Want to channel your Winter Olympian? Have you always wanted to ride a dogsled? Eager to perfect your double axel or triple salchow like skaters Kristi Yamaguchi or Evan Lysacek? Or do you dream about scoring that hockey hat trick like legend Bobby Orr? How about a quiet walk in the woods, in real snowshoes?
California offers a host of opportunities to find your winter bliss, even if your perfect winter day is just hanging out with a hot cocoa in a warm and cozy ski lodge basking in front of a roaring fire.
Winter like an Olympian
If your alpine skiing doesn’t qualify you for the next Olympic Games, California offers plenty of world-class resorts and venues to channel your inner Olympian.
California has provided the training grounds for some of the United States’ most decorated ski champions, including Jonny Moseley, Stacey Cook, Ted Ligety, Shannon Bahrke Happe and Julia Mancuso.
Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows is the largest of North Lake Tahoe’s 12 downhill ski resorts and hosted the 1960 Winter Olympics. Countless Olympians have skied and trained there. Visit https://squawalpine.com/
At Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, U.S. Freeski and Snowboard teams have access to some of the most innovative training gear available. Mammoth’s new season pass, the Ikon Pass, offers unlimited season-long access to Mammoth and access to 27 destinations around the world, including unlimited access to Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Big Bear Mountain Resort. There are several new restaurants at Mammoth this year, as well as new backcountry clinics and sidecountry tours. Visit www.mammothmountain.com
Mountain High is one of the closest ski areas to the Santa Clarita Valley. Usually dependent on man-made snow, there has been some natural snow this year. It’s a great place for a quick family visit with expanded snow play activities this year and discount tickets available. Visit https://www.mthigh.com/
Big Bear Mountain Resorts is another option that offers SCV residents a quick fix for the “need to ski.” Visit www.bigbearmountainresort.com.
Learn the Double McTwist
Eager to master snowboarding tricks like the 1440, the Triplecork or the Backside 360 Double Hand Drag?
Hannah Teter, Chloe Kim, Kelly Clark, Jamie Anderson and Shaun White are just a few of California’s snowboard legends.
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. Call 844-GO2-BEAR for information.
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. Solar4America Ice is an indoor ice mecca where you can sign up for skating lessons with a pro, brush up on your hockey lingo, or try your hand at curling or speed skating. Visit https://www.solar4americaiceatsanjose.com/
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. Visit www.travelyosemite.com/winter/half-dome-village-ice-skating-rink/
Closer to home you can take to the ice at Ice Station Valencia for public skating weekday mornings or weekend afternoons. Visit www.icestation.net. Other SCV-adjacent ice rinks include Pickwick Ice in Burbank (www.pickwickice.com/) and Iceland Skating Center in Van Nuys https://valleyskating.com/
Trek Cross County
At Tahoe Cross Country Ski Center, (www.tahoedonner.com/amenities/amenities/cross-country/) discover the basics of gliding, stopping and turning with an hour-long group lesson ($85 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 21-mile roundtrip trek to Glacier Point, perched at 3,200 feet with views of Half Dome and Yosemite Valley. Visit www.travelyosemite.com/winter/yosemite-ski-snowboard-area/cross-country-ski-trip-to-glacier-point/
Snowshoe or a Snowkite
For a unique outdoor adventure opt for the scenic, historical snowshoe tour of the Tahoe-Truckee region. Learn a little about local plants and wildlife along the way with this experience offered by Tahoe Adventure Company tours. The company also offers full moon, sunset and snowshoe star tours. Visit https://tahoeadventurecompany.com/ourtrips/winteradventures/snowshoeing/
Full moon snowshoe tours are offered at several locations in California. Visit https://tahoesouth.com/events/full-moon-snowshoe-tours-hellman-erman-mansion/2019-01-19/ or https://www.mammothmountain.com/winter/things-to-do/events/event-detail?url=february-full-moon-snowshoe-tour&day=18&month=2&year=2019
Ever heard of snowkiting? At Donner Summit’s Sierra Snowkite Center, glide over the snow with your feet on skis or a snowboard and your arms hitched to a kite soaring 70 feet in the air. Take a lesson in the consistent wind and level terrain at Van Norden Meadow, and before long you’ll learn the skills to snowkite uphill, jump off a cornice, and stick a perfect landing. Visit https://www.sierrasnowkite.com
At Bear Valley Cross Country & Adventure Company, (www.bearvalleyxc.com/winter) located about an hour from Stockton, grab a trail map, snowshoes or cross-country skis and venture to an outdoor café situated along the trails.
‘Mush,’ I Say
Did you know dog mushing is the second oldest means of transportation for humans? Dogs have been used by humans for transportation for more than 10,000 years. If you’ve always dreamed of dog sledding you can make reservations with Wilderness Adventures Dog Sled Tours from The Resort at Squaw Creek (www.tahoedogsledtours.com) or Mammoth Dog Teams (www.mammothdogteams.com).
Lounging at the Lodge
Hanging out with a hot cocoa, or a hot toddy, in front of the fire sounds like the perfect winter day for me. Here are five suggestions for cozy winter accommodations.
- Sierra Nevada Resort & Spa is a rustic, family-run resort with a star-studded past. The ski lodge was built in 1967 by former Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, and became a favorite hangout of Hollywood stars, from Jerry Lewis and the “Rat Pack” to John Wayne. In fact, Duke’s lobby bar was named in honor of Wayne. A huge, four-side fireplace in the lobby is a centerpiece, and there’s a billiards table plus lots of comfortable seating, all of which invite guests to linger. The famous lobby piano was built in 1905 by the Stodart Piano Co. out of New York and is a California Bungalow Baby Grand. One of the original owners was Clark Gable. He gave the piano to his wife, Carole Lombard, as an anniversary gift. It was later acquired by the amazing songwriter and composer, Hoagy Carmichael, who wrote many popular songs such as “Stardust,” “Georgia On My Mind” and “Heart and Soul.” Visit https://thesierranevadaresort.com/
- Mammoth Mountain Inn. You’d be hard-pressed to find a ski lodge more classic than Mammoth Mountain Inn, located at the base of the mountain (where there’s a gondola to ferry skiers directly to the slopes). The A-frame chalet was built in the 1950s, and the atmosphere is unsurprisingly mellow with cabin-cozy décor. Wood beams run across vaulted ceilings, there are stone walls and a fireplace in the lobby. Clusters of weathered leather sofas and chairs offer plenty of spots to sink into pre/post check-in or after a day on the mountain. The restaurant and bar on the upper level has a huge window offering fantastic mountain views. Visit www.themammothmountaininn.com
- Mammoth Creek Inn is an intimate, mid-range hotel with local mountain character and prime views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It’s not a full-blown ski resort with direct access to slopes, but it is a one-minute walk from the trolley to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Common areas have the charming look of an alpine lodge with the enchanting lobby offering leather sofas where guests can enjoy the fireplace. Visit the second-floor seating area to relax near a cozy wood stove. The hot tub, sauna, and steam room are enticing spots for apres-ski relaxation. Visit www.themammothcreek.com
- The Resort at Squaw Creek is a luxury destination with grand picture windows that reveal sweeping views of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, ancient Ponderosa pine forests, and lush meadows. Fireplace suites are available and Squaw Creek’s dramatic lobby, with its floor-to-ceiling windows, overlooks a cascading waterfall and the breathtaking Sierra Nevada Mountains. Visit www.destinationhotels.com/squawcreek
- Grand Californian Hotel & Spa. It’s not a ski lodge, but if you want to stay somewhere that has that “ski lodge lobby” feel and be close to home, the Great Hall Lobby at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa at the Disneyland Resort fits the bill. With a massive stone fireplace and stylish and comfortable seating, it is a great place to relax, nap and keep warm. Did I mention there’s a spa onsite as well? Visit https://disneyland.disney.go.com/hotels/grand-californian-hotel/