California Dreaming

Our content editor has just arrived on the west coast of the USA to visit Northstar, Heavenly and Kirkwood. He’s been dreaming of the trip, while the resorts have been dreaming of snow. It has been a poor winter so far on the west coast.

As our Virgin Atlantic 747 flew over North America it looked very good 29,000 feet below.

The mountains were covered in thick snow and it was possible to make out that winter was in full swing.

From my ariel vantage point I could see the mountain tops blanketed in snow, the trees were white and the valley floor was covered too.

The only problem for me was that below was Canada.

Some resorts in Canada have surpassed their annual average total already. Marmot Basin, near Jasper, is set to break its record of 5.2m set in 1965 while other resorts in British Columbia and Alberta are dusting off the record books too.

California on the other hand has had one of the worst winters in recent memory with little snow, large areas of the ski resorts closed and people cancelling their trips.

It is all in stark contrast to a year ago when Northstar had 16.7m across the season and many of the resorts in the State closed in April and May with the slopes still covered.

They could do with some of it this year.

I couldn’t help thinking I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

As we drove out of San Francisco it felt more like late Spring.

Palm trees to powder?

Palm trees to powder? Image © PlanetSKI

The palm trees lining the freeway added to the feeling of apprehension.

It did not feel like I was off skiing.

And yet there was much to look forward to.

I had heard the resorts around Lake Tahoe have some of the best scenery in North America. I had been told that from Heavenly the views to the Lake and into Nevada are spectacular.

It is also the second biggest ski mountain in the USA.

The snowboard legend, Shaun White, is based in Northstar and he wouldn’t be there unless it had something to offer.

Northstar and Heavenly are both owned by Vail Resorts and only last week it announced it was buying Kirkwood so it would be interesting to see why.

Kirkwood is known as a skiers mountain with some challenging and interesting terrain.

Skiing in North America is always fun and a totally different experience from The Alps.

I had never skied in these resorts before; indeed I have only skied once in California and that was at Bear Mountain many years ago.

All the resorts boast of their snowmaking capabilities and their canons had not doubt been working overtime.

As we got to within 20 miles or so of Northstar we did at last see some snow.

Not much, but at least it was snow.

As we arrived at the Constellation Residences in Northstar receptionist  told us 5cm – 10cm was forecast in the next day or so.

Fingers crossed.


Snow clouds

Snow clouds. Image © PlanetSKI


Its a start

It’s a start.Image © PlanetSKI

It's looking better

It’s looking better. Image © PlanetSKI

If you want to know what James Cove makes of the resorts, what they are like and crucially what the snow is like then do check back later.

Fact box

For more information on Vail Resorts then see here and for detailed information about Northstar on its web site then click here.

If you want to take advantage of possible better end of season conditions then take a look at this offer:

Eight nights in San Francisco with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Heathrow direct to San Francisco, seven nights accommodation at the 4V Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe followed by one nights accommodation at the 3V+ Radisson Fisherman’s Wharf both on a room only basis with car hire included starts from £1,339.

Prices are per person based on 2 adults. Prices are based on departures 19th March 2012.

For the spirit of the mountains