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12 Don’t-Miss Snow Events

12 Don’t-Miss Snow Events
Plan your California ski trip around one of these events in the snow

Between the falling flakes and the après-ski party atmosphere, a vacation in the California snow is festive from the get-go. Around the Golden State ski resorts also throw parties all season long for any number of reasons: the holidays, music festivals, world-class competitions—even skidding across a slushy pond as winter turns to spring. Here are 12 events at California ski resorts—from the Sierra Nevadas down to the San Bernardino Mountains—with parties that make a great excuse to plan a California ski trip.

 

SnowGlobe Music Festival

South Lake Tahoe

December 29–31

This three-day annual music fest at Lake Tahoe Community College—with an emphasis on electronic dance music—boasts of being the biggest New Year’s Eve party in the Golden State. Headliners this year include The Chainsmokers, Flume, and Odesza. At nearby Heavenly Mountain Resort, ring in the new year with a live band, fireworks, and a midnight “ball drop” along the brightly lit gondola.

Other Tahoe-area resorts throw their own NYE parties too. The Northstar Village party offers ice-skating, s’mores-roasting, and fireworks at 9 p.m. Kirkwood, meanwhile, holds its annual Torchlight Parade, with a big fireworks show at the base of the mountain.

Huck Cup: Two-Star Free World Qualifier

Sierra-at-Tahoe

March 3–4

The challenging Huckleberry Canyon, which encompasses 320 acress of backcountry terrain at Sierra-at-Tahoe, plays host to a two-star Free World Qualifier event that showcases top snowboard and freeskiing athletes. Athletes will display their most creative and difficult tricks in order to advance to the finals, which will make for a thrilling weekend for spectators. Grab a snack or beer at 360 Smokehouse before heading to the viewing point a short walk away.

World’s Largest Lesson & More! 

Mountain High

January 6

If you’re inexperienced on the slopes and find reassurance in numbers, join this group lesson that, in 2016, hosted a record number of skiers and snowboarders for one single class. Mountain High plans to maintain its world-record status this year, and will continue to support newbies all month. During January, this family-friendly resort in the San Gabriel Mountains—90 minutes from Los Angeles or Orange County—welcomes beginners with discounted lessons for its Learn to Ski & Snowboard Month (and midweek visits mean discounts for the all-important Learn to Turn Tuesdays, which run all the way through March). The resort even has a virtual ski lesson area where you can master the basics indoors.

 

U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Grand Prix

Mammoth Mountain

February 1–4

This four-day halfpipe and slopestyle competition carries a lot more than just a $400,000 prize money purse: It will serve as the first qualifying event for the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang, and the 2018 U.S. Olympic Snowboarding Team will be named shortly afterward. Keep an eye out, at Unbound’s Main Park and its 22-foot halfpipe, for Mammoth Team athletes Kelly Clark, Chloe Kim, Greg Bretz, Brandon Davis, Judd Henkes, Brock Crouch, and Maddie Mastro. For good views, stand on the Main Lodge sundeck, the base of the Super Duper Pipe (look for the snow stairs), or along the Main Park’s fence line.

 

Kid-O-Rama

Squaw Valley

February 18–25

Extend your family’s Presidents’ Day weekend into a full week at Squaw, which makes the most of the “ski week” that many kids get off from school. Kids will freak, for instance, over the Big Truck Event that showcases snowplows, grooming machines, and fire trucks. The week also features kid-friendly street parties, concerts, and an all-kid game and craft room. It’s a great time, too, to enjoy the resort’s aerial tram rides, snow tubing, ice-skating, and mini-snowmobiles, which kids age 6–12 can drive on the groomed oval at the resort’s SnoVentures Activity Zone.

 

Audi FIS Ski World Cup

Squaw Valley

March 9–12

For serious fans of snow sports, the World Cup—a cumulative competition over several events around the globe—can carry as much (if not more) prestige as the Olympics. And while it has been nearly 20 years since California hosted a World Cup event, this four-day FIS World Cup competition brings it back to the Golden State, with a spotlight on Olympic champions (like Squaw Valley local Julia Mancuso) as well as the legendary Red Dog run, site of both the 1969 World Cup and the 1960 Winter Olympics. Buy a two-day, VIP pass and you’ll get a spot near the finish line, as well as lunches with beer or wine, and exclusive access to intermediate/advanced terrain at Squaw Valley before races. But otherwise, there are free standing-room areas near the finish arena, as well as along one side of Red Dog Face.

Even without the competition, this is a festive time to be at Squaw: The World Cup coincides with the Tahoe City Snowfest, which runs from March 3–12 with live music and festivities going on at Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows, Homewood, and Northstar. Highlights include the crowning of the SnowFest! Queen and a fabulous pet costume contest.

 

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe

Squaw Valley

March 31April 2

Snow, sunshine, and good music combine for this pretty irresistible spring festival. Come for three days of world-class bluegrass and acoustic roots music on three stages, complemented by craft brew tastings at the Beer Hall. Past headliners have included the Greensky Bluegrass, Leftover Salmon, and the Travelin’ McCourys. Kids are welcome too: age 12 and under get in free and can participate in kids’ zones with their own music, crafts, and hula-hooping.

  

Spring It On Pond Skim

Northstar

April 1

While the warmer temperatures of spring might put a damper on some winter sports, the thawing bodies of water at ski resorts create new opportunities for daredevils, show-offs, or fun-loving masochists. This classic “pond skim” on the north side of Lake Tahoe is free to anyone who wants to try crossing chilly water on skis or snowboards, while also rocking an appropriately weird costume. (One catch: Only the first 75 people who arrive can compete.) Watch the messy fun from the bottom of the neighboring halfpipe, or enjoy the live music at the Gondola Deck, then check out the big Tug-o-War contest afterward.

 

SpringFest

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area

April 1

The national park’s winter-sports area celebrates the coming thaw with live music and a range of activities like a costume contest, an obstacle course race, and a freestyle competition for older skiers. Don’t miss the World Cup Dummy Race, in which participants create “dummies” (at least three feet high and under 100 pounds) and then set them off in a race down Red Fox Run.

 

34th Annual Snow Golf Tournament

Alpine Meadows

April 8

This beloved annual event offers another creative spin to the wacky spring skiing season. Tee up on the unique nine-hole golf course that will span the mountain, beginning at the Summit Express Chair and ending at the bottom of Alpine Bowl Chair. Give your usual snow outfit a layer of Caddyshack-inspired color: Whether you manage to birdie or bogie your way through the snow, you can enter the costume contest at the end.

 

Winter Ezakimak

Mammoth Mountain

April 15

The Kamikaze bike trail extends down the back side of Mammoth Mountain, from the peak to the Main Lodge. Spell “kamikaze” backwards—and travel the trail backwards too—and you get the Winter Ezakimak race, which invites participants to use snowshoes, cross-country skis, fat bikes, or just go by foot and do a 5K up the mountain. Spectators, meanwhile, can just ride the gondola to the top for the music, family-friendly activities, and beer or hot cocoa.

 

27th Annual Cushing Crossing

Squaw Valley

April 22

The folks at Squaw Valley boast that, back in 1989, they launched the first “pond skim,” in which participants traversed icy-cold Cushing Pond on any contraption based on skis or snowboards. Today, the same festivities are overseen by a celebrity panel of judges who score the participants on both their skills and moxie, and the results are fabulous, even when they’re a little sloppy.

 

 

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Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Discover the High Sierra

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45
October
Average (°F)
Sept - Nov
66°
High
26°
Low
Dec - Feb
39°
High
21°
Low
Mar - May
55°
High
23°
Low
June - Aug
72°
High
41°
Low

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wildflower meadows and glistening lakes in summer, vibrant colors in fall—this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World-class mountain resorts circling turquoise-blue Lake Tahoe, and at Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and vistas in summer.

Yosemite Valley…is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and gold and wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.”  --photographer Ansel Adams

Yosemite National Park, a World Heritage Site, is here, roughly 3½ hours east of San Francisco. Whether you hike a mountain, ski the steeps, or lounge in a hot tub beneath a canopy of stars, you’ll find your perfect getaway. 

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John Dickey/TandemStock.com

THE CALIFORNIA QUESTIONNAIRE: Alex Honnold

The El Capitan free-solo rock climber explains his love for Yosemite and more California favorites

On June 3, 2017, Honnold became the first person to ever ascend El Capitan, the 3,000-foot granite wall in...

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Room/Getty Images

Lone Pine

Discover the natural beauty and another side of California in a historic Owens Valley small town

Head to Lone Pine to see a different side of California—one that is less connected to...

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Groveb/Getty Images
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Chris Falkenstein

Yosemite in Winter

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Visit during the park’s quietest season for unforgettable snowy beauty

With its iconic granite domes and spires etched in snow, and a hushed beauty that’s both intimate and wild, Yosemite National Park makes a magical...

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CLIF Bar/Mason Mashon

The California Questionnaire: Jeremy Jones

The professional snowboarder’s biggest conundrum is deciding which Sierra Nevada adventure to tackle next

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In Yosemite Valley, the Merced River drops over 594-foot Nevada Fall and then 317-foot Vernal Fall, creating what is known as the Giant Staircase.
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At 14,505 ft. above sea level, Mt. Whitney is the highest point in the contiguous United States.
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Toni Zernik

Truckee

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This charming mountain town is the central hub for North Shore destinations

Up and over the hill from Lake Tahoe’s north shore, Truckee offers an easy base that’s away from the hubbub. Historically a logging town, Truckee...

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family-friendly resorts, snowy escapes

High Sierra peaks, deep drifts on a Mammoth volcano, family-friendly resorts, snowy escapes on the edge of Yosemite and more—California has enough alpine destinations to keep any skier or boarder...

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Relax after a day on the slopes

Kicking back after you kick off your boots is a snow-country tradition, and there’s plenty of post-slopes fun at California’s top alpine resorts. Have a beer or warm up with an Irish coffee, dance...

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Jeff Enegerbretson
Yosemite Valley, to me, is always a sunrise, a glitter of green and golden wonder in a vast edifice of stone and space.
Ansel Adams
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Trip 6-7 days 10 stops

Sierra Adventure

Granite peaks, alpine valleys, towering trees-the High Sierra is nature's playground all year-round
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Blue as a topaz and circled by majestic peaks, this High Sierra gem straddling the California-Nevada border is a bucket-list staple, a place where the air is “very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,” according to author Mark Twain. Lakefront towns dot the shoreline, each with...

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On your way to this park, save time to visit the charming Gold Country town of Murphys (a great place for wine tasting and innovative dining along the town’s main street). Then continue north and east to discover peaceful groves of giant sequoias at this under-the-radar park. Established in 1931...

January-February

Experience one of California’s most magical settings, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel (formerly Ahwahnee) in winter, during this intimate and outstanding event. Some of the best chefs in the country...

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Courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite
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Rachid Dahnoun/Aurora Photos

Spotlight: Lake Tahoe

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Majestic peaks encircle a turquoise-blue, year-round playground

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Rebecca Garrett

Spotlight: Mammoth Lakes

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Snowy winters, wildflower summers

Surrounded by some of the highest peaks in the west, folks in this laid-back mountain town know they’ve got a good thing going. It’s a land of...

As it lay there with the shadows of the mountains brilliantly photographed upon its still surface, I thought it must surely be the fairest picture the whole earth affords.
Mark Twain (recalling his first sighting of Lake Tahoe)
July - August

With a pine-and-peak alpine setting and a relaxed and friendly ambiance, this appealing event in Bear Valley, roughly halfway between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite, includes performances by outstanding...

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Courtesy of Bear Valley Music Festival
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Kodiak Greenwood

Mono Lake Tufa State Natural Reserve

Visit bizarre formations, cinder cones, and a super-salty lake

There are few places in California—and maybe on the planet—that can make you think you might just be on Mars. This is one of them. At this high-...

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Kodiak Greenwood

Bodie

Tour the eerie remnants of a former boomtown

There's something eerily appropriate about bumping down the dusty desert road that winds the final few miles into Bodie State Historic Park. Round...

November - December

As autumn gives way to winter, slip away to this signature event, presented at the Majestic Yosemite (formerly Ahwahnee) in incomparable Yosemite Valley. Leading winemakers celebrate the fall...

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Courtesy of DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite
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Bishop

Explore an outdoorsy adventure town with an artistic side

Bishop brims with outdoor activities. Situated at the north end of the Owens Valley, with close access to some of the Sierra’s most dramatic high...

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Guided Adventures

Learn to climb, join a pack trip, and more

While there are plenty of ways to play on your own in the High Sierra, there’s a whole host of ways to learn a new activity, like how to catch and...

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Lucas Himovitz

Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Look up at (and learn about) amazing giant sequoias

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Amy Meredith/Flickr
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The General Sherman Tree in Sequoia National Park is the largest (by volume) tree in the world.
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Gold Rush history, epic high-country landscapes, hidden wine country, and charming country towns

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Kodiak Greenwood
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Courtesy of Mammoth Chambers of Commerce

Manzanar National Historic Site

Learn about a sobering time in U.S. history

During World War II, thousands of Japanese-Americans were moved from their homes throughout the West and brought to internment camps like Manzanar...

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Amy Meredith/Flickr

Bass Lake

Visit a mini Tahoe south of Yosemite

Some think of Bass Lake, the pine-trimmed reservoir about a half-hour’s drive south of Yosemite National Park’s south entrance, as a smaller...