When you think of California, chances are your mind will conjure up images of sandy beaches, bronzed surfers and maybe even a famous mouse. Whatever your vision of the Golden State it probably doesn’t involve snow or mountains.
Yet at the end of last month I joined Visit California in the Ice Bar, London, to discover more about the wide range of ski resorts the state has to offer.
This year is a particularly exciting one for California’s snowy spots as after a couple of fairly dry seasons, the snow has arrived early and is already belting down. On the night Brendan Croft, junior travel trade account manager at Visit California in the UK said the resort of Mammoth Mountain had gained 14 inches of snowfall at its base level in the past 24 hours.
Mammoth is the highest resort in California with the base town sitting at 2,400m proving the state has some seriously high altitude skiing. “The resort can get two metres of snow overnight in good conditions,” said Croft.
There are a total of 27 resorts in the state with the biggest concentration around Lake Tahoe where there are eight major resorts, each of which has its own distinctive character.
For example Northstar is a great resort for families with its car-free, purpose-built base resort and good beginner facilities, while Squaw Valley presents more challenging conditions for advanced skiers and snowboarders. Heavenly, meanwhile, sits on the state border of California and Nevada.
The resorts also benefit from that famous Californian sunshine and enjoy an average of 300 days of sunshine per year.
Croft highlighted that a project to connect two of the resorts, Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows, with a new gondola has been agreed. The new infrastructure will create the second biggest resort in the US.
Beyond Lake Tahoe, there are some resorts in surprising locations. Badger Pass resort in Yosemite was California’s first ski resort and one of just three US resorts to be located in a national park.
Further south Big Bear Lake – home to resorts Bear Mountain and Snow Summit – may surprise with their southern California location. These were acquired by Mammoth Mountain in March. Croft said: “The Mammoth Resorts family has a $2 million improvement campaign in place for the 2015-16 season. Both resorts have received dining upgrades, Snow Summit has a new Snow Tube Park and they have invested in new snow-making and shaping infrastructure.”