Skiing down the slopes at California's incredible world-class resorts is a must for winter lovers. But year-round, the mountains offer a different kind of magic. Throughout the summer, ski and snowboard mountain destinations turn into idyllic spots for scenic hikes, lift-serviced mountain biking, gondola rides to incredible views, and climbing adventures. Check out this sampling of summer activities found at five High Sierra ski resorts.
If you love mountain biking, California’s largest lift-serviced mountain-bike park should top your bucket list. South of Truckee, Northstar’s gondola and high-speed lifts give bikers access to 109 miles of trails. Expect plenty of black-diamond slopes—this mountain hosts the challenging downhill-focused California Enduro Series every summer. Not into hardcore pedaling? Ride the Tahoe Zephyr Express to 7,920 feet and hike to Lookout Mountain for a view-filled picnic, or play 18 holes at the resort’s high-altitude golf course (6,371 feet).
With all the summer activities at Mammoth's Adventure Center in Mammoth Lakes, you’ll want to add a few extra days to your next Eastern Sierra vacation. Ride the gondola to 11,053 feet for sublime Sierra views. Pedal the mountain bike park’s 80-plus miles of single-track. Let the kids burn off energy on an elevated rope-and-obstacle course, bungee trampoline, climbing wall, and pint-sized zip line. Test your nerve and agility on Mammoth’s via ferrata, a protected climbing course built with steel cables and iron rungs. When your clan gets hungry, head to the Yodler’s sundeck and share the biggest soft pretzel you’ve ever seen.
At this North Lake Tahoe resort, an aerial tram soars 2,000 feet uphill in 10 minutes. When the doors open at 8,200 feet, riders step out and gasp at the high-alpine vista. Catch your breath, then go for a glide on High Camp’s outdoor roller-skating rink, search for six geocaches, or visit the Olympics Museum to see memorabilia from the 1960 Winter Games. Need more excitement? Reserve a spot to climb the Tahoe Via Ferrata. After clambering up 800 vertical feet of rock (safely clipped to a cable system), you’ll feel like you’re ready to conquer El Capitan.
South Lake Tahoe’s Heavenly ski resort scores high marks in summer thanks in part to unbeatable lake views from the gondola. Nobody wants the scenic 2.4-mile ride to end, but when you disembark at 9,150 feet, choose from a variety of high-elevation options: Hop on the Ridge Rider Mountain Coaster for a five-minute thrill ride, shimmy up the Granite Peak climbing wall, or hike up Tamarack Trail for ridgetop views. Kids can soar along the Red Tail Flyer Zip Line or hone their mining skills with gemstone panning. At day’s end, the downhill gondola trip is just as thrilling as the ride up.
This ski area near Pinecrest Lake in Tuolumne County throws off its knitted beanie and dons a t-shirt for summertime fun. Hop on the Motherlode Chairlift and zip uphill to 7,400 feet, then pedal a mountain bike along miles of freeride rollers and banks (bring your own bike or rent one there). Play the 18-hole disc golf course that begins at the top of the lift and finishes at the base area. Hike downhill through Lava Cap Trail’s wildflower fields, or perfect your triangle pose at the lodge’s yoga classes.