Another weak snow season brings cycling to California resorts this summer
June 30, 2018
ByHUGO MARTIN | JUN 29, 2018
Mountain bikers try out the new downhill cycling feature at Snow Valley Mountain Resort near Running Springs. (Snow Valley Mountain Resort)
It was late June and retired firefighter Keith Newlin was speeding down the slopes of Snow Valley Mountain Resort near Running Springs. Never mind that the sun-soaked mountain was free of all winter snow.
The outdoor enthusiast was one of the first cyclists to try out Snow Valley’s new three-mile downhill cycling trail. Newlin and his bike zipped to the summit on a $6-million high-speed lift that was installed in December for skiers and snowboarders but converted this summer to carry bicycles.
“It was exciting,” Newlin said of his day on the slopes. “I’m glad they are doing it. Snow Valley has a lot of potential for summer stuff.”
Like other ski resort operators in the West, Snow Valley is no longer relying solely on winter snow to draw visitors to the peaks. The latest season of weak snowfall once again pushed ski resorts such as Snow Valley to add new money-making activities for summer and fall, including zip lines, yoga, downhill cycling, kids camps and mountainside weddings.
“It’s definitely part of what we have been seeing for the last several years,” said Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Assn., which represents 30 ski resorts in California and Nevada. “It will only continue to grow.”
Such activities have grown partly because of the unpredictable snowfall over the last few years, a condition many scientists are blaming on climate change. The federal government gave the ski industry a boost by adopting a 2011 law that allows resorts that lease forest land to add year-round activities.
The 2016-2017 ski season was a boon for resorts in the West because of record snowfall and surging visitation numbers. But Mother Nature was not as generous with her snow during the most recent ski season.
California’s snowfall measured only 58% of the annual average as of April 1, the most recent measurement by the state’s Department of Water Resources.
At California and Nevada resorts, ski visits dropped 14% this season — from 7 million visitors during the 2016-2017 season to 6.03 million this season, according to Reitzell. Ski resorts in the West operated for an average of 140 days this season, down from 150 days last season, he said.
“As we have learned over the years, it’s a basic formula: If it snows, they will come,” Reitzell said.