10 Don’t-Miss Snow Events
Louis Brunel/Alamy

10 Don’t-Miss Snow Events

10 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 14 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.

Night Sessions

Snow Summit

December 22–January 6

Celebrate the holiday season and the starry nights of the winter solstice by skiing or snowboarding each evening from 3–8:30 p.m. at the Southern California resort’s Upper Miracle Mile, Summit Run, and Westridge Park. (There are more night sessions during Snow Summit’s season, but this is the longest stretch of them). Westridge even gets a full evening groom during Night Sessions—a gift if you’ve never hit the fresh snow at dawn.

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 Dillon Francis, Travis Scott and Zedd. 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. At Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, NYE lasts all day long, starting with Dawn Patrol with Jonny Moseley and ending with a family-friendly celebration with fireworks and a glow stick parade. 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.

Learn to Ski Month 

Mountain High

January

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. The resort even has a virtual ski lesson area where you can master the basics indoors. Highlights of the month include Bring a Friend Weekend (Jan. 5–7), World Snow Day (Jan. 21), and the all-important Learn to Turn Tuesdays.

U.S. Freeski & Snowboard Grand Prix

Mammoth Mountain

January 17-21

This annual, four-day half-pipe and slopestyle competition carries special weight this year: It’s the final qualifying event for February’s Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang (the U.S. Team will even be announced here on Jan. 20–21).  Keep an eye out, at Unbound’s Main Park and its 22-foot half-pipe, for Mammoth Team athletes Chloe Kim, Shaun White, Kelly Clark, Maddie Mastro, Judd Henkes, Brock Crouch and Carly Margulies.

Kid-O-Rama

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

February 17–24

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. Little kids will freak, for instance, over the Big Truck Event that showcases snowploughs, 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.

Tahoe City Snowfest

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

March 1–11

This annual festival in the Lake Tahoe area includes live music and festivities—from polar swims to fireworks—at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Homewood and Northstar. Annual highlights include the crowning of the SnowFest! Queen and a fabulous pet costume contest.

2018 National Brotherhood of Skiers Black Summit

March 3–10

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

This annual event celebrating diversity in snow sports comes to Lake Tahoe this year, and is considered one of the biggest ski conventions in the U.S. The organization was founded in 1974 to support winter athletes of colour and the yearly festivities include live music, races, and different après-ski themes.

U.S. Revolution Tour

March 11–15

Mammoth Mountain

See tomorrow’s stars in action at this five-day event at Unbound's Main Park and 22-foot half-pipe. Amateur junior athletes (ages 13–19) will compete for the chance to be a part of the U.S. Grand Prix, Junior Worlds, the U.S. Open, and USASA Nationals. 

Bear Break

March 24-31

Bear Mountain

Spring Break at Bear Mountain has a freewheeling, SoCal-style flavour: tube racing, obstacle courses, a pond skim, and “big-kid” activities like cornhole, giant beer pong, and ladder golf. The week is also bookended by concerts, like past headliners Cypress Hill.

WinterWonderGrass Tahoe

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

April 6-8

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.

SpringFest

Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area

March 31

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.

Spring It On Pond Skim

Northstar

March 31

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 neighbouring half-pipe, or enjoy the live music at the Gondola Deck, then check out the big Tug-o-War contest afterward.

28th Annual Cushing Crossing

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows

April 14

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.

35th Annual Snow Golf Tournament

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows April 21

This beloved annual event at Alpine Meadows 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 colour: 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 28

The Kamikaze bike trail extends down the backside 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 even 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.

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Thomas H. Story/ Sunset Publishing

Northern California

Discover the High Sierra

10 Don’t-Miss Snow Events vca_maps_highsierra
-2
December
Average (°C)
Dec - Feb
3°
High
-7°
Low
Mar - May
12°
High
-5°
Low
June - Aug
22°
High
5°
Low
Sept - Nov
18°
High
-4°
Low

Snow-covered peaks in winter, gushing waterfalls in spring, wild flower meadows and glistening lakes in the summer, vibrant colours in the autumn, this is a land of dramatic and wild beauty. World class mountain resorts circling turquoise blue water, both Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes cater to all, with scenic ski trails in winter and trails and views 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, about three-and-a-half  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 will find your perfect getaway. 

 

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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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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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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 must, a place where the air is 'very pure and fine...it is the same the angels breathe,' according to author Mark Twain. Lake front towns dot the shoreline, each with their own appeal...

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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...

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Spotlight: Lake Tahoe

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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 essential. Where else...

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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)
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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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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...

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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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Bishop

Explore an outdoor 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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Calaveras Big Trees State Park

Look up at (and learn about) amazing giant sequoias

Established in 1931 to preserve a stunning stand of giant sequoias, this park offers one of the easiest places to see these towering trees. Head...

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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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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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Jeff Mosers/ Flickr

Grover Hot Springs State Park

Soak in naturally heated mineral pools

Nestled in a notch of the High Sierra about an hour’s drive south-east of Lake Tahoe, mineral springs bubble up from the earth, a testament to the...

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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...