The Golden State of California is known for its beaches, sunny attitude and perfect weather. But snow? You bet. Californians are equally proud of their state’s amazing ski season, so if you’re thinking of a winter holiday on the slopes, here’s what’s waiting for you outside San Francisco and LA.
The Sierra Nevada range features world-class mountain resorts circling breathtaking Lake Tahoe and scaling the heights of Mammoth Mountain. It’s the most popular ski region in California, and also boasts the longest ski season in the USA, receiving on average 10 metres of snow fall each year. Past seasons have seen record conditions treating skiers and snowboarders to a historic fifteen metres of snow, and extending the season to July/August – well into the US summer.
Where to ski?
North Lake Tahoe
Straddling the California-Nevada border, the dream destination of North Lake Tahoe lays claim to some of the country’s top alpine resorts, including Squaw Valley, Northstar California and Alpine Meadows, the sister mountain to Squaw.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows resort has been voted by USA Today and 10Best as the Best Ski Resort in North America for two years running. With access to more than 6,000 skiable acres, 42 lifts and 270 trails featuring over 65 per cent beginner and intermediate terrain and 14 easy-to-navigate mountain zones, all on one lift ticket, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is a destination for everyone. They even have an app which tracks your runs all day and lets you challenge your friends to steeper terrain.
For the modern family that prefers substance with a unique, laid-back style, Northstar California Resort combines California cool with high-end luxury, on-mountain exhilaration with a sophisticated alpine village atmosphere. Daily throughout the winter season, Northstar hosts tōst, celebrating the mountains, Lake Tahoe and the tradition of toasting to friends and family, Northstar invites guests to raise their flutes and sip bubbles each day on East Ridge run at 2pm. Luxurious, whimsical and an ode to fun in the mountains, tōst is reflective of the authentic atmosphere of “California laid-back luxury” found only at Northstar.
North Lake Tahoe is only an hour drive from the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, two hours from Sacramento International Airport and less than four hours from San Francisco International Airport.
Just a 5-hour drive from LA or less than an hour by plane, Mammoth Mountain has been known for having the deepest snow base in North America in recent seasons (who knew?! In California!).
Majestic in scale and awesome in natural beauty, it is the highest resort in California with an elevation of 3,370 metres, has a vertical rise of over 940 metres, runs up to 4.8 kilometres long, 28 lifts, eight terrain parks and two pipes. The vast variety of terrain – open bowls, steep chutes, friendly groomers and off-piste tree – is why many skiers visit Mammoth Mountain time and again.
It’s not unusual to share a chairlift ride with an Olympian or see a gold medallist soaring high above a massive terrain park. Mammoth Mountain is an official training mountain of the US Olympic Team, annually hosting numerous events featuring both professional and up-and-coming athletes.
Mammoth Mountain is located in the town of Mammoth Lakes and the area offers Australian visitors a laid-back local vibe and a plethora of accommodation options. For ski-in-ski-out, the Mammoth Mountain Inn is the perfect slopeslide retreat whilst for those interested in village life, a two minute gondola ride away is The Village Lodge at Mammoth offering the finest in condo-style lodging.
Kids love playing in Mammoth Lakes, whether they are building a snowman, gliding down a snowy slope, or carving figure eights on a smooth sheet of ice. Snow tubing at Wooly’s Tube Park and Snowplay offers all the fun and excitement of sledding with the convenience of a rope tow to pull you to the top of the hill.
Post day of play, there are plenty of ways to unwind, including dining options that span the gamut from family to fine, full-service spas and plenty or bars and watering holes to suit any style.
When to ski?
California boasts the longest ski season in the USA, with the first resorts in North Lake Tahoe opening at the end of October and Mammoth Mountain opening early November. The season lasts well into May, June and on occasion, July and August!
3 reasons skiing in California is awesome
300 days of sunshine
Boasting 300 days of sweet California sunshine, North Lake Tahoe and Mammoth are rarely short of blue-bird days and views to die-for.
Of course, skiing and snowboarding are a key part of the California snow experience, however there are tonnes of other activities offered at North Lake Tahoe and Mammoth including ice-skating, snowshoeing, tubing and sledding. For those seeking more power than gravity can provide, Coldstream Adventures out of Truckee and Lake Tahoe Snowmobile Tours on Brockway Summit offer snowmobile rentals and tours. SnoVentures at the base of Squaw Valley has mini snowmobile rides for kids in addition to snow tubing, and the Resort at Squaw Creek has dog-sledding and horse-drawn sleigh rides.
In great snow-country tradition, there is also plenty of Après fun at California’s alpine resorts. Have a beer at the highest tiki bar in the world (part owned by two Aussies), swap stories with the pros at Le Chamois, take a mixology class and enjoy your creation afterwards, or roast s’mores and marshmallows by the fire.
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