If your alpine skiing time doesn’t quite qualify for the Olympic Games or you’re seeking expert tips on the halfpipe, California offers plenty of world-class resorts and venues to channel your inner Olympian. Here, choose from a slew of guided and self-guided winter sports and offerings throughout the state.
Hit the slopes
California has served as the training grounds for some of the most decorated ski champions, spanning Jonny Moseley, Stacey Cook, Ted Ligety, Shannon Bahrke Happe, and Julia Mancuso. In fact, Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows—the largest of North Lake Tahoe’s 12 downhill ski resorts—was the host of the 1960 Winter Olympics, and countless Olympians have skied and trained here.
At Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, U.S. Freeski and Snowboard teams have access to some of the most innovative training gear of all time, including the massive, 60 metre-long by 23 metre-wide Progression AirBag (one of only three in the world) to help promote slopestyle training in a setting that’s as close to real-life snow as it gets. For a refresher on form and technique, consider programs such as Chix on Stix, a two-day ski lesson-plus-retreat with pro tips from Olympian Stacey Cook.
Grab your board
Hannah Teter, Chloe Kim, Kelly Clark, Jamie Anderson, and Shaun White are just a few of California’s snowboard legends. Whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned pro, choose from a slew of classes (limited to a maximum of six students) and private lessons at Northstar Burton Academy, using terrain-based teaching for crucial skills including movement, balance, speed, and turns in specially designed snow learning areas. Or learn how to navigate the only three halfpipes in SoCal at Big Bear Mountain Resort, with its legendary snow-making system for fluffy snow even on warm and sunny days.
San Jose has long been a training hub for figure skating and legendary ice stars such as Kristi Yamaguchi, Evan Lysacek, and Ashley Wagner. The 2018 U.S. Figure Skating Championships were held here for PyeongChang’s final selections, including Nathan Chen and brother-sister ice dance duo Maia and Alex Shibutani. Solar4America Ice at San Jose serves as the official training facility for the NHL San Jose Sharks and the San Jose State University Spartans hockey team. At this indoor ice mecca (2018 Olympic figure skater Karen Chen has performed here), sign up for skating lessons with a pro, brush up on your hockey lingo, or try your hand at curling or speed skating. At the Half Dome Village Ice Skating Rink in Yosemite, practice spins, twirls, and backward skating skills at the outdoor rink surrounded by snowcapped mountains.
Go cross country
At Tahoe Cross Country Ski Center, discover the basics of gliding, stopping, and turning with an hour-long group lesson ($60 for equipment rental and all-day trail pass), or go solo on 21 well-groomed trails ranging in difficulty from beginner to expert. In Yosemite National Park at the Yosemite Ski & Snowboard area, advanced cross-country skiers can sign up for a guided, overnight 33 kilometre roundtrip trek to Glacier Point, perched at 975 metres with views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley.
More winter wonders
For other outdoor winter fun and a great workout, try fat biking (or snow biking), snowshoeing, tubing, or snowkiting. In Lake Tahoe, opt for a scenic and historical snowshoe tour of the Tahoe Truckee region and learn about local plants and wildlife with Tahoe Adventure Company tours.
At Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure Company, located about an hour from Stockton, grab a trail map and a fat bike or snowshoes and venture to an outdoor café situated along the trails. For skate-skiing, snowkiting, and cross-country skiing, head to Royal Gorge in the Village at Sugar Bowl, where you’ll find more than 2,400 hectares consisting of 130 kilometres of trails, six distinct track systems, and 10 warming huts.
For a chance to get up close with professional mountaineers and certified avalanche guides (think superhuman seven-time Mount Everest guides) and gain access to off-the-beaten-path Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows backcountry tours, including National Geographic Bowl outside of Granite Chief, and to find customized experiences and courses, consider Alpenglow Expeditions. If you’ve always dreamed of dog sledding, you can do that too, with Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours from The Resort at Squaw Creek.
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