Good news for skiers: It looks like snowfall this winter in both eastern and western ski areas will be normal, according to several forecasters. That’s a major change from last year, when an unexpectedly warm and dry winter had a drastic impact on some western ski resorts.
The only regions where below-normal snow might occur this winter are the Pacific Northwest and possibly Northern California, depending on who is doing the forecasting. However, snowfall forecasting is not an exact science and weather patterns can change on short notice.
By now, most if not all ski resorts have opened and are hosting the season’s first skiers and snowboarders. They’ll be the first to experience new ski terrain, snowmaking, apres-ski spots, restaurants and other improvements made in the off season.
The biggest upgrade is at RED Mountain, a little-known ski area in British Columbia’s Kootenay Mountains, which is developing nearly 1,000 new ski acres with 22 new runs — a whole new mountain — this year and next.
With its new 997 acres, about two-thirds of which will be beginner and intermediate, RED will have a total 2,682 acres of skiable terrain. The first eight runs will be ready this season. RED will shuttle skiers to the top of the new Grey Mountain acreage this winter in a snowmobile-bus; it will install a quad chair next summer. .
Meanwhile, several resorts are celebrating signifcant anniversaries with new features and improvements.
Steamboat Springs, marking its 50th year, is building an Ice Castle that will be one of only two in the country. (The other is in the Mall of America in Minneapolis.) Made entirely of ice, the frozen playground will have three tons of towers and tunnels as well as 250,000 hand-placed icicles. Meanwhile, the city of Steamboat Springs is building a new ski jump at Howelsen Hill.
Also celebrating its 50th year is Vail Mountain, which just debuted a new 10-passenger gondola in Vail Village. The resort will begin a series of special events this month, including Snow Daze with a lineup of bands headlined by Wilco Dec. 10-16, a 50th anniversary film premiere Dec. 14 and a birthday fete Dec. 15.
In Nevada, Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort, in honor of its 50th year, is installing a new quad lift that is more beginner-friendly, opening seven new trails and a new mountain grill. In Utah, Alta is marking its 75th anniversary with events through January, and in California Northstar is celebrating its 40th anniversary with completion of $30 million in improvements, including a new lodge, quad lift, expanded terrain and new runs.
Also in California, the Lake Tahoe area is spending $100 million to upgrade facilities in hopes of landing the 2026 Winter Olympics. Reno-Tahoe International Airport has made $27 million in improvements and added new flights, among them a one-stop from Fort Lauderdale. A new stretch of interstate highway will provide faster access to South Shore resorts.
Several major competitions will take place at Lake Tahoe this winter, among them the U.S. Freestyle Championships at Heavenly Mountain and the U.S. Alpine Championships at Squaw Valley.
Among new features, Squaw Valley will open two new chairlifts and plans to create a new mile-long terrain park. Sierra-at-Tahoe Resort will introduce the world’s only Burton Star Wars Experience, which aims to get kids aged 3 to 6 interested in snowboarding by combining teaching techniques with Star Wars figures and storylines.