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California Ski Trips: Planning A Trip To The Mountains

2010-12-10-overhead_Trazzler.jpg   First Posted: 12/27/10 11:33 AM ET   Updated: 05/25/11 07:15 PM ET

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By Megan Cytron

Powder is accumulating, lifts are opening one by one, hot chocolate is bubbling with anticipation... it's time to plan a mountain road trip. Even if skiing fills you with abject terror (as it does for me), no one should miss a day spent playing in the snow, topped off with ski-resort comfort food, copious restorative beer, and fireside cozying up. Californians are lucky enough to be able to retreat down to sea level and sun whenever these winter wonderlands lose their novelty. Have a favorite California ski town or resort? Enter our writing contest and you could win a 5-day trip to write about Lake Tahoe or Santa Barbara.

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  • Tackling the Demanding Terrain at Kirkwood in Lake Tahoe, California

    Skiing a full-day from Cornice Express through Wagon Wheel Bowl to The Wall, over the ridge to Chair 4 (Sunrise) and back again sure makes you appreciate places like <a href="" target="_hplink">Kirkwood</a>. Known for really deep snow (the mountain recorded over 912 inches in 1997) and a mix of demanding terrain, clear days and camaraderie, Kirkwood has something other Tahoe resorts don’t. Whether it’s the countless options and apparent lack of other skiers on every run, or the endless conversations shared with strangers on the lift rides, Kirkwood tends to draw you in and make you feel at home. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a>

  • Flying Over Fresh Snow in Your T-Shirt in Mount Baldy, California

    To the west, the entire Los Angeles basin sprawls out before you. To the east, the snowcapped San Bernadinos give way to endless desert. At the top of Chair 5 at <a href="" target="_hplink">Mount Baldy</a>, three days of fresh snow glisten in the afternoon sun, which is so strong that you’re tempted to strip off your jacket and ride down in your t-shirt. Just an hour from LA, this steep little mountain is covered in runs that carve through trees and boulders all the way to the parking lot. Watch snowboarders fly off nature’s half pipes and keep an eye out for skiers careening down Sugar Pine. Baldy is the perfect one-day ski trip; if you start in the morning, you can cover the entire mountain by mid-afternoon, which gives you enough time to head back to the beach for the legendary Southern California day of ski and surf. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">Rebecca Feinberg</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Rebecca Feinberg</a>

  • Sledding Down Homemade Black Runs in Big Bear, California

    You don't need to be a dab hand at snowboarding or born to ski to get your adrenalin glands working harder than a stressed city lawyer in <a href="" target="_hplink">Big Bear</a>. Snow Summit is riddled with tracks made for family sledding olympics. Park up on the side roads heading to the base of the mountain, head off up the hill leaving beaten tracks a distant memory, and you'll find all manner of steep slopes. From speedy slalom courses to extreme 3-in-1 daredevil half-pipes and natural trenches peppered with jumps, the wilderness offers countless ways to slip around on plastic trays and bruise your bum. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">Tim Chester</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Courtesy of Snow Summit Mountain Resort </a>

  • Jumping On One of the 31 Lifts in Squaw Valley, California

    It’s tough to know where to start when taking in <a href="" target="_hplink">Squaw</a> for the first time. Most arrive early at KT-22, with coffee and a whole lot of “this one time” stories. Some opt for the classic Funitel start, which delivers you to the upper mountain and a multiple of challenging routes (most notably the Palisades and Mainline) via Siberia or Headwall. And still others choose to start lower on Red Dog or Squaw Creek in hopes of finding the goods in the trees. No matter where you start, or finish for that matter, Squaw has it all. If you tire of the lake views and endless steeps on the front side, simply jump on one of their 31 lifts and head to Granite Chief for an inbounds backcountry-like experience. Or, if it’s park you want, check out the world-class Superpipe and jump lines built by Tom Richards and crew. —Read more and get current conditions at <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a>. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a>

  • Appreciating Seasonal Cooking in Squaw Valley, California

    The biggest name in Lake Tahoe is also the best spot for dinner anywhere around the lake: Squaw Valley. Outpost of the namesake San Francisco restaurant, <a href="" target="_hplink">Plumpjack Café</a> imports urban style to the Sierra with a sophisticated menu of seasonal cooking, all expertly prepared using top-notch ingredients by artisanal growers — no small feat in the mountains in wintertime. Most dishes shine for their simplicity and bright flavors: expect pan reductions instead of fat-laden sauces, perfect after a day on the slopes. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">John A. Vlahides</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">SCUBAbunny</a>

  • Playing With the Alpine Meadows Dogs in Lake Tahoe, California

    <a href="" target="_hplink">Alpine Meadows</a> has a down-to-earth vibe, friendly service, and awesome terrain, including an open boundary to the surrounding backcountry (weather permitting). The locals’ favorite mountain, it’s also the unofficial telemarking hub of the Sierra Nevada. Best of all, there’s no glitz: you won’t see any fur, and you’ll likely spot somebody skiing in Levi’s, just like in the 1970s. And because it’s part of the Lake Tahoe watershed, there are no fancy-pants real-estate developments at the base area, just a lodge. How refreshing. On the slopes, expect wide-open bowls – some groomed, some not. If you’re an expert, you’ll find plenty of steeps and glades to keep your heart racing. When it’s time to kick back, head for the Ice Bar, a tiny order-at-the-window snack bar with outdoor seating in the snow. Bring your camera to the top of the Lakeview chair and pose for pics with Alpine’s famous, super-cute ski-patrol pooches. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">John A. Vlahides</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Alpine Meadows</a>

  • Racing Down Silver Belt at Sugar Bowl in Lake Tahoe, California

    With one of the richest resort histories, <a href="" target="_hplink">Sugar Bowl</a> is often referred to as the “grande dame” of Tahoe resorts. To this day Sugar Bowl is family owned and whether it’s a race down Silver Belt or a bottomless turns on the open faces of Nancy’s Couloir and the East Face. you’ll easily understand why generations of skiers have called this place home. To get the best Sugar Bowl has to offer, head to the steeps of The ’58, The Palisades and The Sisters, all easily accessed via the Mt. Lincoln Express. Combine that with an open boundary policy and your options are limitless. Returning this year is legendary terrain park designer J.P. Martin. Plans include upgrades of the well-known Switching Yard terrain park. —Read more and get current conditions at <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a>. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Powder Magazine</a>

  • Sleeping Late at Tahoma Meadows B&B in Tahoe City, California

    By far the most charming, <a href="" target="_hplink">Tahoma Meadows B&B Cottages</a> has free-standing cabins tucked beneath giant sugar-pine trees on the west shore of the lake in the tiny settlement of Tahoma, just south of Tahoe City. Each cute-as-a-button, unfussy cottage has homey details like country quilts and a teddy bear on the bed, but the decor manage never to be tacky or overdone, just warm and cozy, like a favorite old sweater. Some units have kitchens, good if you’re on a budget. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">John A. Vlahides</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">John Vlahides</a>

  • Reliving Small-Town America in Tahoe City, California

    If you’ve never been to Tahoe, stay near <a href="" target="_hplink">Tahoe City</a>, not South Lake, for your first trip — unless you’re a gambler, in which case you should head directly to the south shore’s glittering lights and elusive promise of a jackpot. The oldest settlement on the lake, Tahoe City exudes the sort of charm most people imagine when they think of Lake Tahoe: little log cabins, towering pine trees, and peerless views over cobalt-blue waters. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">John A. Vlahides</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">John Vlahides</a>

  • Relaxing in the Woodiest Lodge in South Lake Tahoe, California

    The best place to stay in South Lake Tahoe, the <a href="" target="_hplink">Black Bear Inn</a>, looks and feels like a stately old Adirondack lodge, its great room decked out with trophy heads, Oriental rugs, and a giant rock fireplace. You’d never know it was built only a few years ago—everything has a gorgeous patina to it. The style-savvy owners hauled wood from several dilapidated, century-old share-croppers’ cabins in Texas all the way to Tahoe to panel some of the walls and give the place a lived-in, weathered look. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">John A. Vlahides</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">John Vlahides</a>

  • Trudging Up to Fly Down Brian Head Peak in Utah

    When climbing an 11,300 foot peak every foot begins to matter. Slowly intensifying with each step, stomping down and smothering whatever nonsensical thinking led you to attempt to hike so high only to ski or snowboard right back down. At the top it feels like someone took jagged thinning sheers to your lungs. The reward comes first in the view, a cracked open earth-flavored jawbreaker, titled on its side, spanning past the blinding snow, towards the emerald pines and finally onto crimson deserts on the horizon. After the eye candy loses its flavor, the most succulent part remains. The hard fought powdery distance between you and the top of <a href="" target="_hplink">Brian Head Resort</a> hasn’t been touched in weeks. By: <a href="" target="_hplink">Alex Dweezy Dwyer</a> | Photo: <a href="" target="_hplink">Alex Dweezy Dwyer</a>

A note about Trazzler's slideshows: we don't do top-tens or best-of lists. Nor are we so morbid or presumptuous as to tell you where you must go before you shuffle off this mortal coil. The world is far too big and fascinating to encapsulate in any kind of definitive list. We simply chose the places that our writers have contributed that make us think, laugh, dream, and, in this case, experience a vicarious vertiginous thrill. --Megan Cytron, Editor of Trazzler

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