The 16/17 Big Trip

Last year we took 4 trips and felt like we overdid it a bit.  It didn’t give us much time to actually ski locally in Tahoe, so this year we planned only 2 trips and the second one was pretty ambitious.  Over 12 days we would drive up from the Bay Area to Mt. Hood and then further north into interior British Columbia to get some of the more remote resorts on our list.  Then we would head west and pick up our new travel trailer and drive home, camping 2 nights.

Road Trip!

Road Trip!

Skiing Mt. Hood is tricky because they get a lot of rain and strong storms that close the upper lifts at Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows, so we didn’t commit to going there until it looked like we would hit good weather.  Luckily we got some of the best weather of the season with sunny skies, recent fresh snow, and no wind.

Timberline cruising

Timberline cruising

We skied the 2 main resorts on Mt. Hood: Timberline and Mt. Hood Meadows, and one of the most unique resorts on our list that specializes in night skiing:  Mt. Hood Skibowl.  The most fun we had on the whole trip was skiing from 5-10PM at Skibowl under the lights.  Ski magazine called them the largest night skiing operation in North America (which is probably not true) but what is certain is that they have some of the steepest night skiing terrain in North America.  Their upper lift is seriously steep and they groom a lot of it.

Mt. Hood Skibowl night skiing

Mt. Hood Skibowl night skiing

Later that night after we finished night skiing it started pouring rain, so it’s a good thing we were heading north the next day.  We drove 442 miles pretty much due north to Penticton B.C., and there wasn’t a moment that it wasn’t raining.  At several points there were rivers flowing down the middle of the road because the large snow banks funnel the water right down the road.  Eastern Washington suffers from freezing rain and the forecast was for up to 1/3″ of ice accumulation, but luckily that didn’t happen.  This is part of the challenge of this project and we are going to hit bad driving weather frequently.

Our first resort in B.C. was Apex Mountain, and that place is fantastic.  There is a tiny village located far up a lonely road that winds up the mountain.  At one point we wondered if we were going the right way because there was no traffic or indication that a ski resort was at the end of the road, but we eventually got there.  There were probably less than 200 people skiing the 1100 acres that day and it was almost surreal to us coming from the crowded California resorts.  Conditions at the end of the day were similar to those that can only be found in the first hour at most of our frequented resorts — patches of untouched powder on the recently groomed runs, and smooth everywhere.

Above the fog at Apex

Above the fog at Apex

We stayed the next 2 nights in Kelowna which is a surprisingly urban and built-up city around a huge lake.  There are many towns there and they all form one large population center without much to distinguish between them.  It’s beautiful though, and would be a great place to live.  The weather is very mild without much snow on the ground.  You need to climb up a couple thousand feet to get to the bases of the ski areas.  We skied Big White and Silver Star from that home base and then moved on to Kamloops where we skied Sun Peaks for 2 days.

Soft snow at Sun Peaks

Soft snow at Sun Peaks

People in Canada were so friendly and we loved it — especially in Kamloops and Sun Peaks.  They seemed genuinely thrilled that we had driven up from California to ski there.  We also found the food to be excellent and prices for everything were cheap (except for diesel fuel), and especially when you consider the exchange rate to US$.  It is pretty much skiing heaven for us and we can’t wait to go back.

This trip came about because we had ordered a 17-foot travel trailer from Escape Trailer Industries in Chilliwack, BC in April 2016.  It was originally supposed to be ready in May 2017, but the production date got moved up to Feb 7th and we jumped on that opportunity to ski before picking up the trailer.  So after 2 days of skiing at Sun Peaks we hopped back in the car and drove 200 miles to Chilliwack.  Highway 5 is an amazing drive between Kamloops and the coastal lowlands.

We picked the trailer up the next day after Escape exported it over the border for us.  We were delayed for well over an hour trying to get back in the U.S.  Welcome Home!

Happy Escape Trailer owner

Happy Escape Trailer owner

Back in the U.S. we spent 2 days driving home and spent 2 nights in the new trailer.  The first night was at AiRung’s friend’s driveway in Seattle, and the 2nd was at Valley of the Rogue state park in southern Oregon.

2nd night of camping

2nd night of camping

It was nice getting back to California where there was lots of green grass and blue sky, but we were already missing interior B.C. and won’t forget this trip for a long time.  7 new resorts in a single trip is a new record.  We don’t plan any other new resorts this year, so 64 resorts completed will be the final count.  That’s 10 new resorts this season, which is far more than our average.

At this point of the season in early March our local resorts Heavenly and Kirkwood have received over 550″ of snowfall and the skiing is excellent (when the wind isn’t blowing).  We plan to finish out the season strong over the next 7 weeks with many weekend trips planned.

 

 

Thanksgiving to the New Year 16/17

We started the season on the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year.  Thanksgiving conditions were nice and cold with some decent snow which allowed both Heavenly and Kirkwood to open enough terrain to make it worthwhile.

Kirkwood, November 28, 2016

Kirkwood, November 28, 2016

December turned decidedly warmer in Tahoe unfortunately.  We had 2 Atmospheric River events with about 10″ of rain at lake level.  If it had been cold that would have been a lot of snow, but only the high-elevation resorts Mt. Rose, Heavenly, and Kirkwood fully benefitted from those storms.  Here we are skiing Heavenly powder when all the lower resorts were dealing with bulletproof ice:

Heavenly, December 11, 2016

Heavenly, December 11, 2016

There was a nice storm just before Christmas week that dropped snow all the way to lake level, so the resorts were able to cash in on the holidays this year.  Here we are doing our usual family skiing on Christmas Eve before our passes were blacked out:

Milky Way Bowl at Heavenly, December 24, 2016

Milky Way Bowl at Heavenly, December 24, 2016

Every year we take a trip between Christmas and New Years and usually try to get 2 or 3 new resorts done.  This year we headed to Bozeman, Montana to ski Red Lodge, Big Sky, and Bridger Bowl.  These trips are never easy and this one was no different.  Salt Lake City got what was probably the biggest storm in 2 years and our flights were seriously delayed.  We landed in Bozeman on Christmas night in a pretty bad snowstorm and had to drive 150 miles to Red Lodge.  There was virtually nobody on the road that night.  50 mph gusts picked up the light snow creating white-out conditions.  Everything was closed so our Christmas dinner was a soggy sandwich wrap from a gas station.

We arrived in Red Lodge about midnight and set the alarm for 7AM.  Red Lodge Mountain was a blast and made the previous day’s journey worthwhile.  It was bluebird and our snow condition luck was holding with 5″ of new snow.

Red Lodge Montana, December 26, 2016

Red Lodge Montana, December 26, 2016

The next day we drove back to Bozeman in another storm.  I-90 was shut down at Livingston due to high winds.  We did eventually make it and found our lodging AiRung secured on VRBO — an apartment 2 blocks from Main St. in a house that was built in 1900.  That storm dropped 14″ of snow at Big Sky, so the next day we had some very nice conditions there.

Big Sky, December 28, 2016

Big Sky, December 28, 2016

2 days of skiing at Big Sky cost us $516 (+ tax).  This was the most we ever spent on lift tickets at any resort.  Add to that the upcoming cost to fix our skis, which were shredded by the many rocks we encountered everywhere, but especially at the top of Lone Peak.

Big Sky Lone Peak, December 29, 2016

Big Sky Lone Peak, December 29, 2016

That picture was taken in a safe relatively good spot for snow, but the next 30-minutes were some of the scariest ever for AiRung.  We had to side-slip down about 300 vertical feet of unskiable rocks to get to the main part of the bowl where the snow had not been blown off by the fierce winds up there.

Liberty Bowl at Big Sky, December 29, 2016

Liberty Bowl at Big Sky, December 29, 2016

We made it safely, and it was definitely a character-building experience.

Big Sky was very crowded so it was a nice change to ski at our next new resort, Bridger Bowl.  This was the day of our return flight, and right on schedule another storm rolled in.  5″ of fresh snow fell during the day, and this was the best day of skiing of our trip.  Bridger is one of our favorite memories of the project thus far.

Bridger Bowl, December 30, 2016

Bridger Bowl, December 30, 2016

 

The flight back was delayed in Salt Lake City again due to ice fog, so we didn’t get home until 1AM California time — a very long day.  So this is an example of some of the random things we run into on the project.  It’s an adventure that’s usually fun but never easy!

So far we have 10 days of skiing for the 2016/17 season and 3 new resorts.  We plan to hit as many as 6 more new resorts this season on our 2-week February trip to British Columbia, so it’s an ambitious goal.  We also have another long weekend trip planned to Park City where we get free skiing on our Vail Epic passes.  All the regions of North America have gotten good early season snow this year, which is a vast improvement over what we sometimes see in December, and it looks like the storm train is going to keep hitting Tahoe for the next couple of weeks.  Should be fun!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2015/16 Season recap

Wow, what a great ski season we had!  I got 48 days total and AiRung got a record 40 days.  I remember a period of several weeks where it seems like we grabbed our powder skis every time we went out — always a good thing to have to do!  We made good progress toward the project with 8 new resorts skied, putting us at 54 resorts completed.

Kirkwood November 16, 2015

Kirkwood November 16, 2015

The great snow in Tahoe gave us plenty of opportunity to ski locally this year, but we had a plan to ski 8 new resorts for the project which we followed through on.  We had purchased our Mountain Collective pass in Spring 2015 in preparation.

In December we skied A-Basin and Keystone on our pre-Christmas trip.  A-Basin was one of those surprise happy moments that sometimes happen when we find we are much happier at the smaller resort than we are at the mega resort choices nearby.  Both the flights in and out of Denver were seriously delayed due to snowfall, and we are glad we only need to fly into Denver about one more time to complete the project resorts nearby.  We’ve been burnt by Denver too many times.

After Christmas we drove to McCall, Boise, and Ketchum Idaho to ski Brundage, Bogus Basin, and Sun Valley.  Once again we hit powder and some of the best skiing in years at these awesome locations.  Brundage and Bogus were new resorts for us and we were really pleasantly surprised by Bogus Basin.  Sun Valley is the prize though and we always love skiing there.

The Pinnacles at Heavenly, January 2016

The Pinnacles at Heavenly, January 2016

Next up on our busy schedule were Taos and Wolf Creek in mid January.  We just missed powder at these resorts, but even though we didn’t know it at the time, these were some of the best conditions of the year at Taos because after a very strong start in Northern New Mexico, it snowed very little after that in spite of the fact that it was an El Nino year.  Every weather prediction was for great snow in New Mexico later in the season but we gambled on the earlier dates and won that one.

January was very good to Tahoe and we finally got to ski Heavenly when all 4,800 acres are open, skiable, and completely covered after about 4 years of below average snowfall.  Heavenly ended up right at the average of 360″ by closing day.  One of the days we skied with AiRung’s family from Taiwan was one of the best days ever there with endless soft lines in the trees and cold temps.

Powder at the bottom of East Bowl at the California side of Heavenly, January 2015

Powder at the bottom of East Bowl at the California side of Heavenly, January 2015

Late January took us to our last California resort we hadn’t skied: China Peak.  This is a very modest area and almost didn’t make the cut, but we had a blast there and will definitely go back some day.

February was dry in the West, so we weren’t so lucky on our early March trip to Aspen, where we skied Aspen Mountain, Aspen Highlands, and Snowmass.  It hadn’t really snowed for almost 40 days in Colorado so conditions were hard and temps were spring-like until the last day when things turned colder and snowy.  We must have brought the powder with us from California and got a good last powder day at Snowmass.  The snow didn’t impact our flight, but we got to sit on the runway for a long delay due to a young woman choking on a peanut (seriously!).  Can’t win and this points out the frustration we have with winter flying.  That’s really the hardest part of the project and we wish we could just drive, but that’s not practical on our time schedule and due to the long distances involved as the close resorts are picked off.

The season ended strong with good conditions into late April in Tahoe.  My last day of skiing was May 14th, with good coverage at Squaw Valley.

Can’t wait for Fall when the snow starts falling again!

Best day of the season at Heavenly, January 2016

Best day of the season at Heavenly, January 2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half-way there!

It’s been a busy ski season for us and we just finished our 3rd and 4th trips away from our home Tahoe resorts.  We have an aggressive schedule this year with the plan to ski 8 new resorts.  So far the plan has worked out perfectly with 6 down, 20 ski days for me and 17 for AiRung.

January 9-13 was our trip to New Mexico to ski the last 2 resorts that are typically accessed from Albuquerque:  Taos and Wolf Creek.  We had to plan this one pretty far in advance so we had to cross our fingers for good weather and we definitely got it.  There were 3 storms that came through the state the week before we arrived and then cold temps kept the snow soft for all 3 days of skiing.

Taos New Mexico, January 2016

Taos New Mexico, January 2016

We will have a full report later, but for now we will say that Taos was very challenging so it’s a good thing we waited to ski it until AiRung was a very good skier.  It was very beautiful and we will remember this one for a long time.  It was also the 50th resort on our list, so we are half-way through the project!

After 2 days at Taos, we headed back up to Colorado to hit Wolf Creek.  Wolf Creek is known for having the most snow in Colorado and they had received 269″ of snow by mid-January so we weren’t disappointed (in the snow at least).  However, we found Wolf Creek very lacking in terrain quality and we were bored by 1:30PM.

Blue run at Wolf Creek Colorado, January 2016

Blue run at Wolf Creek Colorado, January 2016

The best part about Wolf Creek was staying in the historic Windsor Hotel in Del Norte, Colorado.  The hotel was built in the 1870’s and recently reopened after an extensive remodel.  The valley where Del Norte is located is notorious for very cold temps and we experience a little of that with -11F in the morning.

We only had 3 days at home before we hit our 52nd resort, China Peak in California.  This was a quick day trip from our house since it is only 209 miles away.  This is the last resort on our list in day-trip distance, and also the last resort in California.  It was a good day to head down south for skiing because it was raining in Tahoe up to 8,000+ ft., but the rain did not go that far south so we actually had really good conditions.  Our passes were blacked out in Tahoe anyway.

China Peak California, January 2016

China Peak California, January 2016

China Peak was another pleasant surprise, with varied, consistent terrain, a decent vertical, lots of acreage, and great grooming.  We thought this was going to be the worst resort on our California list, but that wasn’t the case at all and we will definitely return some day.

So now we can rank the California resorts we have skied:

AIRUNG RON
  1. Heavenly
  2. Squaw
  3. Kirkwood
  4. Northstar
  5. Mammoth
  6. Sugar Bowl
  7. Sierra at Tahoe
  8. Alpine Meadows
  9. Mt Rose
  10. China Peak
  11. June
  12. Homewood
  13. Diamond Peak
  14. Dodge Ridge
  15. Bear Valley
  1. Kirkwood
  2. Heavenly
  3. Squaw
  4. Mammoth
  5. Alpine Meadows
  6. Northstar
  7. Mt. Rose
  8. Sierra at Tahoe
  9. June
  10. Sugar Bowl
  11. China Peak
  12. Homewood
  13. Dodge Ridge
  14. Bear Valley
  15. Diamond Peak

The next trip is Aspen in early March, so for the next 7 weeks we will be skiing our home resorts in Tahoe.

 

 

Post-holiday update with 2 new Idaho resorts skied

Another one of our annual road trips is in the bag.  Every year we drive somewhere for skiing starting the day after Christmas.  This year we drove to McCall, Idaho to ski 2 new resorts:  Brundage and Bogus Basin.  Both of these resorts had some of the best conditions in years, snowing right up until the day before we got there.

Brundage Idaho, December 27, 2015

Brundage Idaho, December 27, 2015

We happened to hit some below-average temperatures on this trip, and when it’s below-average in late December, it’s pretty cold.  We never saw temps above 21F (Boise) for the entire time we were in Idaho.  The lowest was -11F just south of McCall near Tamarack.  AiRung had her new electric boot heaters so it was tolerable even if somewhat uncomfortable.  Cold temps make for great snow conditions though!

Bogus Basin was a very pleasant surprise and was the highlight of the trip on the 2nd day of skiing.  Bogus has a very windy access road that goes straight up the side of the mountain from downtown Boise.  It’s a very unique situation similar to Ski Santa Fe in New Mexico.

Bogus Basin Idaho, Dec 28, 2015

Bogus Basin Idaho, Dec 28, 2015

After Bogus Basin, we headed to Sun Valley which we first skied together in 2013.  This time there was lots of snow, with about 60% of their annual average already having fallen by the end of December.  This is very unusual and was a stark contrast with our 2013 visit where there was almost no natural snow but lots of snowmaking.  This time they were 100% open so we got to get a better feel for the resort.

Sun Valley, December 30 2015

Sun Valley, December 30 2015

One of the reasons we went to Sun Valley is because we bought Mountain Collective passes this year which gave us 2 days of skiing at Sun Valley and several other resorts on our list,  We did have to pay for tickets at Brundage and Bogus, but with discounts we paid less than $50 for each ticket.  Skiing at these smaller areas in Idaho is cheap!

So that brings us to 49 resorts.  #50 will be Taos, New Mexico on January 10th.  We fly out next weekend so not much rest for us this ski season!  We have already skied 16-days (Ron) and 13-days (AiRung) this season so it is going to be a very good year if the snow continues.

 

Christmas Eve update

We’ve had some great skiing so far this season.  November’s great start has continued into December with more cold storms.  We are now at about 120% of normal snowfall for the year after several large storms hit Tahoe.  We’ve been taking advantage of it whenever we can and I’ve got 12-days before Christmas — AiRung has 9.  That is a really good start.

Heavenly is 85% open and Kirkwood is 100% (when winds and heavy snow don’t shut it down!).  Below is a picture of our son Kai enjoying the steep stuff at Kirkwood.

Steep terrain at Kirkwood Dec 20, 2015

Steep terrain at Kirkwood Dec 20, 2015

There have been some powder days too.  On our most recent trip we used our powder skis all 3 days.

Heavenly tree skiing Dec 21, 2015

Heavenly tree skiing Dec 21, 2015

Our first new resort of the year is in the bag — Arapahoe Basin, Colorado.  That brings us to 47 resorts complete. We had a mid-December trip to Summit County where we skied A-Bay and Keystone.  Yes, we hit powder as we usually do in Colorado this time of year — maybe too much powder because travel was more of an adventure than we wanted.  The Denver airport was shut down for several hours the day we flew back so we didn’t get back home until 2AM.

AiRung skiing powder at Keystone, Dec 16, 2015

AiRung skiing powder at Keystone, Dec 16, 2015

We look forward to the rest of the season and hope to get as many as 8 new resorts done this year given the excellent snow falling over Western North America.

 

2015/2016 is ON

For the past 2 years we have had to wait until mid December to get any real skiing.  I saw a webcam grab from Kirkwood 2 years ago on this day that showed brown grass and very little snow.  Last year was even worse.  Looks like our luck (or the weather at least!) has changed, because this year both Heavenly and Kirkwood opened a week early on November 14th, so of course we hit opening weekend.

We chose to ski Heavenly on Saturday because a strong storm was predicted for Sunday, and with access only possible from the Gondola, it was certain to be shut due to strong winds.  It was surprisingly fun for just having 2 main runs open.  The crowds weren’t that bad, and the snow quality was great.  Add in a bluebird day and those views of the lake and it was definitely worth it.

Heavenly opening day November 14th, 2015

Heavenly opening day November 14th, 2015

Sunday we went to Kirkwood.  When we left the house at 8:15AM the sun was out with very few clouds.  By the time we got to Kirkwood 40-minutes later it was a full-on blizzard.  Chair 11 opened for the season and we caught the 4th chair.  They ended up getting 14″ out of the storm, and probably 50% of it fell while we were there.  There was a lot of terrain open and very few people so it was classic Kirkwood magic.

Stormy fun at Kirkwood November 15, 2015

Stormy fun at Kirkwood November 15, 2015

Later in the afternoon our Husky Sammy got in on the fun too.

So this was an awesome start to the season. We are now looking at the strongest El Nino conditions ever recorded. I’m not sure what that will mean to snowfall this year, but so far so good and we will hope for more of these consistent storms coming through!