Resort Guide 2013-2014: California
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
Top 3 Freeriding Resorts in California
Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows
Technically they're two different areas, but you can ride both on one ticket and they sit adjacent to each other. Squaw's freeride terrain is a famed home for riders like Jeremy Jones, while Alpine Meadows tends to sit in the shadow of Squallywood fame. Both get pummeled with snow and together contain arguably the best freeriding in Cali.
Standout Terrain: Alpine sidecountry, KT-22, High Camp
Average snowfall: 450 inches (both)
Don’t Miss: High Camp pool parties, Wildflour Cookies, The Cham après
Poll Overall Resort Rank: Squaw: 6 Alpine Meadows: 31
Sugar Bowl's location atop Donner Pass reaps in layers of snow from storms that rise up the foothills into the high Sierra. It's also one of closest resorts to access from the Bay Area so it's easy to get at the varied terrain from wind lips to cliffs in-bounds and some of the best sidecountry runs in Tahoe.
Standout Terrain: Lincoln cliffs, out of bounds access
Average snowfall: 500 inches
Don’t Miss: Cherry's, Tacos Jalisco, Mike Basich, Donnor Party storms
Poll Overall Resort Rank: 30
Kirkwood is the furthest from the Tahoe epicenter, but it receives the most annual snowfall in the greater Tahoe region making it worth the haul and keeps the on-snow traffic low. Wide-open steeps, sidecountry for days, gullied-out hit runs, glades, big-ass cliffs, and legit freeriding terrain makes this destination a must.
Standout Terrain: Sidecountry, sidehits everywhere, cliffs, freeride contests
Average snowfall: 600 inches
Don’t Miss: Road closing storms, Heart Chute, Off The Wall Bar
Poll Overall Resort Rank: 36
Check out the next page for our top 3 parks in California…
Top 3 Parks in California
TransWorld SNOWboarding Park Sessions at Mammoth, California
A little over a decade ago Northstar transformed its mellow terrain offerings into a global freestyle haven. Mack Dawg film sessions, prime weather conditions and snowfall, and the home base of Snow Park Technologies fueled terrain park innovation and creativity that continues to set the benchmark for parks worldwide.
Standout Terrain: Fresh jib and feature rotation, Shaun White's signature halfpipe
Don't miss: Pros lapping the park just like you, TransWorld TransAM contest
Poll Park Rank: 6
Mammoth's eastern Sierra isolation hasn't barred progression; in fact, it's an asylum for some the most skilled park riders and park builders on the planet. Trace it from their early adoption of Pipe Dragon cutting tools, to the influx of Grenerds, to the current scene of skilled ams that run the town, all combined with super long seasons. It adds up.
Standout Terrain: South Park and Main Park jump sessions, JLA one-off jibs, JLA skatepark
Don't miss: West Coast Invitational, rappers and the occasional pornstar snowboarding
Poll Park Rank: 2
Where else can you shred in shades and a hoodie nearly the entire season? What other mountain is an entire park? Our thoughts exactly. With deep roots and connectivity to surf, skate, and snow cultures, Bear Mountain is a bold style Mecca with creative park terrain and riding influenced by all three.
Standout Terrain: Cali weather, creative park builds
Don't miss: Hot Dawgs and Handrails, TransWorld TransAM contest, Bradshaw sightings
Poll Park Rank: 3
Check out the next page for a few of our insider tips…
Best Boardin' For Your Buck
Just outside the bustling South Lake Tahoe scene sits a proper park, pow, pillow, and pipe sanctuary regarded for it early season openings, classic Tahoe dumps, sidecountry access, spring sessions, chill vibes and home of our 2014 Good Wood All Mountain snowboard test.
Tahoe Super Pass
Tahoe resorts ran solo for years. Now you can access 8,000 acres of riding combined at Squaw, Alpine, and Sierra for a mish-mash of some of the best freeriding and park terrain around the lake. Which poses one question aside from snowfall: Sigma Derby or Tourist Club?
The après and food scene in California and Nevada is poppin'. Here are a few standouts. Restaurants, casinos (in Nevada), concerts, karaoke…just don't go full retard and blow the next day of riding.
50/50 Brewing, Truckee
Tourist Club, Truckee
Tacos Jaliscos, Truckee
Moody's Bistro, Truckee
The Public House, Reno
Old Granite Street Eatery, Reno
Brasserie St James, Reno
Tahoe Biltmore, Crystal Bay
Bite, Incline Village
T's Rotisserie, Incline Village
Divided Sky, South Lake
Mont Bleu, South Lake
Harvey's, South Lake
Sprouts, South Lake
Himmel Haus, South Lake
Yama Noodles, South Lake
Mimi's Cookie Bar
New York Bagel
Get The Burger
AV Night Club
Big belly Deli
Old Country Inn
Sandy's Bar Restaurant