California Cool: The Golden State’s Winter Playgrounds

Published on : Thursday, November 28, 2013

Visit CaliforniaCalifornia is well known for its starring role as a hotspot for sunny getaways. But in a state celebrated for its diversity, it should come as no surprise that when winter rolls around, California looks great in white too. Far beyond the beaches, the mountain towns and resorts of the Sierras and elsewhere provide the perfect setting for a season’s worth of adventures including world-class skiing, snowboarding and other alpine activities including snowshoeing, snow biking and photography hikes. Off the slopes, California’s mountain resorts also deliver with fine dining, abundant nightlife, shopping and enough activities and diversions to ensure a peak experience all season long.

On the Slopes

Skiing and Snowboarding

From towering Mt. Shasta in Northern California to popular Southern California ski resorts such as Big Bear, the opportunities to escape to California’s mountain resorts are literally as big as the state itself, with easy access from urban centers such as San Francisco, Sacramento and Los Angeles. What you’ll discover is a full array of skiing options including alpine, telemark and cross country plus snowboarding. Up north, sparkling Lake Tahoe segues spectacularly into winter with multiple California mountain destinations – six major resorts in all – including Alpine Meadows, Heavenly Mountain Resort, Kirkwood Mountain Resort, Northstar, Sierra-at-Tahoe and Squaw Valley. Whether you’re on the hunt for serious off-piste adventures or family-friendly bunny slopes, you’ll find the perfect escape here. Choices range from the stunning Lake Tahoe views and backcountry ski adventures found at Alpine Meadows to the five-star amenities and world-class terrain parks of Northstar, home to Olympian Shaun White.

Other popular mountains and amenities to check out include the challenging chutes and bowls of Squaw Valley (site of the 1960 Winter Olympics), as well as the tree skiing, extensive backcountry terrain and innovative freestyler terrain parks of Sierra-at-Tahoe, which is also a haven for newbies thanks to its four beginner-only lifts. If you’re an early season skier, prepare to fall in love with Heavenly. The 4,800-acre ski resort boasts the West Coast’s largest snowmaking system, allowing it to open as early as the Thanksgiving holidays. And if you like hitting the slopes with your four-legged friend, dogs are good to go at the Tahoe Donner Cross Country Ski Center which features over 100 kilometers of groomed trails that include two dog-friendly trails.

In the Central Sierra, family-friendly Bear Valley Resort cozies up to kids by offering fifth graders the chance to ski and ride free every weekend. With more than 1,600 acres of varied terrain and 70 trails, the resort also features an expanded ski and snowboard school and new learning center that can accommodate more than 150 youth skiers and boarders each day. And if you’re interested in tuning up your ollies, the ski and snowboard school offers station-based learning designed to give beginners a better way to master one skill set before moving to the next station.

Celebrating its 60th anniversary during the 2013/14 season, the Eastern Sierra’s Mammoth Mountain proves it just gets better with age thanks to new enhancements, including the re-opening of June Mountain which will now focus on families and entry-level skiers and riders. At the other end of the spectrum, the US Ski and Snowboard Association also calls Mammoth Mountain home, utilizing the area’s more challenging terrain as the Official Training Ground for US Freeskiing and Snowboarding as athletes prepare for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games. The big picture is that with thousands of acres of groomed runs and backcountry terrain and more than 150 named trails, Mammoth can handle just about anyone from novice to black diamond aficionado. And thanks to an impressive altitude of over 11,000 feet, Mammoth is your spring season headquarters with one of the longest skiing season in North America.

If you like your skiing and riding on the wild side, Mt. Shasta Ski Park offers their Beyond the Boundaries backcountry tours, an ideal way to acclimate to rugged off-piste adventures. These guided excursions feature an introduction to backcountry touring including avalanche avoidance and rescue techniques.

Other Winter Sports & Activities

Maybe you’re a skier who wants to try something new or maybe you just don’t schuss. No worries there are plenty of other ways to explore our mountains during winter. In addition to cross country skiing, North Lake Tahoe’s Royal Gorge Cross Country offers winter adventurers the opportunity to participate in snowshoeing and fat tire snowbiking on dedicated trails. Think single track mountain biking in a winter wonderland and you get the idea.

Thanks to its extensive size, Mammoth Mountain serves up an array of experiences even for non-skiers including snowmobile rides on 75-miles of snow-covered trails courtesy of Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures. If you want to get to the mountain’s 11,000-foot summit without the windburn, Panorama Gondola tours are the perfect way to get that epic Facebook profile shot. At the summit, you can visit the interpretive center or enjoy a meal at the Top of the Sierra café. You can also cap off a perfect day on the slopes with an unforgettable mid-mountain dinner on the Parallax Snowcat Dinner excursion. With lifts closed for the night you’ll arrive by Snowcat and have a privileged perch in the restaurant enjoying a three-course meal served with a side of epic mountain views.

Yosemite is rightly famous for its warm season attractions, but the famed national park is also home to one of California’s oldest ski areas, Badger Bass. Besides extensive skiing and snowboarding opportunities, the ski area offers guided snowshoe hikes that allow you to explore some of Yosemite’s most pristine areas covered in a blanket of snow.
Southern California might be more famous for Hollywood and palm trees, but just two hours from most So Cal cities, you can ski the highest lift-served peaks in the Southland or try your hand at skill-building terrain parks at Big Bear. Beyond the slopes, another favorite adrenaline-fueled activity here is winter zip-line tours that will have you zinging past snow-covered treetops. The mountain resort is also home to Snowshoe the Bear, Southern California’s biggest snowshoe celebration held every February, featuring marked 5K and 10K courses utilizing National Forest Trails.

Off The Slopes

Don’t let winter’s chill fool you: California’s mountain retreats are home to a hot scene found up and down the state at events such as Heavenly’s monthly Winter Snow Blast series and Tamarack Lodge, where the Unbuckle après ski party sizzles with DJs, food, and drink specials Thursday though Sunday. Every year, the SnowGlobe electronic music festival rings in the New Year and for families, there’s Heavenly Holidays, an annual two-week countdown to Christmas that includes Santa, ice sculptures, performers and live music.

Mammoth Lakes is more than moguls and terrain parks. It’s also about craft cocktails and locally sourced cuisine as you’ll discover at foodie finds such as newly opened CAMPO restaurant, chef Mark Estee’s eatery in The Village, lauded as one of Esquire’s best new restaurants. And bringing a little Hollywood to the slopes, the Underground Lounge gives you an after-dark option with a tasty mash-up of music, tapas and signature cocktails.

If you’re visiting Yosemite’s Badger Pass, make the most of your time off the slopes by enjoying the many winter diversions found here. A greatest hits list has to include taking a spin on the ice skating rink located on the Valley floor under the majestic shadow of Half Dome. You can also enjoy a tour of the historic Ahwahnee Lodge or indulge your inner foodie at the annual Chef’s Holidays dinners (January – February) featuring some of the world’s most acclaimed chefs. Whichever activity you choose, your options off the slopes of California’s mountain resorts are sure to prove a feast for the senses.

 

Source:- Visit California

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