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California mountains snow: Nature Conservancy-River fork Ranch Preserve
River Fork Ranch is an 800-acre preserve and working cattle operation owned and operated by the Nature Conservancy. The preserve is near Genoa, Nevada, where the east and west forks of the Carson River meet. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
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Southwest states, California mountains still offer plenty of snow

Got snow? Yes, we certainly do.

California and high-altitude destinations in the Southwest have plenty of the white stuff (as of this writing). And if I can brag a bit to our Eastern and Midwestern friends: Our snow’s better than your snow.

Rather than slushy and wet, Western snow is dry and powdery. It may be a bit more of a challenge to build that snowman, but West-of-the-Rockies snow is more ski- and play-friendly, and this is where you can find it:

  • San Diego County – Depending on elevation and conditions, head east and up for snow at Palomar Mountain State Park at 5,000 feet; Cuyamaca Rancho State Park at 6,500 feet; and the historic gold-mining town of Julian at 4,200 feet.
  • Riverside County – It may be warm in Palm Springs, but take the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, with the world’s largest rotating tramcar, and you’ll find another world on Mount San Jacinto at 8,500 feet. The 2.5-mile ride up along the cliffs of Chino Canyon is a thrill, too. On the other side of the mountain is the picture-book town of Idyllwild at 5,400 feet with its cozy inns, B&Bs, restaurants and boutiques.
  • San Bernardino County – A two-hour drive from North County, Big Bear Lake offers a plethora of snow-based fun. Big Bear Mountain Resort operates sister ski resorts Bear Mountain, which favors snowboarders, and family-friendly Snow Summit, both at about 7,000 feet and just two miles apart. Skiing not your thing? Try snow-tubing at Big Bear Snow Play or Alpine Slide Big Bear. Both have Magic Carpet uphill lifts, so it’s all downhill. Go ziplining or see the backcountry via guided snowshoe hike with Action Tours. Picturesque Bavarian Village at Big Bear Lake at 6,800 feet offers restaurants, stores and shops.

    Top of Palm Springs Tram
    A 2.5-mile ride up on the Palm Springs Aerial Tram, the world’s largest rotating tramcar, will bring visitors to the snow, even when it’s a warm day in the Coachella Valley. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
  • North Lake Tahoe – A destination for all seasons, North Lake Tahoe wows when it comes to magnificent mountains (highest peak near 11,000 feet) and snow-centric activities. A novel experience: a moonlight snowshoe hike at Diamond Peak.
  • Nevada – Drive 40 minutes east of South Lake Tahoe and discover Carson Valley, Nev., where they celebrate the arrival of bald eagles by the dozens and cattle ranching at the annual Eagles & Ag event (Jan. 27-30). See the breathtaking view of the valley and snow-covered Eastern Sierra from a few thousand feet up with Balloons Nevada. Back on the ground,  check out tiny Genoa, where mule deer lounge on lawns and roam freely through town. In Gardnerville, enjoy tasty, plentiful and reasonably-priced Basque cuisine family-style at J T Basque Bar & Dining Room.
  • Arizona – When the desert floor cooks, Zonies know where to go. They head for the White Mountains for some cool, and in the winter, this eastern part of the state is a wonderland. Lots of lodging at Pinetop-Lakeside at 6,800 feet; and at uncrowded Alpine at 8,500 feet. Ski biking or skibobbing? Sunrise Park Resort at 9,200 feet offers this novel sport, as well as cross-country and downhill skiing, and snowboarding in a setting straight out of a Hallmark movie.

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