Southern California skiers and snowboarders have plenty to choose from within a couple hours' drive from the Los Angeles Basin into the coastal mountain range.
At Mountain High, skiing began in the 1940s and has expanded to three separate mountains -- East, West and North -- that split out nicely according to skill and type of terrain. The West Resort, now combined with neighbor East Resort, acts as the focus for the three resorts. But each has its own base facilities. Free shuttles run between West and East bases.
This season, skiers and riders will benefit from more snowmaking capacity (essential for a SoCal mountain), more features in the terrain park and renovations to the Foggy Goggle Bar at the West Resort base.
Mountain High is a Powder Alliance member and accepts the two-day-free Indy Pass. Night skiing on 85% of West Resort goes until 10 p.m. every evening at West Resort, with tubing park at North Resort. Parking can be an issue. There is on free parking lot, at the West Resort, but all the others cost $20 per vehicle.
Head to northeast into the San Bernardino mountains to find a longtime favorite of SoCal's skiers and 'boarders, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. Under the moniker of Big Bear Mountain Resorts, the two mountains sit separately above Big Bear Lake, but you only need one ticket or an Ikon Pass, to ski and ride both.
This season, a multi-year renovation of the Bear Mountain base has produced an upgraded Laybacks Bar, a more convenient layout for the rental shop, and additional parking. Bear's 1,665 vertical drop serves a couple of long blacks, but the emphasis is on terrain parks. More than 200 features spread around the 200-acre mountain, plus a pair of halfpipes. The mountain's huge learning area focuses on getting never-evers up and onto the slopes, while progressive parks aim to step up freestylers' game.
Partner mountain Snow Summit is a couple of miles down the road, and emphasizes intermediate and advanced terrain with a double-blacks and a bevy of wide-open groomers. Fourteen lifts cover the mountains 240 acres, with two high-speed chairs to the 8,000-foot-high ridgeline. Night skiing at Snow Summit runs weekends and holidays.
It's been a busy summer at Colorado's Steamboat, and skiers and riders -- especially beginners and novices -- will bear the fruit of those labors this winter.
On the mountain, there's now a quick and easy way to get to the mid-mountain Rough Rider/Bashor Basin beginner area: The first stretch of the Wild Blue Gondola is expected to begin spinning in late December.
Loaded at the main base area, the new 10-seat gondola takes less than four minutes to deliver folks to a regraded "terrain-based learning" terrain -- now named Greenhorn Ranch -- on the far northeast side of the lower mountain. The headquarters of Steamboat's ski school moves up there, too. Four moving carpets and a new high-speed quad (replacing Rough Rider chair) aim to make Greenhorn Ranch a completely encapsulated learning center.
Down below, many won't recognize the Steamboat base area as it continues to be transformed into a modern, multi-purpose plaza. A new skating rink anchors the Steamboat Square complex. Skiers and snowboarders will find a clear-cut entrance with escalator and new stairways. There's a food-and-beverage court with a second story, and an outdoor performance stage -- plus plenty of seating and railing for non-skiers to check out the lower mountain slopes.
The Preview chair and mountain coaster have been removed to make room for the new gondola loading area, and the base terminal of the existing Christie Peak Express has been moved for the same reason.
New owners Alterra Mountain Corp., purveyors of the Ikon Pass, bought Steamboat in 2017 and immediately embarked upon a $200 million makeover. The clunky decades-old base area got the initial attention with the Steamboat Square development, followed by the gondola and learning area. Snowmaking has been upgraded all over the hill.
Next summer, the gondola will be extended up from Greenhorn Ranch to the 10,384-foot ridgetop Sunshine Peak. New terrain in Fish Creek Canyon is scheduled to be opened on the far skier's right past Pony Express with a new chairlift.
Recent snow and cold weather are providing an early start to the Heartlands ski season, which is a nice departure from last year when ski areas mostly remained closed over Thanksgiving weekend and had a rough start even in December making enough snow to be fully open over the Christmas holidays.
An early arrival of winter and temperatures cold enough for snowmaking across the upper Midwest are going to allow some ski areas to be open for the Thanksgiving holidays. Minnesota will be offering the most openings with a few in northern Wisconsin and a couple in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The Lower Peninsula ski areas at this point have not announced opening dates, but some have already fired up the snowmaking and hopefully that will come soon.
A couple of ski areas, Wild Mountain in Minnesota and nearby Trollhaugen across the border in Wisconsin have already opened for the season. Afton Alps, Powder Ridge, Andes Towers Hills and Lutsen Mountains are planning on being open this weekend Nov. 18 and 19. Buck Hill is opening on Nov. 22, with Spirit Mountain and Giants Ridge scheduled Nov. 25.
Huff Hills Ski Area, located near Bismarck in North Dakota, is opening for the season on Nov. 20, which will mark their earliest opening ever in the 30 years it has been a ski area. Illinois' Chestnut Mountain plans to open Nov. 26, also one of their earliest openings.
In early season it's always a good idea to check the ski area for conditions before making a long drive. Weather can change in just a few days. You can also log onto Snoountry Snow Reports for an up to date review of what's open and conditions.
Putting these two day-trip mountains on the Indy Pass means that three alpine areas and one Nordic area are now available in the nation's most renowned skiing and riding state.
The purchase of an Indy Pass or Indy Base Pass gets a skier or rider two days free at each partner mountain, plus 25% off a third day. Typical blackouts (holidays, midseason weekends) apply only to the Indy Base Pass. To get a free day, passholders need only show ID at the ticket window to confirm, since there is no physical Indy Pass.
In Colorado, Granby and Echo join Sunlight Mountain and Bluebird Backcountry Nordic complex in the fast-growing Indy coalition that has 121 alpine and Nordic destinations worldwide. So far, there are 36 Indy Pass mountains in the West.
Granby Ranch sits about two hour's drive northwest of Denver on the west side of Berthoud Pass. The 400-acre layout splits out between two mountains, with a 30-50-20 split among green, blue and black runs, and 1,000 vertical feet. Five chairlifts run daily, and night skiing opens 4-7 p.m. on seven Fridays and Saturdays during the season.
East Mountain keeps it mellow with all the greens and more than half of the blues. A smattering of expert runs spill off the top of West Mountain, intermingling with intermediate carvers. A modest base area and a wide-open learning area are located between the two mountains, and a tight group of condos and vacation rentals hug the base area.
Echo Mountain is the closest ski and snowboard mountain to the Denver metro area -- a drive of 50 minutes from downtown and 20 minutes western suburbs. After a number of years in limbo, the 80-acre mountain has been rejuvenated by local ownership. It's an upside-down hill; that is, entrance, parking, lodge and children's area are at the top.
One triple chair handles the hill's 660 vertical feet. All of the dozen or so named trails are rated green or blue, except for the Westside glades to skier's lift. Unusual is a terrain park in the glades, while the other park is halfway down. Mountain owners are promoting Echo as a shreddin' hill for the young urbanites on the Front Range.
Rather than a formal ski school, Echo's "mountain ambassadors" roam around the base area to give tips and suggestions for free to anyone who wants them. The lights come on for night skiing 4:30 to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday.
Ski season begins today at North Carolina’s Sugar Mountain Ski Resort. After Hurricane Nicole ferociously blew through the North Carolina mountains this past weekend, temperatures plummeted, and Sugar’s snowmaking machines began churning water and air into snow.
Today, eight to twenty-two inches of man-made powder and frozen granular snow coat five of Sugar’s twenty trails. Skiable slopes include Easy Street, Northridge, Switchback, and Upper and Lower Flying Mile. The Summit Express chairlift, which runs to the mountain’s peak, and the Easy Street chairlift are spinning. Wintry weather is in the forecast throughout the week, so skiers and snowboarders can anticipate additional terrain and lifts as conditions permit.
The full-day session runs from 9:00 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. The half-day shift begins at 12:30 p.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. The twilight and night sessions will be available in the coming weeks.
The snowsports school, the equipment and clothing rental shop, the sports shop, the group sales department, and childcare are fully operational. The ice-skating rink is expected to open before Thanksgiving and the tubing park soon after.
Visit the webcams page for a real-time look at slope and weather conditions. Historical opening and closing dates and recorded annual natural snowfall measurements can be found here. For more information call 828-898-4521 or view www.skisugar.com.
Mount Bohemia, located on the witch-like finger of Michigan's UP, offers one of the best early season pass sales in the Midwest. The $99 pass sale takes place for only a little over a week from Nov. 23 through December 3, and the only way you will be able to ski or ride Saturdays throughout the season is with a season pass.
Bohemia, which the locals call Boho, is an anomaly for the Heartland. A big vertical drop for the Great Lakes Region, 900 feet with cliffs, chutes, trees, steep drops and all natural snow. They have no snowmaking, and don't do any grooming. Bohemia claims all expert terrain and, they aren't exaggerating. The terrain is typical of what you find out west in the backcountry. There is nothing else even remotely like it mid-continent. Two chairlifts whisk you back to the top to find another line through the trees, boulders and cliff drops spread out over 600 acres. Beginners aren’t allowed and wouldn’t enjoy it anyway. It also offers cat-served skiing on it's sister Voodoo Mountain, which is available on Wednesday and Saturday during the season.
The powdery, Colorado-like, lake effect snow, is a key ingredient for backcountry skiing. Bohemia has appeared among the top four resort's of Powder Magazine's annual reader poll for the best powder skiing in North America, It's currently ranked among the top four ski resorts in USA Today's annual reader vote for North America's best ski resorts, which shows its appeal.
“Mount Bohemia is one of the premier places for tree skiing in North America. With an abundant snowfall of close to 300 inches a year and acres of tree skiing Bohemia has the perfect set up for great inbounds back country skiing,” according to Powder.
Daily lift tickets will be $87 this season, which must be bought online ahead of arrival. They offer a variety of lodging, which includes trailside cabins and yurts, a marina cabin on lake Lac Labelle, a hostel, and they even allow camping in the parking lot for a fee.
Michigan based Wisconsin Resorts that owns six Heartland ski areas scattered around the Great Lakes is offering a new season pass good at all six ski areas. It owns Pine Knob, Mt. Holly, Alpine Valley Ski Area and Bittersweet, all in southern Michigan, Alpine Valley Resort in southern Wisconsin, and Searchmont, just across the border in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
If you like to experience different ski areas throughout the season, which many skiers and riders enjoy, it's a nice deal. You only have to visit one of the ski area websites to purchase a season pass, and you are good at all six Wisconsin Resorts' locations.
The cost for an adult pass is $761 through the end of November. A daily lift ticket at any of the ski areas will be $80 this season. A kid's pass is $595 and a senior pass (65+) is $693. Kids and seniors daily lift tickets are also $80 this season. Do the math. If you were to ski just 10 times during the season at just one of the areas you will spend more than the cost of a season pass. The choice to be able to visit all six ski areas, including Searchmont, one of the largest ski resorts around the Great Lakes that's just five hours north of Detroit, is a pretty sweet deal. It offers you lots of choices.
Alpine Valley, Michigan, close to the Knob and Holly, offers a fine trio of ski areas in the Detroit burbs for Michigan skiers and Bittersweet is not far away. It's also enticing for snowsports enthusiasts in the southern part of the Badger State, Chicagoland, and northern Indiana for weekend road trips during the season. Remember the offer is only good through the end of the month and prices will be going up in December.
Located in the rugged, rocky Canadian Shield, Searchmont, with a 750-foot vertical, 21 trails and terrain parks offers a true mountain feel. It's popular with many Michigan and Wisconsin skiers and riders for weekend trips to experience the Shield's mountainous terrain.
A number of southern Sierra ski and snowboard resorts opened earlier than planned for the 2022-2023 season, with a new chairlift, revamped tubing park and more snow guns highlighting new additions.
Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley and China Peak got going in early November, thanks to several unexpected large storms that dropped several feet up and down California's highest mountain range.
At Mammoth Mountain, crews at the Ikon Pass resort spent the summer working on a long-term project to develop Woolly's Tube Park into an all-season attraction. This offseason, tubing lanes were expanded, six new snow guns went in just for the tubing park, and an elevated conveyor lift is now up and running. The park, located at the bottom of Chair 4 and close to the kid-focused Wonderland Playground,is targeted to get more parking spots, too.
More snowmaking went in over the summer, aimed at getting more snow more quickly on the connecting trails across the mountain, and a bigger supply of snow for terrain parks. Neighbor June Mountain stood pat over the summer, and expects a mid-December opening.'
Up the Sierra Crest, the big news at Dodge Ridge is that two circa-1960s chairlifts came down, and a new triple chair went up in there place this summer. Skiers and riders can now reach the mountain's 8,200-foot-high summit with just one lift ride. The 862-acre mountain, a member of the Powder Alliance, expanded its terrain parks to promote progression, and remodeled both base and mid-mountain lodges.
A couple of other Sierra resorts got enough snow to being spinning lifts early. Bear Valley, a two-hour drive from Stockton, and China Peak, Fresno's backyard ski and snowboard mountain, got a couple of early feet of snow and pushed up opening dates.
Hallelujah! After a wild weather week, Mother Nature is about to chill out...literally. Following hurricane remnants in the East and a blizzard in the Plains, the first cold snap of the season will deliver a much needed jolt to kickstart ski season.
The Michigan Snowsports Industries Association (MSIA) and Minnesota Ski Areas Association (MNSAA) offer passport programs allowing elementary age kids the chance to try skiing and snowboarding for free. In Michigan it covers both fourth and fifth graders, and Minnesota’s program covers fourth graders.
Michigan’s Cold is Cool Ski & Ride Passport program offers students’ three free lift tickets at 29 participating ski areas scattered throughout the state and additional discounts on the slopes and at participating ski shops. Families obtain a Passport App for their students that gives them up to three free lift tickets or trail passes at participating ski areas. MSIA charges $30 for the passport; $25 covers operating expenses and $5 goes to a new charitable organization Misnow that helps get underprivileged kids out on our slopes & trails in the winter.
The Passport is an app to download on your phone, making it contactless at the lift ticket window. Once the application is complete, you will receive an email with instructions on how to download the app. You can also show proof of grade at a participating ski shop and gain instant access to the Cold is Cool App. The Passport also includes a coupon for 20% off a helmet purchase and $20 off the purchase of $100 at participating ski shops across the state. Some ski areas have also included coupons for equipment rental and free or discounted lessons.
All Minnesota ski areas are participating this season. The cost of the MNSAA Passport is $34.95, which includes tax, payment processing fee and administrative costs of program. Your fourth grader receives an e-pass which includes a minimum of two free lift tickets for the passport holder at each Minnesota ski area. Some offer more than the minimum of two passes. Additional information on program offerings by area and a link to more details at each member area is provided on the website.
Kudos to the associations. It bodes well for the future of Heartland snowsports programs.
Early-season snowfall, especially along the southern tier of the Rockies, has coupled with snowmaking temperatures to get a quartet of high-country ski and snowboard mountains to start spinning their lifts.
Utah's southernmost resort Brian Head kicked off the Beehive State's winter season the first weekend in November. For its second-earliest opening on record, the resort's upgraded Navajo Express -- more four-seat chairs on the cable -- handles the load for the first couple of weekends before daily operations begin on Nov. 18.
Snowmaking got a production upgrade this summer, as owners Mountain Capital Partners (MCP) continue to put money into its latest acquisition. Kids 12 and under ski and ride for free, all the time and at all eight MCP resorts, with the Kids Power Pass.
In southern Colorado, powder-king Wolf Creek wants its folks to move more easier around its 1,600 acres. To do so, the day-trip resort has installed RFID gates at six of its 10 lifts so that tickets can be read in the skier's parka pocket.
The Alberta chair has long been the best way to get to Wolf Creek's most prolific powder stashes, but it took a couple of lift rides to get to. This season, there's a traverse from the lower parking lot to the Alberta chair base with an RFID printer so that skiers and riders can set up for a powder day without going to the main ticket office or riding another chair.
Northward, Winter Park moved up its opening date to Oct. 31 -- its earliest opening ever. Experts and powderhounds will be happy as mountain managers have opened two areas of steeps. At the far end of the Vasquez Cirque, a section known as "Jelly Roll" for its rolly-polly terrain is now accessible. And, over on Mary Jane far side, more room for steep-and-deep as avalanche-controlled chutes on "Powder Field" will increase access between Trestle and double-diamond The Chutes.
And farther up the Continental Divide, Loveland loyalists began skiing and riding on Nov. 4, and will soon hop on an expanded Chair 6 to get more quickly into the blues, greens and terrain parks on the south flank of the 1,800-acre mountain.
The Indy Pass for Heartland skiers and riders, with the new ski areas that have joined, is a great choice. Many of the ski areas and resorts are located near each other, which presents an excellent opportunity for several multi-day road trips across the Heartland.
Many buy a season pass for convenience at a ski area near them and that they enjoy skiing or riding, which is fine. If you like to visit a variety of ski areas throughout the season rather than just staying with one you might consider purchasing the Indy Pass, which offers the most choices of any multiple ski area pass in the Midwest. It's good at 30 ski areas scattered across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and South Dakota.
Several of the ski areas are grouped within easy driving distance of each other, which means you can take road trips to visit two or three different resorts over a week long trip. There are trips like that in northwestern Lower Michigan, Upper Michigan, northern Wisconsin and Minnesota around the Great Lakes. The Indy Pass is also good at three of the Heartland's largest ski resorts, Lutsen Mountains, near a 900 foot vertical in the Gopher State, Granite Peak, at 700 feet, in the Badger State, and Terry Peak, over a 1,000 feet, in South Dakota's Black Hills.
The pass is currently on sale through November at $329 for adults and $149 children for the regular Indy Pass that does have blackout dates at some of the areas. The Indy+ Pass is $429 adults and $199 children with no blackout dates. The pass is good for two free days of skiing or snowboarding at each ski area and 25% off the daily rate for a third day on the slopes. Once your Indy Pass has been registered you simply go to the ticket window, get your lift ticket with your driver's license or photo ID for each day you wish to ski or ride.
For Midwest road trips it doesn't get any easier to combine ski areas for easy access and multiple days of skiing and riding. Of course it is also good at 70 other ski areas across the Lower 48, which means it’s easier than ever to maximize both your turns and your season.
After a replacement of the upper basin Supreme chair last season, the backside Albion Basin side of Alta continues to be revamped. This season, a new high-speed six-pack is expected to replace the fixed-grip Sunnyside chair at the Ikon Pass partner resort, although supply-chain slowdown may delay its opening.
The new chair will both deliver skiers and riders more quickly into the basin's network of novice green-rated trails, and provide back-door access to the chutes and bowls off Supreme and Sugarloaf lifts. Concurrently, the old Albion chair has come down.
The Corkscrew trail on Collins side has been widened, more avalanche control towers put in on the East Castle high ground, and more snowmaking has gone at Wildcat base.
In a continuing effort to reduce traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Alta will require an online parking reservation for Friday-Sunday for $25.
In neighboring Big Cottonwood Canyon, Solitude turned its attention to the first terrain park on the mountain. Summer crews installed two groups of boxes, rails and other features. A beginner-level park will sit on upper Main Street, accessed off either Apex Express or Moonbeam chairs. And, a more advanced park can be had on the steeper North Star trail, served by the Sunrise chair. An Ikon Pass gives unlimited skiing and riding at Solitude.
Over at Deer Valley, a new short-line Burns Express chair has gone in to join the main base Snow Park teaching area with the greens and blues of lower Little Baldy Mountain. Linking to the Deer Hollow green trail, the new lift will also make it easier to move from the Jordanelle Gondola base to the main mountain. Deer Valley is a seven-day Ikon Pass partner.
Next door at Park City Mountain, owner Vail Resorts (Epic Pass) has paused on major projects for this summer. Instead, the Canyons base Red Tail Grill has gotten a new deck. To reduce crowding, the resort will limit day ticket sales and continue paid parking.
At Palisades Tahoe, the much-anticipated base-to-base gondola will open this season. Long a dream of resort owners, the 2.4-mile-long eight-seat gondola will take skiers and riders from the former Squaw Valley base area to what was once Alpine Meadows base.
Alterra Mountain Co., the parent company for the resorts and Ikon Pass purveyor, says the new lift will cut down on traffic in the area by eliminating the need to drive or take a shuttle on the six miles of roadway between the resorts.
The gondola runs from the base of the newly upgraded Red Dog chair at the main Olympic Valley base area up and over the ridge to the backside base area. The ride takes about 16 minutes depending upon length of stops at the top of the KT-22 Express on the front side. Lift capacity would approximately be 1,400 people per hour in both directions.
Since taking over the two California ski and snowboard areas in 2018, Alterra has begun to spend the $17 million it pledged to upgrade and link the two distinctly different mountains -- the Olympic Valley front side with its cliffy steeps and glades, and the back side with expansive powder bowls.
The merging of the two areas will expand Palisades Tahoe's skiable terrain to about 6,000 acres, making it the second largest U.S. resort behind Park City Mountain (also a combination of two mountains).
At Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, the focus this summer has been on the Lakeview zone of the mountain (skier's left). Replacing the fixed-grip Lakeview chair, the replacement high-speed chairlift will deliver skiers and riders to the resort's high ground in less than half the time -- unloading higher up than the previous top terminal.
The new detachable quad will bring novice skiers and 'boarders to some of Mt. Rose's best blues and green runs, including its longest Around the World at 2.5 miles. Also, as the name suggests, the new chairlift will afford skiers and 'boarders a classic view of Lake Tahoe.
Three ski areas in the Midwest, Wild Mountain and Andes Tower Hills, Minnesota, and Trollhaugen in western Wisconsin, were able to open limited terrain last week. Four other ski resorts, one each in Minnesota and Wisconsin, and two in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (UP) have planned openings in the next three weeks. The Heartland ski season is underway.
Ski Brule in the UP has the planned earliest season opener slated for November 11. They are routinely one of the earliest opening ski resorts in the Heartland. Lift tickets are free on opening day. They have a Thanksgiving special offering half-off on Wednesday night lodging if you plan on staying through the holiday weekend for four nights. Their highly regarded Thanksgiving Race Camp is taking place over the four days.
Lutsen Mountains in Minnesota and Snowriver Mountain Resort, also in the UP have planned season openers slated for November 19. Lutsen plans on having 10 runs open on Eagle Mountain and early season lift tickets are $79 through December 16. Ski in/ski out lodging specials at Lutsen are available from $109 per night. Snowriver lift tickets will be the same as Lutsen, $69 through December 16, and you can purchase two day lift tickets for $10 off online. No lodging specials were listed on their website. Both resorts will be limiting lift ticket sales on weekends and holidays, which means buy ahead online.
Wisconsin's Granite Peak has an opening slated during the week before Thanksgiving. No lodging specials were listed on their website, but affordable lodging is within minutes of the ski area. Lift tickets are $79 from opening day through December 16. Purchase before November 15 and save 20% off the posted rates. They will also be limiting lift ticket sales on holidays and weekends, which means purchase online ahead of time.
Cooler nighttime temperatures has led to aggressive snowmaking at Arapahoe Basin, so much so that the high-altitude Colorado mountain loaded its first skiers and snowboarders on Sunday, Oct. 23.
Eager skiers and riders get to head up on high-speed chairlift, the Black Mountain Express, and make the first turns of the season on blue-rated High Noon on the lower half of the mountain.
"The time has come," said A-Basin chief Alan Henceroth. "The snowmakers and 'cat drivers have done a tremendous job, and the forecast for the coming week looks outstanding."
Last year's early-opening winner, Wolf Creek, is expected to get a double-digit dump out of this storm. The mountain perched on the Continental Divide is on track to open as scheduled on Oct. 29.
Indeed, warm fall weather is predicted to turn dramatically in the coming weeks all over the West. Forecasting service OpenSnow saying that mountains in Utah should begin to fill up, with Alta and Snowbird with more than a foot. Southern Colorado should get significant snowfalls on the first weekend of the season, but most will wait to open until November.
In the week following, OpenSnow predicts small but steady buildup at most mountains in the West. Expect Loveland and Keystone in Colorado to begin spinning lifts for the 2022-2023 season before the end of October.
However, the ski-focused forecaster indicates that snowfall will cease toward the end of the month, so skiers and 'boarders shouldn't look for many slopes to open before announced dates.
Depending upon location, night temperatures should stay cold enough for snow guns to shoot a base onto their slopes and trails. But mountain managers note that day temperatures can't rise too much without melting some of the overnight coverage.