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Time for On-Mountain Festivals — It’s a Spring Thing

Time for On-Mountain Festivals — It’s a Spring Thing

The vernal equinox is upon us,  and you know what that means, skiers and snowboarders. It’s party time. The loooong, cold, snowy winter is, one fervently hopes, behind us and up ahead only blue sky, corn snow and slush bumps. So what better way to greet the spring season than by putting on your dancing shoes and checking out one of these multi-day, on-mountain festivals? WinterWonderGrass Squaw Valley is the site for the 5th edition of WinterWonderGrass Tahoe, an annual brews-and-tunes get-together that takes place March 29-31. With the musical emphasis on bluegrass and acoustic roots music, some of the biggest names in the genre will grace Squaw’s main stage, including Greensky Bluegrass, Trampled By Turtles and Leftover Salmon. Also on tap, if you’ll pardon the expression, will be tastings of some of Northern California and Nevada’s finest brew masters, including Sierra Nevada, Alibi, 805, Fifty Fifty, Knee Deep, Lagunitas, Sudwerk and Great Basin. Meanwhile, Horseshoes and Hand Grenades, which kicks off the Squaw event with a free concert on Thursday, March 28, is among the headliners at Sugar and Strings, a mini-WinterWonderGrass production that will be held at Stratton Mountain Resort  in Vermont on April 13-14. This free, two-day concert series also includes the likes of Kitchen Dweller and Twisted Pine. Details on both the Squaw Valley and Stratton festivals can be found at winterwondergrass.com. Taste of Vail Wines from Napa Valley, Santa Barbara, Corsica, France and Greece are among the featured attractions of the Tase of Vail, an annual foodie and oenophile fest at the Colorado resort that will be held April 3-6. Labeled as “a platform...
Western Snowfall Going Deep Into Record Books

Western Snowfall Going Deep Into Record Books

If you think this has been a particularly dark, dreary and dank winter, you’re not imagining things. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just released its observations for the past winter season (December through February) and numbers confirmed it: The total winter precipitation (i.e., rain) average across the entire contiguous United States was 9.01 inches, which is a record 2.22 inches above average for that period. What that means for skiers and snowboarders is that the mountains across the West have been pummeled with powder, with many resorts, particularly in the Sierra Nevada range, reporting obscene — and in some cases record — amounts of snow.  Above Average Snowfall Try these numbers on for size: Mammoth Mountain, which averages about 400 inches of snow per season, is sitting at 635 inches and has a good shot of breaking the all-time mark of 668.5 from the 2010-11 season. Squaw Valley has had 618 inches of snow, which is just five inches shy of its all-time mark set two years ago. Northstar, which averages a paltry, for the Lake Tahoe region, 350 inches of snow annually, has been buried under 555 inches of snow this season. Brighton and Snowbird, which each average around 500 inches of lake-effect Wasatch powder annually, are sitting at 513 and 505 inches, respectively, and counting. Jackson Hole, which averages 459 inches a season, had tallied 486 inches by March 12. The various ranges of Colorado’s Rocky Mountains are seriously above their average water equivalent, with Steamboat, which got 282 inches of snow this season, having received 124 percent already, Aspen (329 inches of snow) having received...
Ski Resorts You Can Experience Under A Moonlit Sky

Ski Resorts You Can Experience Under A Moonlit Sky

These Ski Resorts Offer the Unique Experience of Skiing at Night Night skiing and snowboarding is not for everyone. After all, after you’ve spent all day racking up vertical, busting pow or bashing bumps during the sunlight hours, you can hardly be blamed for sitting out the night session. Plus, it can be darn cold. Still, there is a certain aesthetic for taking to the hill when the sun goes down. The glow of the artificial lights on the snow — especially falling snow — lend an other-worldliness aspect to the rather mundane nature of making turns down the mountain. Features that are readily recognizable during the day take on more curious looks in the semi-darkness. And because of diminished light, the runs seem a whole lot steeper. So if you have a hankering to see what it’s like to ride under a dark star filled night , grab a pair of clear-lensed goggles, put on some extra extra-layering and check out these interesting night-skiing hot spots:   Brighton With 200-plus acres and more than a dozen runs lit up, Brighton is the place to be if you happen to be looking for some evening excitement in the Salt Lake City area. The Big Cottonwood Canyon resort spins three lifts until 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Buy Brighton Resort Night Skiing Tickets   Alyeska Situated way up there near Anchorage, Alaska, it gets dark awfully early at Alyeska in the dead of winter. But the resort lights up 375 acres when the sun goes down, with three lifts, including the tram, providing access to 2,000 vertical feet of terrain until 9 p.m.   ...
Would You Like a Side of Sidecountry With Your Ski Resort?

Would You Like a Side of Sidecountry With Your Ski Resort?

Today’s topic is side-country — or is it sidecountry? — skiing and snowboarding. First off, the term is a misnomer, cooked up some years ago by some well-meaning individual as a means to differentiate between way-out-there terrain accessible only by hours of skinning or hiking and that ever-so-enticing terrain that lies just beyond a ski area’s boundary. It should be called lift-accessed backcountry skiing and boarding. Because once you pass through the access, or to be more precise, exit gates, you are leaving the world of managed snow, i.e., the ski resort, and into the realm of wild and wooly, where avalanches, unmarked hazards and other terrain traps await the unprepared and/or unschooled  rider. The local ski patrol may not be readily available to rescue you if you get into a pickle. So it behooves a person who wishes to sample some lift-accessed backcountry to be fairly well-versed in the art of reading the snow and terrain. To be equipped with a pack containing the basic avalanche rescue tools (shovel, transceiver, probe). To be somewhat gregarious and ski with a friend or two. You know, the same rules of engagement you would follow in regular backcountry skiing. Having said all that, the following are five different side-country, oops, I mean lift-accessed backcountry experiences available at American resorts. Mt. Judah to Donner Lake Sugar Bowl has several access points to backcountry adventure — the California resort even sells one ride lift tickets — but one of the most popular is the so-called Lake Run. Starting from Mt. Judah, a skier or snowboarder is looking at a 2,200-foot vertical descent to...
You Can’t Find the Sierra Nevada For All the Snow

You Can’t Find the Sierra Nevada For All the Snow

Snowpocalypse. Snowmaggedon. Feburied. Call it what you like, skiers and snowboarders, but the simple fact is that California’s Sierra Nevada resorts are simply up to their ears — and in most cases well beyond — in snow. During the first 18 days of February, the mountains were blanketed from anywhere between 14 and 23 feet of snow, depending on elevation and/or location. Squaw Valley, for instance, has received a record 246 inches (or 20-plus feet) of snow so far this month, breaking the old mark of 196 inches, set in the previous Snowpocalypse Season of 2016-17. And Mammoth Mountain, which has received 190 inches of snow in February for a season total of 548 inches (the most in the Sierra), already has declared it will stay open until at least the Fourth of July. A Dire Warning In fact, the weather got so intense during the last storm cycle of Feb. 13-18, when resorts reported new snowfall totals of between 86 and 119 inches, that local and state officials were asking, nay, almost begging motorists not to drive to the Lake Tahoe area because of the constant, sometimes vain struggle to keep the two main highways to the basin, Interstate 80 and U.S. 50, open. Said one CHP officer: “Cars are stopped all over the place, and people are unprepared. It’s unacceptable.” And what does all this mean to your average skier and snowboarder? The mountains above the 8,000-foot level in the Sierra already have matched their seasonal average of snowfall and are 166 percent above their average for this time of year. Simply put, you’re probably not going to...