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Insiders Share Top Tips for Enjoying California Snow Season

Alpine towns across the state offer winter wonderland fun—with or without skis

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Posted 7 months agoby Ann Marie Brown

Right now, California's snow-frosted mountain towns are enjoying freezing temperatures and fresh powder, so it's time to break out the parkas and pom-pom beanies. On the latest California Now Podcast, three travel pros discuss an array of ways to play in the snow.

Carve the Slopes

Michael Reitzell, president of Ski California, shares his tips on visiting California's ski resorts under this winter's COVID-19 modifications.

"All of our resorts are either open or opening very soon, so people can get out and really enjoy the outdoor air and a lot of space," Reitzell says.

Carving turns will be as great as ever, but the slopes will look a bit different with skiers and riders wearing masks, Reitzell says. He recommends visitors check the resorts' websites before driving to the mountains to get updates on ticket restrictions and policy changes.

"You've got to know what pass you're getting, whether it's a day ticket, whether it's a season pass, what's being allowed," he says. "Do you need a reservation? Those are the kinds of things you'll find out if you check each resort's website."

Skiers should also check their favorite weather app. "Weather can possibly impact the number of lifts that are open and how much terrain is available," he says. "That might also impact how many people can be at the resort."

Food service may not be available, so Reitzell suggests that skiers pack their own lunch. "Food and beverage service is very fluid right now. We're really following closely with whatever the government mandates are."

Reitzell says that once you're on the chairlift, it's skiing as usual. "It might be the most normal thing in existence in our world today. We want people to get out there and enjoy it."

Feel the Winter Burn

Also on the podcast, guidebook author Tim Hauserman tells listeners that skiing doesn't have to mean zooming down steep slopes. Hauserman teaches and writes about cross-country skiing, which is "like cruising out in the woods," he says. "It's skiing that doesn't require a lift. You're using your own power."

Even though the terrain is fairly gentle, cross-country skiing is serious exercise, Hauserman says. "It's one of the best workouts there is because it's arms, legs, lungs. Every part of your body is working."

The sport also lends itself to social distancing. "That's actually one of the great advantages to cross-country skiing," he says. "It's a good way to get outside in the middle of nowhere."

Hauserman suggests first-timers start out at one of California's cross-country ski resorts. "They've groomed the trails, and there are trail markers. It's a lot easier for someone who has never done it before."

At Lake Tahoe, cross-country skiers can glide on groomed trails at Kirkwood, Tahoe Donner, Royal Gorge, Northstar, and Tahoe Cross Country. "They all have anywhere between 30 and 100 kilometers of trail. You can spend four or five days there and not ski the same trails," he says.

Rev Up Your Family Adventure

Carmen Sognonvi of the Top Flight Family luxury travel blog discusses how families can get outside and enjoy the snow even if they aren't skilled at winter sports.

"There are tons of really fun activities you can do in the snow with kids even if you don't go skiing or snowboarding," she says.

Sognonvi and her family traveled to Mammoth Lakes, where they tried snow tubing at Woolly's Tube Park. "Snow tubing is pretty much what it sounds like. You sit in a big inflatable tube, like a tube you would use at a swimming pool, but bigger," she says. "You get pushed off a slope and go sliding down."

She says her two young daughters were "squealing in delight," even on the ride back uphill. "They latch a hook on to your tube and it pulls you up the hill really fast, so it's actually just as much fun going up as it is going down."

Another family-friendly adventure Sognonvi recommends is a guided snowmobile tour through Mammoth's backcountry. "You get so close to nature," she says. "It's a great way to be able to cover a lot of terrain and see sights you wouldn't normally be able to see."

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