The biggest player in Far West skiing is California where resorts, like others across the country, have invested heavily in infrastructure, improvement of facilities, and technology that will enhance contactless lift access, reservations, and payments and add to the quality of a day on the slopes.
“Ski California resorts (there are 33 members including some in Nevada) safely operated all season long last year, giving skiers and riders a sense of normalcy while recreating outdoors during an otherwise challenging time,” said Michael Reitzell, Ski California president. “As the 2021-22 season approaches, resorts in California and Nevada have invested to further enhance the guest experience.”
Reitzell called attention to Ski California Safety Day set for Jan. 29, which he describes as filled with “guest-centric activities and events designed to educate skiers and riders about safety on the slopes.” He noted the pandemic has not ended and all resorts will continue to follow guidelines. Check the individual resort’s websites for details before you go, he advised.
Meanwhile, in neighboring Arizona, where three resorts beckon skiers, there have been a few improvements as well. This story will be updated later this month when Pacific Northwest ski areas announce their upgrades.
Here’s what’s waiting for you in the Far West:
We’ve got lift-off
Kingvale on Donner Summit adds two new surface lifts for skiing, snowboarding, and sledding.
Palisades Tahoe has added a new surface lift in the High Camp beginner area.
Snow Valley, Southern California’s longest continually operating ski area, has added a new surface lift for its Children’s Learning Center.
More snowmaking and room to ski or ride
China Peak has made a major investment into its snowmaking as its new $4 million system is now among the largest in the Golden State. Extensive summer grooming will allow for earlier opening on key runs.
Diamond Peak will open new glade skiing opportunities as a result of Forest Service operations during the summer, including brush and small tree clearing.
Dodge Ridge, under new ownership for the first time in 45 years (same as Mountain High Resorts in Southern California), plans to test snowmaking at the base area for the first time. Summer trail grooming work will allow for an earlier opening.
Homewood focused its summer work on forest health within the ski area boundaries.
Kingvale, with those two new surface lifts, has tripled its skiable terrain.
Mt. Baldy in Southern California’s Angeles National Forest improved its ability to offer a high-quality snow surface with two new Pole Cat nozzle fan installations.
Mountain High in Wrightwood, just above Los Angeles, spent $1 million this summer on its snowmaking efforts with new energy-efficient snow guns and a new snowcat.
Snow Valley has expanded snowmaking on its sledding hill, allowing for 14 lanes.
Tahoe-Donner is looking to assure a high-quality snow surface with the use of a new Pisten Bully 400 snowcat.
Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe, close to Reno, spent the summer embarking on the largest capital improvement project in its history which will result in the expansion of the Lakeview area of the mountain. The resort has invested more than $1 million in snowmaking infrastructure on the Mine Train, Slide Bowl, and Race Arena trails.
New places to eat and snooze
Arizona Snowbowl’s Hart Prairie Lodge outdoor seating area will be expanded and beautified with paver bricks extending from the rear of the lodge to the Grand Canyon Express pedestrian bridge, in addition to new amenities such as outdoor fire pits. Ski Lift Lodge and Cabins, located at the base of Snowbowl Road, is getting a new name – Basecamp at Snowbowl – with improvements to guest rooms and its on-site restaurant.
Sunrise Park’s Resort Hotel will re-open in December. Other lodging options available locally are at Hon-Dah Resort Casino as well as in the Pinetop/Greer area.
China Peak has a new foodservice operation – Mainstream – which will expand the foodie options in the base facilities.
Mammoth/June Mountain guests can enjoy refurbished rooms at the Westin Monache and the Mammoth Mountain Lodging Collection has expanded its luxury homes portfolio, catering to families or groups looking for private lodging opportunities. There’s a new Coca-Cola Lounge at McCoy Station.
Lee Canyon will do away with cafeteria-style dining and will offer new ways to enjoy meals.
And behind the scenes
Big Bear Mountain Resorts have invested in new RFID technology that will allow for seamless lift access and easy reloading of lift tickets online. New kiosks offer contactless lift ticket pick-up and mobile food ordering will be available at several locations.
Boreal Woodward Tahoe makes it possible to select your start time, arrive, and get contactless mountain access with “Go Time Tickets,” where prices gradually decrease throughout the day. Woodward Tahoe has a new All Access Membership plan giving 360-degree access to its 16-acre action sports hub.
Heavenly Resort will continue to offer cashless transactions. No reservations are required this season. Be sure to check COVID protocols as all Vail Resorts properties are enforcing new requirements.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort’s Expedition Kirkwood will offer multiple clinics and private lessons along with cashless transactions throughout.
Mammoth Mountain will see new daily air service to Bishop (BIH) airport from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Denver on United Airlines, along with regional service on Advanced Air between Mammoth Lakes Airport and Burbank, Hawthorne, and Carlsbad.
Snow Valley installed new touchless ticketing with REDYREF kiosks and rental equipment – an all-new HEAD fleet – can now be reserved online.
Sierra-at-Tahoe is still recovering from damage caused by the devastating 221,000-acre Caldor fire in August. It will impact operations this winter. Most of the resorts structures were saved by firing snowguns as the fire jumped into the Tahoe Basin, but damage to the areas and infrastructure, including some lifts, was significant. The biggest issue is that Fire-weakened trees through the terrain are being evaluated and potentially removed, especially near lifts and trails.
Arizona Snowbowl conducted clean-up projects to restore vegetation and improve the overall appearance at the new overflow parking lot adjacent to Hart Prairie.
Sunrise Park has updated its trail maps and is introducing a giant interactive base area sign of the mountain, based on this new map.