Resort Guide 2013-2014: California

Squaw has more than just freeriding. Alek Oestreng footloose on a late spring session. Photo: Dean Blotto Gray / Burton Presents Resorts

Words: Ben Gavelda

Tasty turns. A cool Cali buzz. Palm tree sunsets. The California dream. As one of the most geographically and culturally diverse states in the union, Cali serves up some of snow, skate, surf, and silicone all in one day. Its boardsports history runs deep and when it comes to snow shredding, the Sierra Nevada and San Bernardino, San Gabriel and San Jacinto mountain ranges are the raised backbones, splitting the state roughly east to west straight down the center. These mountains soak up powerful Pacific storms, and where that snow lands how those hills are molded is what makes snowboarding in California unique. There’s nothing quite like ripping Bear park laps in a hoodie, Mammoth jump sessions in July, rallying through the brunt of a Tahoe storm or splitboarding to the top of Mt. Shasta in June.

California’s most active scenes are in the Lake Tahoe Basin, Mammoth and June in the Eastern Sierra, and Mt. High, Bear and Snow Summit down south. Misty spots like Mt. Baldy, Homewood, Shasta and Mt. Rose in Nevada lay off the radar but are worth the trip. The slushy, sunny, spring riding is hard to beat, and the late season offerings of Squaw Valley and Mammoth can have you riding until the fourth of July on good snow years. Lift shack rattling storms can deliver deep dumps in the Lake Tahoe and Mammoth areas, breaking 800 inches. And the term ‘Sierra Cement’ is subjective. Sure fresh Cali snow is no Jackson Hole cold smoke or deep Northwest slog, it’s somewhere in the middle, but the storm cycles are fast making for one guarantee: bluebird pow days after every storm.

When you consider the ease of resort access and the amount of backcountry terrain, California is hard to beat. But all that glitters is not gold. California is the most populated state in the country. If you can put up with the traffic in the liftlines and freeways then the California dream is all yours.

Check out the next page to see our top three freeriding resorts in California