Superb snow at Squaw Valley despite warm temps

By Bob Goligoski, Correspondent

I could have been playing 18 holes along the Pacific. Or biking around the bay. Or just working on a tan at the nearby beach.

But as a dedicated ski writer for 45 years, none of that would work for me. I just had to get to the Sierra to see if we still had a ski season. Recent temperatures in the 60’s on the slopes had left the perception that maybe the season was melting away in February.

It was 64 degrees on Feb 18 when I arrived in Truckee, some 10 miles from Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. But on my next day at Squaw Valley, it had probably cooled down about five degrees.

I was quite amazed at the scene at Squaw. Some 23 of the 29 lifts were operating and the snow was in superb shape.

Keeping mostly to the north-facing slopes and looking for runs where the trees protected the runs from the sun, I skied for about five hours before I noticed the first signs of soft, slushy spring-like snow. In all that time, I only scraped across one rock.

The next day at Alpine Meadows, 10 of 13 lifts were humming along but a number of runs that I favor were closed because of thin snow cover. There was plenty of skiing, some of the runs had a boiler-plate like surface while others had loose snow or were turning quite soft about noon. There were a few rocks but they were easy to avoid.

Mid-week, walk-up adult lift tickets were $119 at both resorts but Squaw was a much better buy. The two resorts are owned by the same corporation.

Melissa Matheney, public relations coordinator for the resorts, smiled as she looked at the large crowds of skiers and snowboarders. It was a semi-holiday week as there was no school for many children.

“We are still counting on more snow,” she said, “as we get about half of our annual snowfall in February and March. Business has been strong recently and the great weather here is one of our main attractions.”

Unfortunately, Squaw Valley has had to cancel a week of World Cup skicross and snowboardercross races set for March 4 – 8 because of the scarcity of snow. This was the first World Cup-level event scheduled for Squaw Valley since 1969.

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association Hole Shot NorAm and U.S. Revolution Tour skicross and snowboardcross events planned for March 9 – 13 at Squaw Valley also have been cancelled.

I asked Matheney about the rumors that Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows will be merged into one huge resort with the erection of a lift between the two resorts. She responded that talks are on-going about that possibility “and we hope to make an announcement in the future.”

Snow alert! With lots of fresh powder, Mountain High is set to reopen Tuesday

Lots of new snow fell in the past 24 hours at Mountain High, allowing the resort to reopen on Tuesday. (Mountain High photo)

Several inches of new snow fell in the past 24 hours at Mountain High, allowing the resort to reopen on Tuesday. (Mountain High photo)

Mountain High will be back in business for skiers and snowboarders starting Tuesday thanks to a healthy dose of new snow.

As many as 10 inches of fresh powder fell on Sunday and early this morning at the Wrightwood resort, which was closed for the better part of a week. The forecast was calling for another inch or two of snow today, giving way to sunny skies through at least Friday when another storm was expected to roll through.

The resort has discounted its lift tickets to $45 for adults and young riders, a $24 savings off the regular price.

Night operations on the slopes and daytime activities at the North Pole Tubing Park are being evaluated for reopening later this week, according to a resort spokesman.

“Forecasters are calling for a snowier than normal March,” said John McColly, Mountain High spokesman. “Winter isn’t over yet in Southern California.”


— Jerry Rice

Quebec’s Hotel de Glass dazzles with its fanciful frozen decor

The Hotel de Glace in Quebec features guestrooms with elaborate carved walls and a bed made of ice. Some, like this one, come with a fireplace, though it's only for looks - no heat enters the room. (Photo courtesy Hotel de Glace)

The Hotel de Glace in Quebec features guestrooms with elaborate carved walls and a bed made of ice. Some, like this one, come with a fireplace, though it’s only for looks – no heat enters the room. (Photo courtesy Hotel de Glace)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

The bed is made of ice, the walls and floor made of snow, and the ambient temperature is a brisk 24 degrees F. Sound like a place you’d like to spend the night? Surprisingly, many people do.

The Hotel de Glace (Ice Hotel), located a few miles from downtown Quebec, is an imaginative creation of snow and ice, reconstructed every winter in a matter of six or so weeks. From the grand entrance, complete with check-in counter, to the guestrooms, the walls of every room are intricately carved into masterpieces of art, and some of the beds feature massive ice canopies and elaborate headboards.

The hotel is open for overnight stays and to tourists from Jan. 5 to March 22. With 44 rooms, a vaulted hall with an amazing ice chandelier, chapel, bar, disco, and ice slide, there’s a lot to see. Visitors can walk around on their own or sign up for a tour.  We opted for the tour, which included a drink at the ice bar.

Like any hotel, the guestrooms range from the small and simple to elaborate suites with fireplaces, which are for ambience only as no heat enters the room. Most rooms come with an ice chair and ice table (can’t imagine spending much time there!) and have one to three beds. But all feature amazing sculpted decor, every one different from the last.

This year’s theme is “Space-Time,” and as visitors wander from room to room, they journey from ancient times into the future. On our tour, we saw one room depicting humankind’s space exploration with a relief of the Space Shuttle and a full-height sculpted astronaut, and another showcasing automobiles, complete with an ice car bed.

Our guide Sara explained that in the evening, the guestroom areas are closed to the public, cleaned and prepared for those staying overnight. A mattress and an isolating bed sheet are placed on the bed to keep the cold from seeping in, and each person is given an arctic sleeping bag. “We advise guests to take a warm shower before bed to increase the body temperature. This will help you stay warm throughout the night,” she said.

After visiting the entrance hall, several rooms, the chapel and disco, the tour ends at the ice bar – a popular stop apparently from the size of the crowd. Sara explained the beer, wine and alcohol are stored in refrigerators not to keep them cold but to keep them from freezing. Everything from the bar counter to the lounge chairs and tables are made of ice. Even the drinks are served in an ice glass, a bulky square block of ice with a hole in the center to hold the liquid.

The first ice hotel went up in 2001, and it’s been a popular winter attraction ever since. With the outside temperature only in the single digits, standing at a table in an ice bar enjoying a vodka and cranberry juice cocktail out of a frozen glass in an ice hotel at 24 degrees feels downright warm.

The ice bar at the Hotel de Glace. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

The ice bar at the Hotel de Glace. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Keystone to host Burton Mountain Festival Feb. 20-22

Keystone Resort will host the final stop of the 2015 Burton Mountain Festival, an on-snow community snowboarding festival for families, friends and riders of all ages to enjoy.

From Friday, Feb. 20 to Sunday, Feb. 22, the three-day event will feature free snowboard demos, contests, and après entertainment. Based in Keystone’s Mountain House Base area, the 2015 Burton demo fleet featuring boards, boots and bindings will be available for free trials from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday. All events are free and open to the public.

For the youngest of shredders, the Keystone Burton Riglet Park offers riders as young as three-years-old the opportunity to enjoy snowboarding. The innovative Riglet program gives young children an introduction to snowboarding in a learning park built specifically for them.

Burton will provide free snowboards, boots and bindings for the tykes to use, with free access to Keystone’s Riglet park where kids can utilize mini-features such as boxes, ramps and rails from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Riglet lessons are also available daily throughout the season at Keystone’s Ski&Ride School.

On Saturday, Keystone’s A51 Terrain Park will host a stop on Burton’s 2nd annual Party in Your Park snowboard contest series, a grassroots tour celebrating the fun in contest snowboarding.

Featuring a unique setup in A51 designed specifically for Party in Your Park, riders will be added to one of three teams who will work together during the event.

Prizes will be awarded to the winning team, while the best individual riders will be invited to compete in the West Coast and East Coast finals. The contest takes place from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. and there is no registration fee for riders. Registration takes place from 9-10 a.m. on Saturday in the Burton Lounge Tent at Mountain House Base area.

Keystone’s Last Lift Bar, located in the Mountain House base area, will host après entertainment from 4-6 p.m. on Saturday, featuring live music from “The Swing Crew” as well as tons of free prizes.

As one of the closest ski resorts to Denver, Keystone is the ultimate location for families to enjoy the allure of the mountains; be it on snowboards, skis, ice skates, snow tubes or horse-drawn sleigh rides – Keystone is truly a mountain of possibilities.

To purchase lodging, lift tickets, rental equipment, or for more information about Keystone, visit or call (877) 204-7889. Follow the resort at @KeystoneMtn on Twitter or at

For more information on the 2015 Burton Mountain Festival, visit or and follow #burtonmtnfest and #PartyInYourPark.

Racing canoes on ice-covered St. Lawrence River among events at Quebec’s Winter Carnival

Two crews in the elite male class compete in the ice canoe race on the St. Lawrence River during Quebec's Winter Carnival. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Two crews in the elite male class compete in the ice canoe race on the St. Lawrence River during Quebec’s Winter Carnival. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Standing on the edge of the St. Lawrence River watching a group of five women power their canoe over the ice-crusted surface, all I could think of was, “You go, ladies!”

The women are among the 10 teams of elite female crews competing in the ice canoe race, one of many events and competitions at the Winter Carnival in Quebec City. In addition to the women, there are 10 teams in the elite male class, and a whole lot of brave souls in the amateur sport class. (I stopped counting at 25 boats.)

From where we stand near the starting line, we can hear the canoes coming before we see them. We hear the voices of the crew, but mostly we hear the scraping of boats over ice. The ice on the river is broken up in huge blocks, and navigating them takes great physical effort and group coordination.

Wearing spiked shoes, holding on to the gunwale, and kneeling on one knee in the boat with the other leg dangling over the edge, the crews propel their canoes up and over the chunks of ice. The crews do this for half a mile up river before reaching flowing water where they jump in and start paddling.

For today’s race, the temperature is in the single digits, sinking into sub-zero with the fierce wind blowing across the river. But the cold weather doesn’t keep bundled-up spectators from lining the riverbank, four and five deep. Nor, apparently, does it bother the racers.

When I marvel at the utter craziness of it all, a native Quebecer standing next to me counters, “I’ve done it once; it’s a lot of fun!”

The ice canoe race is a carnival staple. It’s been held every year since the carnival’s inception in 1955. The first women’s team participated in the race in 1966. The race begins in Quebec City, and teams navigate a course across the river to Levis and back. The elite male class must complete the circuit twice.

So why a canoe race on a frozen river? According to the Quebec City Tourism website, carnival competitions were created to represent Quebec winter traditions. The canoe, dogsled and sleigh are traditional modes of transportation and were important to the settlement and history of Quebec.

Quebec’s winter carnival ends today with the sleigh races and the closing ceremonies.

A crew in the elite female class work to get their canoe across the ice. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

A crew in the elite female class work to get their canoe across the ice. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Manufactured snow keeps SoCal resorts in the game with skiers, snowboarders

(File photo from Bear Mountain Resorts)

While natural snow has been lacking this winter at places like Bear Mountain, Southern California resorts still have something to offer snowboarders and skiers thanks to the ability to manufacture snow. (File photo from Bear Mountain Resorts)

Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on Feb. 11.

By Art Bentley

As mid-February approached, the best ski conditions in California remained right here in the land of the endless summer.

To find better, Inland Empire skiers and snowboarders would have had to drive about 400 miles to Brian Head, Utah, which claimed a 38-inch base of what the Beehive State bills as the greatest snow on earth. It may well be, but unlike the resorts here in the Southland, Brian Head and other Utah ski areas depend exclusively on natural forces.

And if the local talent craved a stiffer challenge than the 1,400-foot vertical rise Brian Head offers, Park City and the Cottonwood canyons, home to Snowbird, Alta and Solitude, are some 250 miles farther north. Not that they’re wallowing in snow either. Measurements in Little Cottonwood Canyon showed bases of about 70 inches at the powder meccas of Snowbird and Alta, which are stops on a Salt Lake City municipal bus line. That’s not a lot, not enough to justify a journey of at least 650 miles.

It’s also not enough to permit a rational practitioner to put equipment in peril by venturing off the groomed runs and into the really outstanding steep terrain at both. One doesn’t go lightly to the trouble or expense of traveling to Snowbird or Alta to ski only groomers. One goes primarily to ski off piste in two feet of feather-light, untracked, legendary Utah powder on outrageous steeps.

Nor at first glance would the 8-to-24-inch base depths advertised at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain at Big Bear Lake, the Southern California pacesetters, seem to indicate a lot of cover either. But there’s been more than enough snow since late December to blanket nearly every open run sufficiently, including the steepest at each. One need not worry about hitting rocks or other obstacles.

The reason? Manufactured snow, which represents an overwhelming majority of the flakes on the ski runs in another extraordinarily dry California winter, tends to be appreciably denser than the natural variety and therefore packs into a more solid base. The result is very good pavement for skiing that holds up day after day, regardless of what nature throws at it.

The two other resorts operating in Southern California, Mountain High near Wrightwood and Snow Valley near Running Springs, are advertising bases of 6 to 10 inches. Like Summit and Bear, almost all of their snow is manufactured as well.

By comparison, Mammoth Mountain, which is in the process of acquiring Summit and Bear, reported a snow depth on Feb. 13 of 24 to 48 inches, far from enough for adequate coverage of many of the slopes, especially the steeper ones. Why leave Southern California for that?

The same question applied to the Lake Tahoe resorts, where rain fell recently on lower slopes. Alpine Meadows on the north shore reported 18 to 42 inches. On the south shore, Heavenly confessed to 35 inches.

And while we’re at it, winter has not been especially kind so far to Colorado or New Mexico.

But as long as the water supply holds out, there’ll be decent ski conditions in Southern California. Water is the primary ingredient in the manufacturing process that, when combined under pressure, yields snow. And when the source of water is Big Bear Lake, rather than wells on which many ski areas are forced to depend, the supply is unlimited.

“We can’t do it without water,” said Chris Riddle, marketing vice president for both resorts. “And the lake is a game changer for us. In weather like this, people tend to forget about us. But we’ve known for a long time that we’re going to have dry years in Southern California, and we’ve built a system that lets us have good years whether we have natural snow or not.”

Everyone loves the parade at Quebec’s Winter Carnival

Spectators line the streets to watch the night parade in Quebec. Photos courtesy Quebec City Tourism

Spectators line the streets to watch the night parade in Quebec. (Photos courtesy Quebec City Tourism)

By Marlene Greer/Correspondent

Lights, camera (yours) and lots of action.

That’s the night parade at Quebec’s Winter Carnival, a 17-day long celebration of all things snow and ice. The parade is so popular it’s done twice – once in the suburb of Charlesbourg and a second time through the streets of Quebec. The Charlesbourg parade was held last weekend, and the parade in Quebec is set for Saturday.

“The parade in Charlesbourg is held earlier in the night at 6 and is better for children,” said Paule Bergeron of Quebec City Tourism.

Standing with the crowd in Charlesbourg, a look across the street at the row of children lining the parade route definitely gives the impression this is a family event. And the zero-degree temperature hasn’t spoiled the fun. But it does make for a lot of stamping of feet, clapping of hands and dancing around by spectators just to stay warm. Even the marching bands had to wrap their instruments to keep them from freezing.

The parade begins with groups of jesters and jokers who dance, mime and perform acrobatics. Spectators blow their long, red plastic horns, a carnival necessity, in approval. There are musicians, singers and marching bands, playing mostly Canadian tunes, but we did recognize the familiar “Eye of the Tiger.”

This wide-eyed creature is just one of many in the parade.

This wide-eyed creature is just one of many in the parade.

It’s the colorful lighted floats, however, which are the most interesting. A long procession of sea creatures, magical creatures, and what looked to me like dancing snow wolves entertained the crowd.

At the end of the parade came Bonhomme, the carnival’s mascot. Bonhomme is a snowman who wears a red cap, an arrowhead sash and a big smile. And just like with Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, the kids, parents and tourists all clamber for a photo with the famed character. Bonhomme’s been around since the first carnival in 1955, and kids seem to love him.

The carnival concludes this weekend with the snow bath (put on your swimsuit, some boots and roll in the snow), Quebec night parade and after-party on Saturday and the sleigh race and closing ceremonies on Sunday.

Bonhomme waves to the crowd.

Bonhomme waves to the crowd.

Enjoying the Carnaval de Quebec with an ice castle, rides and caribou

Ice castle at Carnival de Quebec (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Ice castle at Winter Carnival in Quebec. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

By Marlene Greer, Correspondent

Bundled up in several layers of clothing, we braved the single-digit temperatures for a sled ride down an ice track, a round of bumper rafts on ice, a drink of caribou at the ice bar, and a walk through an ice castle. We even made our own “maple-sicles” in the snow.

It’s all part of Carnaval de Quebec, a 17-day long celebration of all things snow and ice. Quebec City, like much of the northeast in early February, was in the grip of a deep freeze, but that didn’t keep families from bundling up in their snow gear for some winter fun.

Christian, a native Quebecer there with his two children, the youngest he was pulling around in a sled, joked, “We have to do something in winter.”

The carnival is spread across the Plaines D’Abraham just outside the old walled city. In addition to the rides, food, music, snow sculptures and events at the Plaines, parades, concerts and races take place throughout the city.

Making maple popsicles (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Making maple popsicles. (Photo by Marlene Greer)

The first thing you notice – and can’t miss – at the carnival is the large ice palace, a tradition going back to the first carnival in 1955. As you go from room to room, you can lounge in an ice chair, check out the ice bar, and explore ice tunnels (for kids, except for one parent we watched crawl in to retrieve her wayward toddler).

Then there are the beautiful to fantastical snow sculptures. The international snow sculpture competition has been part of the carnival since 1973. Sculptors from around the globe come to Quebec to create these intricate and realistic works of art. A trail winds among the sculptures so you can view them from all sides.

Being Canadians, of course there’s a small hockey rink, where kids can grab a stick and join in. There’s also ice fishing, dogsled rides, a tubing hill, and bumper rafts, where you just sit back and enjoy the spin as the boats (on wheels) are pushed around the ice. And what’s a carnival without food and drink? We tried the make-your-own maple pop and caribou. To make a traditional Canadian maple pop, a foot-long strip of warm maple syrup is poured on top of snow, and you take a popsicle stick and roll the slowly hardening syrup around the stick. As for caribou, with a name like that how could we resist? Caribou is made with Canadian port, vodka and brandy and is served warm – perfect on a frigid winter day.

The carnival concludes this weekend. Special events include the night parade and after-party, a sleigh race, and the crazy snow bath.

Snow sculpture at Carnival de Quebec (Photo by Marlene Greer)

Snow sculpture at Winter Carnival in Quebec. (Photo by Marlene Greer)


Snow Summit embraces 2-for-1 lift tickets for Valentine’s Day

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Your dollars for skiing and snowboarding will go twice as far on Valentine’s Day with Snow Summit’s 2-for-1 lift ticket promotion. The tickets are for the night session, so you can bring your sweetie for a romantic time under the stars. Or, make it a group outing and have Mom, Dad, the kids and a few friends come along.

Tickets must be purchased 48 hours in advance — by Thursday afternoon, basically.

For details, call 909-866-5766 or visit

North Lake Tahoe resorts are decorated in a fresh coat of white

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Squaw Valley received nearly 2 feet of snow during the weekend, and the resort has 14 lifts running, accessing 23 runs. (Squaw Valley photo)

Thanks, Mother Nature.

A snowy weekend has resulted in a wealth of skiing and snowboarding opportunities at North Lake Tahoe resorts. Seven locations in the area have opened a combined 230-plus runs – with excellent conditions reported on terrain ranging from beginner to expert.

Here are the numbers for each of the resorts:

Alpine Meadows
Storm total: 16 inches
Lifts: 7
Runs: 36

Boreal Mountain Resort
Storm total: 15 inches
Lifts: 4
Runs: 23

Diamond Peak Ski Area
Storm total: 22 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 15

Mt. Rose Ski Resort
Storm total: 30 inches
Lifts: 5
Runs: 40

Northstar California Resort
Storm total: 19 inches
Lifts: 13
Runs: 70

Squaw Valley
Storm total: 23 inches
Lifts: 14
Runs: 23

Sugar Bowl Resort
Storm total: 18 inches
Lifts: 3
Runs: 31

For information about snow conditions in North Lake Tahoe visit, For lodging, activity and ski deals, visit