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Plan Now for California Ski Season

Here are the opening dates for California ski resorts—get ready to catch the winter wave

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Posted 2 years agoby Bill Fink

While coastal California is enjoying a sunny fall harvest season, the snow is already starting to fall in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which means ski season is coming soon—and in a few cases, already made an early November debut. Look into last-minute California ski pass deals from Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass (including Northstar, Kirkwood, Heavenly) and the Ikon Pass (Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Mammoth, June, Big Bear), as well as from the independent ski resorts across the state.

The list below (in alphabetical order) highlights some resorts that have already opened limited operations, and others that are eagerly planning their opening day, weather permitting. Check individual resorts for the latest on their snow conditions, or On The Snow, which has a consolidated report.


Badger Pass Ski Area, Dec. 13

Yosemite National Park's hub for downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, tubing, and backcountry adventures plans to start its season by mid-Deecmber, conditions permitting.


Big Bear Mountain Resort, Nov. 22

Southern California’s biggest ski option, with its two-property resort, plans to open before Thanksgiving. New terrain park features will be added on the slopes, while the $5 million base area renovation will add to the après-ski fun.

Boreal Mountain Resort, Nov. 13 

This resort near Lake Tahoe is usually one of the earlier opening California resorts, weather permitting. But if there’s not enough snow, its Woodward Tahoe indoor park offers plenty of practice options.


China Peak, Nov. 28

Located south of Yosemite,his resort is boosted this year by its $3 million investment in a snowmaking system expansion, which has quintupled capacity to cover most major runs and give access to the main lifts.


Heavenly Lake Tahoe, Nov. 22 

The Tahoe resort began snowmaking early for its pre-Thanksgiving launch, with a festive celebration scheduled for opening day that will include DJs and free donuts, hot chocolate, and coffee.

Homewood Mountain Resort, early December

The still-estimated opening of this Tahoe resort will feature expanded snowmaking and grooming capabilities. New for 2019–20, the Homewood Ultimate Pass also includes complimentary ski days at more than 20 partner resorts including Tahoe Donner.


Kirkwood, Nov. 27

Kirkwood’s expanded Timber Creek Family Learning Zone provides a beginners area to go along with the advanced slopes. Aside from skiing, this year, Kirkwood offers fat bike rentals for guests to explore 37 miles of groomed trails at Kirkwood’s Cross Country and Snowshoe Center.

Mammoth Mountain, Nov. 9

The High Sierra resort will have limited operations as of Nov. 9, on Broadway Run and a mini terrain park, with the resort’s upgraded snowmaking equipment helping out Mother Nature with the white stuff. After first runs, check out the renovated Canyon Lodge for its new dining and drinking options.


Mountain High Resort, Nov. 22

The resort northeast of L.A. has expanded its snowmaking and grooming operations, and will also offer enhanced non-ski activities such as tubing, sledding, snow play, scenic chair rides, and snowshoeing. The resort will host “Santa Sunday” on Dec. 15, where everyone who dresses like Santa and donates $20 to Protect Our Winters (POW) gets a free lift ticket.


Northstar California, Nov. 22

Opening day  at this Tahoe area resort comes complete with live bands, free s’mores, and face-painting for the kids. On the same day, Northstar Village and Michael Mina will be opening the Bourbon Pub with “reinvented pub fare” such as cheddar brats wrapped in puff pastry with jalapeno mustard.


Sierra-at-Tahoe, Nov. 30

The resort’s Powder Alliance ski pass also gives access to 18 other resorts, including California’s Sugar Bowl, Mountain High, and China Peak. Wear the pass in your pocket for quick access on their RFID lift gates.


Snow Valley Mountain Resort, late November

New for this season at this resort, northeast of San Bernardino, is increased access to the steeps of Slide Peak, improved rental process, and an expanded snow play area with doubled sledding lanes. Its new Chalet Deck restaurant will open this winter, along with the Mountain Top Terrace with picnic table seating and great views.


Soda Springs Mountain Resort, Nov. 21

This Tahoe area resort offers a One Pass card that also gives access to Boreal and Woodward Tahoe, while a Mountain Adventure ticket allows unlimited runs on non-ski activities like tubing and sledding.

Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows, Nov. 15

On the Squaw Valley side, the resort has added the Tram Car Bar, a restored 1970s-era tram-turned-bar on the Olympic House deck. For backcountry enthusiasts, Alpenglow Expeditions will lead new snowshoe and single-run ski tours beyond Squaw’s boundaries. At Alpine Meadows, the new Treeline Cirque chairlift will connect the base area to Sherwood Ridge in five minutes, with a mid-station stop for quick access to easier terrain.


Sugar Bowl Resort, Nov. 29

For this year, improvements at the resort include a new covered surface lift for beginners, remodeled rooms in the Sugar Bowl Hotel, renovation of the Mid-Mountain Lodge, improved snowmaking, a planned 13-foot mini-pipe and top-to-bottom terrain park with all new features, and new parking shuttles to both base lodges.


Tahoe Donner Downhill Ski Resort, Dec. 13

Guests can get $15 lift tickets on Customer Appreciation Day two days after opening day, on Dec. 15. Its highly rated Cross Country Ski Center and trails, meanwhile, are scheduled to open on Nov. 28.

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