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.”
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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.

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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

SoCal ski resorts are loving these frigid December temps

Theresa McCrackn waxes skis on Tuesday at Snow Valley Resort in Running Springs. Tuesday was the resort's opening day for the winter. (Photo by LaFonzo Carter/San Bernardino Sun)

Theresa McCrackn waxes skis on Tuesday at Snow Valley Mountain Resort in Running Springs. Tuesday was the resort’s opening day for the winter. (Photo by LaFonzo Carter/San Bernardino Sun)


By Jim Steinberg and Michel Nolan

San Bernardino County Sun

RUNNING SPRINGS >> Morning sun glinted on the snowy ski runs as the thermometer flirted with the high 20s on opening day of Snow Valley’s winter season. And the newly covered slopes of local mountains translated to green – as in money – for those resorts.

Advanced skiers John Reilly and his fiancee, Lesandre Barley, both of Running Springs, celebrated their first day on the slopes Tuesday.

“They did get 6 inches of snow and groomed it, so it’s a superb day up here,” said Reilly, 45.

Barley, 31, reported that two runs were open, including The Edge, which is the terrain park.

Temperatures marked the coldest opening the resort had seen in a long time, said Nick Chatterton, 34, Snow Valley’s snow surfaces manager.

Chris Toth, marketing director, agreed.

“For early season conditions, it’s pretty cold. Nick and his snow surfaces crew have done a great job,” Toth said. “Two women are part of the crew, and that’s unique.”

A slightly cooler than normal December has propelled snowmaking ahead of last year, which was slightly warmer than normal for the 12th month of the year, said Steve Travis, a meteorologist for AccuWeather.

“It’s been a decent season so far,” said David Stone Junior, a San Bernardino Mountain entrepreneur, who owns Fireside Lodge and Bear Creek Resort, both in Big Bear Lake.

“The key to it is what nature is going to bring,” Stone said. “So we are all in a beautiful holding pattern to see what happens.”

Travis said that there will be a gradual warm-up at the end of the week and temperatures should rise to slightly above normal for Sunday and Monday.

During the peak of the warm-up, some of that man-made snow might be melting, he said.

The next chance for natural snowfall in the Southern California mountains will be at the end of next week – but it’s not a sure bet at this point.

“We have a rudimentary sense of what is happening,” and that it might bring cold Canadian air back into the Southland, he said.

Snow-making at Mountain High is going so well that night skiing is expected to begin Friday, the resort reported Tuesday on its website.

Robbie Ellingson, general manager of Mt. Baldy Ski Resort, said that he is hopeful that the beginners’ slope will open this weekend, although the resort has been open for “snow play” since Thanksgiving.

Like other ski slope operators, Ellingson said he is hoping for natural snow.

“Typically, when the mountains are white, we do better,” he said.

Mountain High gets it started for skiers, snowboarders

Skiers and boarders hopped onto the first chairs of the season this morning at Mountain High in Wrightwood. (Mountain High photo)

Skiers and boarders hopped onto the first chairs of the season this morning at Mountain High in Wrightwood. (Mountain High photo)

The 2013/14 ski season got under way in Southern California as Mountain High opened to a full crowd of skiers and snowboarders this morning. For the past 17 years, Mountain High has been the first resort in the region to open top to bottom.

Thanks to a foot of fresh snow and recent snowmaking improvements, Mountain High is one of only six resorts open in the state. Others, including Squaw Valley, will be opening in the days ahead in time for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.

At Mountain High, snowmaking will continue as conditions permit with the goal of making even more terrain available.

“With so much natural snow and snowmaking, this is one of our biggest openings in years,” said Karl Kapuscinski, the resort’s president and CEO.

Information: www.mthigh.com

Mountain High gives thanks for new snow, plans to open Sunday

Mountain High will be opening for the winter starting Sunday, in time for Thanksgiving weekend. (Mountain High photo)

Mountain High will be opening for the winter starting Sunday, in time for Thanksgiving weekend. (Mountain High photo)

Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood received 12-plus inches of new snow from this week’s storm and announced it will open Sunday at 8:30 a.m. for the start of the 2013-14 winter season.

“With so much natural snow and snowmaking this will be one of our best openings in years,” said Karl Kapuscinski, resort president and CEO.

Operating hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., and tickets will be $45 for adults (regularly $69) and $25 for children ages 7 to 12.  Kids 6 and younger ski free with a paying adult.  Prices are subject to change without notice.

Night skiing is expected to take place Friday and Saturday, Nov. 29-30, from 5 to 10 p.m. The North Pole Tubing Park is tentatively scheduled to open Friday, Nov. 29, as well for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Up to four lifts will be available accessing terrain for every member of the family including top to bottom terrain features for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

Information: www.mthigh.com

New snow has Mountain High hoping to open Sunday

Four to 6 inches of new snow has fallen at Mountain High and snowmaking operations are underway with the hope of opening as early as Sunday. No official opening day statement has been made though as it depends on what happens over the next 72 hours, according to a press release from the Wrightwood resort.

“For many people, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of ski season and we are doing everything we can to get open for the upcoming holiday,” said spokesman John McColly.

When the resort does open, operating hours will be 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and tickets will be $45 for adults (regularly $69) and $25 for children ages 7 to 12. Kids 6 and younger ski free with a paying adult. Ticket sales will be limited. Prices are subject to change without notice.

Up to four lifts will be available accessing four trails that consist of predominately beginner to intermediate terrain. This means there is something for every member of the family including top to bottom terrain features for freestyle skiers and snowboarders.

For first-timers, Mountain High offers a full line of rental and retail products along with repair services and food and beverage. The Winter Sports School will also be open with its early-season $99 special consisting of a lift ticket and one hour private lesson for both children and adults.

Information: www.mthigh.com

Mountain High gets in on the Black Friday frenzy

It’s not just retailers announcing Black Friday specials — ski resorts are too. Mountain High, for example, will be taking up to 40 percent off the price of lift tickets sold Nov. 29 through Dec. 2.

Adult 8-hour tickets, which normally cost $69, will be $49 during the sale. They’re valid any day or night this season including holidays. The price of midweek, non-holiday tickets also will be reduced by $20 and will go for $39.

Holiday dates include Dec. 21-31, 2013; Jan. 1-5, 18-20 and Feb. 15-17, 2014.

Night tickets, which may be used from 5 to 10 p.m. any night the resort is open, will be $20 during the Black Friday sale. They’re regularly $35.

To order, visit https://shop.mthigh.com 

As per usual, there are restrictions: Black Friday tickets must be purchased online and are only redeemable at the ticket windows. All Black Friday tickets must be used during the 2013/14 season. There are no upgrades at the resort. There are no refunds, credits, or extensions on unused tickets. Limit six tickets per guest. All rates are subject to change without notice.

That said, resort spokesman John McColly, added: “Mountain High lift tickets make the perfect gift because they are always the right size and they never go out of style.”

Mountain High spends off-season making $1 million in improvements

Mother Nature brought some early snow to Mountain High in late October. (Mountain High photo)

Mother Nature brought some early snow to Mountain High in late October. (Mountain High photo)

Mountain High this winter will be unveiling more than $1 million in improvements, which include a new Rossignol Experience Center, an expanded Children’s Sports Center, and new snow cats and terrain features.

A big part of that expenditure is more than $300,000 in snowmaking improvements. The resort should be able to make snow faster than ever with the addition of six new Super PoleCat fan guns from SMI and one swing-arm fan gun from Technoalpine. The SMI Super PoleCat snowmakers are big throw, simple nozzle fan guns that are fully automatic and perfect for all temperature conditions. Plus, the extended reach of the Technoalpine swing-arm snowmaker means the Mountain High can place the snow exactly where it’s wanted, even in windy conditions.

Gone are the days of employees hiking up the mountain to adjust snow guns with a wrench and prayer. These guns are fully automatic so they adjust themselves based on the conditions. They can be dialed down to make heavier base snow or dialed up to create champagne powder. Some guns can even be activated by remote control.

Mountain High operates one of the largest snowmaking systems in the country and is continually striving to increase its coverage and efficiency while reducing overall fuel consumption. This is no small task, so for the better part of 10 years, Mountain High has been adding electric fan guns, installing new compressors, and retrofitting its exiting hydrants to perform at peak capacity. The current system is now 30 percent more efficient than it was a decade ago, allowing Mountain High to make more snow than ever using fewer resources.

It is being run by a new captain, Eric Loveng, formerly the assistant snowmaking manager, who has 20 years of snowmaking experience spread between Mountain High and Snow Valley.

Information: www.mthigh.com

Mountain High enhances its Family Learning Center

Youngsters will have more and better opportunities to learn how to ski and snowboard at Mountain High this winter – something their parents will appreciate. (Mountain High photo)

Youngsters will have even more and better opportunities to learn how to ski and snowboard at Mountain High this winter. (Mountain High photo)

Mountain High has increased the size of its Family Learning Center to accommodate even more students ages 4 to 12.

Located adjacent the Bullwheel Grill, the two-story facility is complete with rentals, restrooms, warming stations and more. Parents can pick up tickets and rentals there or book online (www.mthigh.com) and have lesson packets waiting for them when they arrive. This also guarantees lesson reservation in case of a sellout.

For first-time skiers and snowboarders, the experience begins in the West base area at the new Winter Sports School reception kiosk. That’s where guests can purchase tickets, pick up rental paperwork, and check in for lessons. Then they take their first ride up a 400-foot moving carpet to the Children’s Sports Center and adult meeting area where they meet their instructors. After the lesson or during mid-day breaks, families can warm up in the remodeled Bullwheel Grill and enjoy updated menu items ranging from mouth- watering burgers to heart-healthy options.

On the snow, Mountain High has partnered with Burton to offer a new Burton Riglet LTR (Learn To Ride) Center and implemented terrain-based teaching. When combined, these two elements are proven to help students progress faster and have more fun on the snow.

Burton Riglet LTR Center
Since 1998, Burton has featured beginner-specific equipment and learning programs. Today, they partner with more than 190 resorts and offer a full range of Learn To Ride programs and parks.

Resorts partnered with Burton not only have the training and experience to work with kids of all ages, but also the boards, boots and bindings to provide the best start. Soft-flex boards with catch-free edges make the equipment easy to control, and Velcro boots and bindings are something even a small mitt-covered hand can manage. Throw a Riglet towing accessory on the smallest boards and no child is left behind.

Interactive stations allow kids to maneuver over, under, around and through sculpted terrain and features. Balance, weight transfer, edging and freestyle are learned through fun and play. Lessons begin at age 4 and include individual attention and feedback with small class sizes in a safe and friendly environment.

By integrating play into snowboarding and using an interactive environment, kids have more fun and get better results.                                                             

Terrain-based teaching
Terrain-based teaching zones are the newest thing when it comes to making learning easy and fun. Features such as banks, berms, camel humps and mini-halfpipes let guests feel the natural movements of their equipment while reducing fears, reducing falls and increasing the overall excitement. Students learn to go with their momentum rather than fight against it because the terrain does the work.

The result transforms a “traditional” lesson taught on the bunny hill into a beginner experience that keeps students engaged and coming back.

Information: www.mthigh.com/lessons