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What’s New at Ski California Resorts this Winter? Resorts Invest Millions in New Chairlifts, Lodge Renovations and Snowmaking

SnowBrains | | Industry NewsIndustry News
Squaw Valley, alpine meadows, treelike cirque, hot wheels, chairlift
The base terminal is in. Credit: SVAM

On the heels of a strong winter season that extended the season of many resorts in California and Nevada—one into late July, Ski California and its 32 member resorts are gearing up for the 2019-20 winter season with significant investments designed to enhance the experience for skiers and riders this season and beyond. This includes a new chairlift, lodge renovations, all new food and beverage offerings, signature on-mountain experiences and events, ways for passionate skiers and riders to save on lift access and much more.

“Ski California resorts have continued to invest year over year in facility and on-mountain improvements that enhance the skier experience,” said Michael Reitzell, Ski California president. “This season is no exception, and with the excitement that is already building thanks to early season snowfall, snowmaking firing up at some of our resorts with recent cold temperatures, and plans by at least one of our resorts to open later this month if conditions allow, winter will soon be underway in California and Nevada.”

For those who want unrestricted, fully transferable access to all 32 member resorts in California and Nevada, the 2019-20 Ski California Gold Pass is on sale now. This pass can be used by anyone with it in their possession and offers zero blackout dates and 50 days of access to each of the 32 ski resorts on the pass. Only 100 Gold Passes are available each season, with current passes priced at $3,250. Discounted Gold Passes are available for $2,100 for parents of current Far West Ski Association participants (verification required).

On Jan. 25, 2020, Ski California member resorts will also participate in the second annual Ski California Safety Day, with individual resort driven guest-centric activities and events designed to educate skiers and riders about safety on the slopes. Safety is a priority every day of the season, but Ski California Safety Day puts the spotlight on our resorts’ shared commitment to safety with guests.

Highlights of what’s new at some of the resorts in California and Nevada ahead of the 2019-20 season (including expected openings dates, weather, and conditions permitting) include:

Bear Valley Adventure Company, formerly known as Bear Valley Cross Country, has new ownership under the Bear Valley Mountain Cooperative heading into the 2019-20 winter season. The resort plans to open Nov. 29, and host Wine Tasting in the Meadow on Nov. 30 featuring local wines paired with appetizers on the cross-country trails. The Bjornloppett Ski Race returns March 2020 with 10K and 20K events, and the Toms Classic Ski Race in April 2020 with a 10K event.

Bear Valley Resort guests will notice improvements to the ticket office that include increased size and functionality. The main lodge was also painted and updates to the resort’s WiFi capabilities will make it easier for guests to stay connected. Bear Valley plans to open Nov. 29.

Big Bear Mountain Resort has a $5 million renovation to the Bear Mountain base area underway that will include doubling the size of its iconic sun deck to approximately 26,000 square feet, creating more space for outdoor seating, special events, concerts and more. Additional improvements include custom benches, a new outdoor dining location, three new fire pits and $250,000 in new furniture and ramps that improve ADA accessibility. New features will also be added to Bear’s legendary terrain parks. Big Bear plans to open Nov. 22.

Boreal Mountain. Image: Boreal Mountain Facebook

Boreal Mountain Resort will offer a new on-mountain dining experience called The Hub & Spoke inside the Boreal Lodge this winter. The resort has also installed RFID for hands-free ticketing and direct-to-lift access for season pass, daily lift ticket, and Ski CA Gold Pass holders. New self-ticketing kiosks will allow guests to pick up their online purchases without having to visit the ticket office. The resort will also host the Boreal Pop-Up Park for one week in January, February, and March, and Beyond the Boundaries, a women’s snowboard park camp April 3-5, 2020. Boreal plans to open Nov. 8. Woodward Tahoe will introduce Woodward Mountain Parks to Boreal, a Powdr-wide initiative to bring freestyle terrain to everyone. Woodward Mountain Kids will feature a new multi-week seasonal ski/snowboard program for youth ages 4-17 that includes on-hill learning at Boreal and indoor training in the Woodward Tahoe Bunker. Woodward Tahoe is also offering new experiential programming, plus free classes and clinics with a season pass or access product.

China Peak has invested $3 million into a snowmaking system expansion that will quintuple its capacity and give the resort the ability to make enough snow to cover most major runs and provide access to all major lifts. The resort will host a New Year’s Eve Torchlight Parade and fireworks to ring in 2020 and is targeting a Nov. 28 opening.

Diamond Peak Ski Resort is expanding its commitment to its terrain park offering following industry recognition of last year’s debut of the Village Terrain Park with the resort’s invitation to build at Snowboarder Magazine’s Superpark 22, an honor extended to only three of North America’s top terrain park teams. A new PistenBully 400 ParkPro 4F groomer will be used to help shape the parks and other learning terrains, and four new TechnoAlpin TR8 high-efficiency snowmaking guns will produce more snow during all types of snowmaking conditions with less noise. Diamond Peak’s popular Last Tracks Wine and Beer Tastings will return Saturdays from Feb. 1 through April 1, 2020, and the resort will also host the 20th annual Dummy Downhill March 22, 2020, and the Luggi Foeger Uphill/Downhill Festival March 28-29, 2020. The resort plans to open Dec. 12.

south lake Tahoe, heavenly ski resort
Heavenly. Credit: tahoesouth.com

Heavenly Mountain Resort will bring back its popular Helly Hansen Après Tracks for a second season. Guests staying a Sunday evening at Gondola Vista, Lakeland Village or Zalanta Resort are invited to ski a run with the Heavenly Ski Patrol after the resort closes and attend an exclusive après at Lakeview Lodge where they’ll receive a free beverage and appetizers. Heavenly plans to open Nov. 22.

Homewood Mountain Resort has invested in its snow surfaces by doubling its snowmaking capabilities with new access to water resources and improving its high angle grooming capabilities with the purchase of a new PistenBully winch cat. The resort will offer backcountry and snowcat guide training for the first time, and welcome the return of signature, community-focused events including Beer & Gear and the Pride Ride. New for 2019-20, the Homewood Ultimate Pass also includes complimentary ski days at over 20 partner resorts across the country, over 10 of which are new additions this season. Homewood is planning for an early December opening.

Kirkwood Mountain Resort will offer fat bikes for guests to explore 37 miles of groomed trails at Kirkwood’s Cross Country and Snowshoe Center. Cyclists can keep their season going this winter by renting a fat bike or riding their own through the three interconnected trail systems in the scenic Alpine Valley. Diverse terrain and modes of exploring are available for all ability levels, making Kirkwood’s Cross Country and Snowshoe Center a perfect spot for winter family adventures that can include everyone—even four-legged friends. Kirkwood anticipates a Nov. 27 opening.

mammoth, parks, california
Mammoth parks. Credit: SnowBrains

Mammoth Mountain has renovated the Canyon Lodge with a new bar that features indoor bar space and a fireplace lounge, outdoor kitchen, and bar. Two outdoor terraces overlook the Canyon base area, and a new menu of craft cocktails, beer, and wine. The Canyon Lodge also offers 2,500 square feet of interior space and over 200 new seats to sit back and enjoy the new Canyon BBQ and staples like brisket, pulled pork, and ribs. New at Eagle Lodge, Fowl Language restaurant will serve hand-breaded, southern-style chicken sandwiches and tenders, and in the Village near the Gondola, Sierra Grind will offer a full espresso bar, fresh pastries, sweets, and handcrafted sandwiches. A $1.3 million upgrade to the resort’s snowmaking infrastructure will ensure early season conditions continue to be among the best in the country. Mammoth plans to open Nov. 9.

Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe invested $1.5 million in on-mountain improvements this summer, including a new RFID ticketing and lift gate system that allows skiers and riders (including Ski CA Gold Pass holders) to leave their ticket in their pocket when in a lift line, snowmaking and trail improvements, a new snow grooming machine and more. A new Friday daily ticket special “SKI-GIF” will feature $49 tickets after 12:00 p.m. complemented by live entertainment and bar specials. Mt. Rose’s other famous daily specials will continue with “Ladies Day Thursdays” (now including a complementary women’s clinic), “Two ‘Fer Tuesdays” and “Locals Sundays.” Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe has already started snowmaking and is aiming for an Oct. 25 season opener.

Mountain High Resorts has continued its commitment to providing high-quality snow surfaces by investing in new energy-efficient snowmaking hydrants and a new Prinoth snowcat. In addition, the mountaintop Grand View Bistro was remodeled, and enhancements were made to the snow play areas at Mountain High’s East and North Resorts to offer tubing, sledding, snow play, scenic sky chair rides and snowshoeing. The resort will host “Santa Sunday” on Dec. 15, 2019, where all “Santas” who make a $20 minimum donation to Protect Our Winters (POW) get a free lift ticket. Mountain High Resorts will also host the $10,000 Triple Air on March 7, 2020, and March Radness on March 14, 2020, that features the Game of Y E T I in the Playground Jib Park featuring a $2k prize purse. The resort is planning a Nov. 22 opening.

Northstar’s village.

Northstar California has partnered with the award-winning MINA Group to introduce Bourbon Pub Northstar, opening this season. Internationally acclaimed restauranteur, Michael Mina brings reinvented pub fare to The Village at Northstar with starters such as truffle tater tots, cheddar brats wrapped in puff pastry with jalapeno mustard, and entrees including al pastor pork ribs, mesquite-grilled steaks, and fennel stuffed salmon. Bourbon Pub will also serve cocktails, domestic wines, and beer. Northstar California plans to open Nov. 22.

Sierra-at-Tahoe is making it faster to get on the slopes with RFID enabled gates at all entry lifts and reloadable tickets and season passes that can be left in a pocket (Ski CA Gold Passes, too). The resort is also part of the Powder Alliance, giving Sierra-at-Tahoe Unlimited season pass holders an additional 54 free days of skiing and riding at 18 other participating resorts (three days at each resort). Sierra-at-Tahoe will host the Subaru Winterfest March 13-15, 2020, and Boarding for Breast Cancer April 4, 2020. The resort plans to open mid-November.

Snow Summit will host its 55th annual New Year’s Eve torchlight parade and party this year and is targeting a Nov. 15 opening.

Snow Valley Mountain Resort invested nearly $1 million in improvements that include increased access to the legendary Slide Peak, which offers some of Southern California’s steepest descents with a pitch of 35 degrees, brand new rental equipment from Head and a faster equipment rental process. The resort also expanded its snow play area and doubled its lift-served sledding lanes to as many as 15 with the purchase of a new “tube shaper.” The Chalet Deck will debut this winter offering a rotating fresh seasonal menu designed for an alfresco lunch or après ski. The new Mountain Top Terrace above the Snow Valley Express lift will offer picnic table seating with a million-dollar view and interpretive maps detailing the many mountain peaks of the surrounding San Bernardino Mountains. Snow Valley plans to open late November.

Soda Springs Mountain Resort will introduce Soda Springs Mountain Adventure, a new all-access ticket to the resort’s expanded on-snow offering that includes tubing. This ticket does not include skiing or riding. Retro Worlds will come to Soda Springs March 28-29, 2020 honoring the legends of snowboarding with a weekend of contests with those who helped grow the sport. Soda Springs plans to open Nov. 21.

ikon pass, ikon, Squaw Valley, alpine meadows,
Sunsets on repeat at Squaw Valley

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows will welcome guests with a new lift, events, experiences, dining, and bars. The new Treeline Cirque chairlift at Alpine Meadows will transport skiers and riders from the base area to the Sherwood ridge in five minutes, also providing a mid-station for quick access to some of Alpine’s best low-intermediate terrain. The Tram Car Bar, a restored 70’s era Squaw Valley tram cabin, has been converted into a retro watering hole that will find its home on the Olympic House deck. Squaw Valley will also host the “Leap of Love” mountaintop wedding on Feb. 29, 2020 (Leap Day) where up to 50 couples will get married or renew their vows at the High Camp Upper Observation Deck, and the U.S. Freestyle Moguls National Championships March 19-22, 2020. In addition, Alpenglow Expeditions will lead half-day guided snowshoe tours through Shirley Canyon and single-run guided tours in the Tram Ridge zone beyond Broken Arrow at Squaw Valley, giving skiers and riders a lift-accessed taste of backcountry skiing and riding. Squaw Valley plans to begin its 70th season Nov. 15, while a Dec. 6 opening is planned for Alpine Meadows.

Sugar Bowl Resort made significant upgrades designed to enhance guest experiences, with on-mountain and base area projects including a new covered surface lift for beginners, lift safety improvements, the complete remodel of rooms in the Sugar Bowl Hotel, renovation of the Mid-Mountain Lodge, continued snowmaking improvements, a 13-foot mini-pipe and top-to-bottom terrain park with all-new features, and new parking shuttles to provide convenient access to the Village and Judah Lodge. In addition, the resort’s new e-commerce platform will make it easier for resort guests to purchase lift tickets, lessons, rentals and more. Sugar Bowl is targeting a Nov. 29 opening.

Tahoe Cross-Country Ski Area will celebrate 20 years of operating as a nonprofit ski area in Tahoe during the 2019-20 winter season. With an expected season running from December through April, Tahoe Cross-Country will host events including the PSIA Nordic Symposium Dec. 13-15, 2019, a week of XC clinics during the Alpenglow Mountain Festival Feb. 15-23, 2020, the Alpenglow 20km XC ski race on the most scenic trails at the ski area on Feb. 23, 2020, and The Great Ski Race, the iconic 30km fundraising event for Tahoe Nordic Search and Rescue that begins at Tahoe Cross-Country and ends in Truckee, California on March 1, 2020.

Tahoe Donner Cross Country plans to open Nov. 28. Guests are invited to ring in the New Year with a guided snowshoe hike on Dec. 31, 2019, and to participate in annual events including the Tahoe Donner XC Challenge that challenges skiers to ski what they think is the fastest route to multiple checkpoints on the XC trails on Feb. 9, 2020, and the Sierra Skogsloppet Fundraiser on March 15, 2020.

Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort plans to open Dec. 13 and will offer $15 lift tickets on Dec. 15 for its Customer Appreciation Day. Winter Superstars Week will feature events for all ages including ski and snowboard races, sled pull and a mini terrain park event Feb. 15-23, 2020. The I-Did-A-Run returns March 8, 2020, giving dogs of all shapes and sizes an opportunity to compete in an entertaining, timed dog pull race that raises money for the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe. The season closes out with the Dummy Downhill contest on April 12, 2020.

Learn more about Ski California and its member resorts at skicalifornia.org.


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