Mountain High
24510 Highway 2, Wrightwood
888-754-7878, www.mthigh.com
 What’s new: A Rossignol Experience Center, expanded Children’s Sports Center and new snow cats and terrain features are among the more than $1 million in improvements. The current snow-making system is 30 percent more efficient than it was a decade ago, allowing the resort to make more snow than ever using fewer resources.
• Social connections: @mthigh, www.facebook.com/mthigh

Snow Summit
880 Summit Blvd., Big Bear Lake
909-866-5766, www.snowsummit.com
• What’s new: Big Bear Mountain Resorts, which owns this property and Bear Mountain, has invested more than $12 million to improve snow-making capabilities at both resorts in the past few years.
• Social connections: @Snow_Summit, www.facebook.com/SnowSmt

June Mountain
3819 Highway 158, June Lake
888-586-3686, www.junemountain.com
• What’s new: The resort returns after a one-winter hiatus with on-mountain experiences suited for all levels, especially families and entry-level skiers and snowboarders. The Mammoth Mountain MVP season pass also includes free access to the slopes at June.
• Social connections: @JuneMountain, www.facebook.com/JuneMountain

Mammoth Mountain
10001 Minaret Road, Mammoth Lakes
800-626-6684, www.mammothmountain.com
• What’s new: The 60th anniversary season brings with it many improvements, including a $700,000 renovation of the Mammoth Mountain Inn and the debut of the Underground Lounge nightclub with space for live music. Kids are sure to enjoy the upgrades to the Unbound Playgrounds and Adventure Zones, part of which will have a Sesame Street West theme. Top skiers and snowboarders will come to town for pre-Olympic training at Mammoth before heading off to Sochi for the Winter Games. The Sprint U.S. Snowboarding Grand Prix, Jan 18-19, will conclude with the announcement of the 2014 Olympic Snowboarding Team for halfpipe and the new Olympic event of slopestyle.
• Social connections: @MammothMountain  www.facebook.com/MammothMountain,
www.youtube.com/user/MammothMTNOfficial