When I think of California, I think of coast line, beaches, beautiful but massive cities, and… amusement parks.  Wally World!!!  But there are mountains east of San Francisco that have some world class ski resorts.  OK, everyone’s heard of Lake Tahoe or Mammoth… but have you ever skied there?  If not, then it is time to change that immediately.  Hop on a flight to San Fran, rent a car, and go enjoy some fresh pow while the rest of us in Alberta and BC freeze like rats.  It’ll be fun!!

Mammoth - chair heading up to the 'Top of the Sierra'

Mammoth – chair heading up to the ‘Top of the Sierra’

Let’s start with Mammoth where they are reporting 30-40cms of fresh snow this morning.  Now imagine yourself skiing that peak in knee deep powdy.  Eh?  The forecast high is around zero for the next 3 days so I’m thinking it might not be west coast powder – maybe a little on the heavy side by mid day 😉  The terrain at Mammoth looks really interesting.  Lot’s of wide open terrain above tree line and certainly enough variety to keep you exploring for the weekend.

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Mammoth by the numbers:

  • Over 3,100 vertical feet – comparable to the big resorts in the Canadian rockies
  • Over 3,500 skiable acres – respectable 🙂 Lake Louise has 4200 acres
  • Over 150 named trails
  • Over 300 days of sunshine per year – now that I like! But when does it have time to snow?
  • Top elevation: 11,053 feet – I didn’t realize the Sierra’s were so big.
  • Base elevation: 7,953 feet
  • Average snowfall: 1000cms  – it does have time to snow!  In comparison, Fernie averages 875cms annually.
  • 28 lifts (includes 9 high speed quads, 2 high speed six-packs and 3 high speed gondolas)
  • Terrain: 15% expert, 20% advanced, 40% intermediate, 25% beginner

The other California resort that’s reporting heavy snowfall is Squaw Valley.  The powder chasers were enjoying 25cms of new snow this morning.  Judging by the alpine webcam, it looks like the snow is still coming down this afternoon.  It looks a bit wet to me but then I’m used to dry rocky mountain powder (and colder temperatures, see Outlook West).

Screenshot 2014-02-27 13.38.54 I took the liberty of perusing their photo gallery and sharing a couple of pics that I hope give you an idea of what a powder day can be like at Squaw Valley.  In these shots the snow looks very light and fluffy!

Screenshot 2014-02-27 13.45.40 Screenshot 2014-02-27 13.45.58The terrain is also massive!  The elevation isn’t as high as Mammoth, only 9050 feet, but they have 6 mountain peaks, 29 lifts, and 3600 acres of terrain.  Their average annual snowfall is over 1100cms.  That’s plenty of powder to be enjoyed in a season.  I also like the front side / back side layout.  I’ve never skied Squaw, but I get the sense that the backside probably has better snow on a powder day (similar to Lake Louise).  And as the trail maps show they have a crazy amount of runs – 170+ if you’re counting.

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I’ll include one last google earth photo showing Squaw Valley, Lake Tahoe and some of the other ski resorts in the area.  Alpine Meadows is just below Squaw Valley on the map (next to Scott Peak) and Heavenly is down at the south end of the lake (not shown in the map below).  The big resort next to Mt. Pluto is Northstar and the smaller one near Mt. Lincoln is Sugar Bowl.  http://www.skilaketahoe.com/  lists 7 major resorts and a couple smaller ones in the area.  I think I could spend an entire season there and not get bored.

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