The calendar says summer, but the snowpack in California’s Sierra Nevada mountains says winter. Due to an especially snowy winter — with storms continuing well into May — the alpine summer skiing is stupendous this year. It’s possible to spend the morning skiing or snowboarding at Squaw Mountain or Mammoth Mountain and the afternoon on Lake Tahoe or visiting Yosemite National Park. It’s like getting two vacations in one. This twofer is the answer for those who can’t decide whether to take a snow- or sun-based vacation.
Summer skiing at Squaw Valley
Even in April, I thought that if I could get enough air off a lip, I might be able to land in Lake Tahoe’s turquoise waters, far below. That, of course, isn’t possible but you can ski snow in the morning, and swim in and waterski on the lake that afternoon.
Early-June snow depths at Squaw Valley ranged from 10 inches at the base to 152 inches at the summit. The summit and upper-mountain are scheduled to remain open for skiing and snowboarding to July 7.
I want to take you higher
One doesn’t even have to leave the mountain for summer fun at Squaw Valley. After a morning skiing or snowboarding, hang out at High Camp, at the 8,200-foot aerial tram summit. Soak away any aches in the hot tub or stretch out in the outdoor pool, take a few laps on the roller rink, reach new heights on the climbing wall, find treasure through geocaching, hit the target playing disc golf, join a guided hike, or simply play lawn games. All activities are available daily as of June 14, although the climbing wall opening might be delayed due to snow and early season hikes might be on snowshoes.
Speaking of hiking, notch up the challenge on Alpengow Expeditions’ Tahoe Via Ferrata trail. This protected hiking and climbing experience with professionally trained mountain guides opens June 15. Routes ascending the tram face include cable bridges, metal rungs, and rock scrambling, but don’t let that scare you. Each participant wears a helmet and a harness and uses a safety lanyard.
Jet your inner ommm on at Wanderlust Festival, June 18-21. The world’s largest yoga, health, and wellness festival brings Zen to the Squaw Valley with a slew of activities, from yoga and outdoor adventure to workshops and live music.
Squaw Valley concludes its snow season with Lake Tahoe Freedom Fest, July 4-6. The three-day festival features live music at outdoor on-mountain venues.
Summer skiing at Mammoth Mountain
A friend keeps sharing pics from Mammoth Mountain, where the early-June base depths range from 65 inches at the main lodge to 130 inches at the summit. You read that right; that’s five to more than 10 feet of snow.
“The skiing is amazing still and we will be in great shape into August!” he wrote on June 8, adding: “I wouldn’t be surprised if we end up skiing until Labor Day there is THAT much snow!”
Just as Lake Tahoe is a summer draw to Squaw Valley, Yosemite National Park is to Mammoth Mountain. The park is only 45 minutes from the town of Mammoth Lakes, so it’s easy to mix and match with skiing and riding. There’s even a bus service that runs between town and park from June through September.
Equally must-do outdoor activities at Mammoth include hiking to Minaret Vista or paddling Mono Lake or Lake Mamie.
Music & motocross
Get jazzed at the Mammoth JazzFest, June 21-22, with contemporary, fusion, Latin, and more. Coinciding with that, but lasting a full week, is Mammoth Motocross, the longest-running moto event.
Ski, watch fireworks, take part in a Summit Sunset Party, and simply enjoy the holiday weekend, July 4-6.
After a day of skiing, chill out with a Mammoth Brewing cold one at the Mammoth Reggae Festival, on the Village Plaza, July 19-20.
Prefer blues? Not a problem. The Mammoth Festival of Beers & Bluesapalooza, Aug. 1-4, is the last big shindig before the mountain’s planned closure Aug. 7
What’s appealing to the over-50 luxury traveler?
- Alpine skiing in warmer temperatures and California sunshine.
- The best of two seasons combined, with many options for a multi-generation family gathering.
- Luxury condominiums at the base villages of both mountains.
- Although there’s plenty of snow, daily conditions are variable. The best conditions usually are in the morning.
- It’s about a 2.5- to 3-hour easy drive between Squaw Valley and Mammoth Mountain.
- Both mountain summits are at high altitudes, which can cause headaches, dizziness, inability to sleep well, and other discomforts. Keep well hydrated, avoid or limit caffeine and alcohol, and check with your doctor if these might be a concern and consider appropriate medications.
Disclosure: The author’s visit was hosted by Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain, but the opinions expressed are her own.
IF YOU GO
If you play golf, see: Golf at Edgewood Tahoe Mixes Natural Beauty With Luxury Lodging