Author Archives: skyfree

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!

 

End of the 2014/2015 season

Kirkwood Chair 5, April 18 2015

Kirkwood Chair 5, April 18 2015

 

This is the end of the season for us so it’s time to look back and summarize.

Despite the lack of natural snowfall in California we managed 27 total days, and 17 were in our home state.

We knocked off 9 resorts this season — a new record.  June Mountain in California was great despite the poor snowfall in our home state because we hit it at the right time in late February after recent snow.

Colorado had the best snowfall in the West this year so we hit 5 new resorts there — Winter Park, Loveland, Copper, Telluride, and Purgatory.  All of those had great snow.  The first trip in December featured some of the deepest powder we have ever skied, and some very challenging travel.  The second trip in early March hit the best conditions of the season in southern Colorado.

"The Wall" at Kirkwood, April 18 2015

“The Wall” at Kirkwood, April 18 2015

On that same trip to Colorado in March we circled through Brian Head, UT and Arizona Snowbowl near Flagstaff, AZ.  Snowbowl was a huge surprise as we didn’t expect much from this small area but it was one of the most memorable days of the year.

We also did our yearly trip to Park City with AiRung’s brother and family that was a lot of fun.  We knocked off Alta in early February on a not-so-rare powder day at the snowiest resort on our list.

So that’s all for this year and now we wait through the long hot summer and dream of the adventures we will have next season.

 

 

Back in South Lake Tahoe, April 10-11 2015

This is the 2nd to the last weekend for us skiing in Tahoe.  Kirkwood is saying they will be operating on a “day to day” basis but probably won’t make it to next weekend, and Heavenly’s last day will be April 19th.  Conditions were actually pretty good at Kirkwood due to the 28″ of fresh snow received in the last week.  There were still some pockets of soft dry snow on north-facing steeper slopes.  The steep stuff was skiing well and the groomers never slushed up. The total snowfall for the year is 187″ for them, which will probably be it for this season since nothing is expected next week. That is historically low, but not bad when compared with the average for many resorts on our list.

"The Wall" at Kirkwood, April 10 2015

“The Wall” at Kirkwood, April 10 2015

Heavenly wasn’t very good at all. It was surprisingly cold and windy, which made for very icy conditions. There are really only 5 main long runs left open, so a couple of runs on each makes for a short day. It’s been a super challenging year for them, and the 85″ of natural snowfall this season is just not enough — even with the 300+ acres of snowmaking they have. That is only 28% of the average reported snowfall of 304″ from 2008-2014, and that’s at the snow measuring altitude of about 8,600′. Basically no snow fell below 7,500 feet this year.

Still, it’s fun to ski our home resorts and any day on the snow is a good one.

Empty groomer at Kirkwood, April 10 2015

Empty groomer at Kirkwood, April 10 2015

#43, 44, 45 and 46

We just got back from our biggest trip as far as knocking off new resorts.  By the numbers:

Telluride groomer, March 2015

Telluride groomer, March 2015

We had been trying to plan this trip starting 2 months prior, but snow has been elusive this year and our original idea changed from Idaho, then to Northern Utah and then finally settled on Southern Utah and Colorado just a week before we left.  We prefer to drive and stay in the truck camper, but with the long distances and amount of ground we had to cover we decided to just take the car and hotel it.

Just a week before we went the 4 areas we went to got pounded with new snow and the coverage and snow conditions were excellent at all of them.  This was our first time skiing Telluride together, and we both decided it will probably win the overall best resort in North America in our rankings.  The place has everything, including (but not limited to):  Steep groomers, vast off-piste expert terrain, an authentic Victorian mining town, a fantastic modern mountain village, and views that you never get tired of.

This will be our last road trip of the 2014/2015 ski season.  It’s getting warm now and we don’t generally travel to ski slush.  Some of the Tahoe resorts are closed already in this historically bad snow year, but we do expect to get at least 2-4 more days before we hang them up for the season.

Town of Telluride, March 2013

Town of Telluride, March 2015

June Mountain and Mammoth

We had been planning to ski in Idaho the week of President’s day, but in early February it rained up to a pretty high elevation there and then got cold and froze into ice, so we decided to alter our plan to ski one of the last 2 resorts on our list in California – June Mountain.  June is about 20 miles from Mammoth and is about 300-miles from our house in the winter (summer is closer when the pass is open).

Chalky snow at Mammoth, Feb 15, 2015

Chalky snow at Mammoth, Feb 15, 2015

We also wanted to try a ski trip using our truck camper, which allows us to bring the dogs with us.  Our preference is to camp in an RV park with electric hookups when available in the winter.  This allows us to run a space heater which is quieter than using the propane furnace.  In the morning we drive to the ski area parking lot and hopefully get close-in parking.  We walk the dogs before skiing and eat lunch with them.

I plan to create a page with more details on the truck camper and winter camping later, but the bottom line is that it did work out very well and we plan to do this a lot more in the future.  It will be necessary to use it to take some longer trips up to British Columbia and maybe even the east coast so we can get more resorts done at a time.

June was the best skiing we had on this trip, with soft, dry, chalky snow at the top.  We skied just about everything that was open and it was a great time that we hadn’t necessarily been expecting.  Mammoth was not nearly as much fun and we wish we had just skied another day at June.  It’s crowded, icier, and the mountain is just not laid out that well with too many intersections and confusing and crossing lifts.  The best terrain at the top is accessed from either a super scary chair (#23) which has no safety bars, or a gondola which forces you to take off your skis and crowd in with people that are always on the phone.  Ug.

The last day we swung back through Tahoe to stay at the house and ski our home mountain Heavenly.  The snow there was REALLY bad, having been hammered by the sun and the holiday crowds.  Icy in the morning and slush by 11AM.  Oh well…we ski in all conditions and it’s better than going to work!