California Has Some Amazing Ski Traditions

Ryan Flynn |
Credit: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

California has a unique ski culture of its own, and that ski culture has led to some fantastic yearly events. While the COVID-19 pandemic might force some of these events to take a year off, let’s take a look at some of the amazing traditions born in California.

Holy Bowly – Mammoth Mountain

Mammoth Mountain has some of the best parks in the world. The U.S. National teams come to the Eastern Sierra’s every year to practice and hone their craft. It seems Mammoth has figured out their unique niche of the park community and every year makes one of the most unique park set-ups known as Holy Bowly. Holy Bowly combines skateboarding and snow sports like nothing else. South Park gets transformed with hips, skate-like bowls, spines, and berms to give riders a new canvas to express their creativity. The event usually consists of 3 days in which the public has access to the park for 1. Other days include professional competitions and private sessions for filming. If you want to experience Holy Bowly, make sure to come to Mammoth in April, as it has always been a spring event!

Snow Golf Tournament – Alpine Meadows

Fore! You might hear someone yelling this at Alpine Meadows during a warm spring day. For the past 30+ years, just as the slush begins to take over the mountain, Alpine Meadows hosts an annual golf tournament on snow! Tee up on a 9-hole course, beginning at the top of the Summit Express Chair and ending at the bottom of the Alpine Bowl Chair. Registration is always free, and all participants are entered to win prizes, including a round of golf for 4 at the Resort at Squaw Creek! Whether you go over or under par, you can always try and win the costume contest! Channel your inner caddy shack and show off your style while hacking and whacking a tennis ball down the slopes! I have personally played in this tournament, and it still is one of my favorite spring events ever.

Teeing off on the first hole at the annual Alpine Meadows Golf Tournament. Credit: Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

SnowGlobe Music Festival – South Lake Tahoe

Every new year a world-class music festival descends upon Lake Tahoe. Bringing some of the biggest names in EDM, rap, and pop, SnowGlobe Music Festival should be a bucket list item for all music lovers. This is not necessarily a skiing or snowboarding event, but it is the brainchild of California snow lovers. Ski all day long at Heavenly Ski Resort and then descend upon the bright lights of South Lake Tahoe for an evening filled with amazing music and food. The event will sadly not be happening this year, but in 2021 it will be returning!

WINTERWONDERGRASS – Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

Californians enjoy their music, and SnowGlobe is not your only chance during the ski season to enjoy a music festival in Lake Tahoe. Every April at the base of Squaw Valley, a 3-day folk music festival can be experienced. You can even experience a live concert on the famous Squaw Tram! Live music can also be found at the Gold Coast Lodge and High Camp. A beautiful event that makes everyone feel more at home in the mountains! If you are from Colorado, you might recognize a sibling event hosted every year at Steamboat Springs!

Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails – Big Bear/Snow Summit Mountain Resort

Every October at Big Bear Mountain Resort, Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails takes center stage. Known as the “largest winter kickoff party known to man” by the locals, this event consists of snowboarders (sorry skiers, you can’t enter) competing down various rails, jibs, and jumps at the base of the mountain. The course is always different and unique, with straw bails lining the sides and dirt only feet away from some of the landings. There is a lot of prize money up for grabs, and the competition is fierce. Complete with great food and live music, this is a great event for everyone in the family and a great way to get the stoke boiling before winter.

Gunbarrel 25 – Heavenly Mountain Resort

Founded in 2004 by the ski legend Glen Plake, the Gunbarrel 25 is an endurance event meant to push you to the limit. The race goal is to finish 25 laps of the famous Gunbarrel Run in the fastest time possible. Gunbarrel consists of 1,600 feet of vertical drop full of some of the biggest and meanest moguls in the United States, meaning it will take real perseverance to get to the finish line. Many who sign up will not see their 25th lap, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t one of California’s best events. Participants have up to 6 hours to try and get to that number, but only the fastest gets to claim victory and get your name hung in the lodge for years to come.

The Game of G.N.A.R – Squaw Valley

The game of G.N.A.R. is a staple of California ski culture. While it originated in Squaw Valley from the amazingly weird minds of Shane McConkey, Scott Gaffney, and Rob Gaffney, the game has taken root all across the U.S. and especially California. If you have never heard of the game before, I’d recommend watching the official movie because it is a tough one to put in a box. Bringing skiing back to a light-hearted and funny atmosphere, you will likely encounter some folks playing if you visit a California ski resort.

These are all amazing events, but there are surely more out there I could not get to. Let us know your favorite California ski events in the comments!

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