technology on the ski slopes

Photo Courtesy: Peter MorningMMSA

Skiing or snowboarding together as a family is a lot of fun. But it can also be a lot of work, especially when kids are young and require assistance. And then when kids are older (and faster or more daring than mom and dad), they often want to ski or ride off on their own. That’s when technology on the ski slopes kicks in.

Many mountain resorts have downloadable apps available from iTunes that use GPS tracking to find your location, friends and family, snow conditions and more. In addition, the recently updated Find My Friends app can help you track down your group. Here’s what’s new on California’s snowy slopes.

Mammoth Mountain, Eastern Sierras  

The Mammoth Mountain Ski Area – owner of Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain – recently acquired Big Bear Mountain Resorts (Bear Mountain and Snow Summit). Aside from the new Cali4nia Pass valid at all four mountains, no immediate changes are taking place – yet.

To meet the increase in family visitation in the past two years, Mammoth stepped up its ski and snowboard lessons and snow play activities. The Unbound Terrain Park Playground has instructional signage for newbies and lessons limited to four or fewer skiers and snowboarders (grouped by ability) to reach the next level. Wooley’s Tube Park has groomed lanes and a separate area with surf sledding for ages 12 and younger. The Kids Stay & Ski Free deal (12 and younger) is valid at any Mammoth Lodging Collection Property from February 22 – March 15. Book by Dec. 20.

App: Mammoth Mountain.

June Mountain

Located abut 20 minutes from Mammoth, this substantially smaller resort is ideal for young families and people who prefer a more intimate ski experience. Another perk: kids ages 12 and younger ski or ride free all season with no blackout dates.

Big Bear Mountain Resorts, Southern California 

Kids ages 6 and younger ski/ride free at both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. Generally skiers gravitate toward family-friendly Snow Summit (check out the Family Park) and snowboarders to hip Bear Mountain’s terrain parks. Lessons for all ages are available.

Lodging: To rent a cabin or house, visit www.bigbearvacations.com. Apps: Snow Summit Mtn. and Bear Mtn.

Snow Valley

For a quick trip to the slopes, head to Snow Valley, situated at a lower elevation than Big Bear. Although it usually gets less snow and has fewer trails, it’s ideal for beginners and young families. Short lift lines are another bonus. Kids ages 6 and under ski free with paying adult. Save with the Family Fun Pack: Four lift tickets (two adults, two kids ages 7 – 12).

Mountain High, Wrightwood 

The resort’s close proximity to L.A. – about 90 minutes – makes this an easy day ski trip. The Children’s Academy gets ages 4 – 9 up on skis and snowboards (from $79 half-day). Rentals and lunch included. Kids ages 6 and under ski free.   SoCal fifth graders (from San Diego to Santa Barbara and extending to Las Vegas) get a free ski pass. App: Mountain High.

Northstar Skate Arena.Slawoff

Photo Credit: Mimi Slawoff. The Village at Northstar California Resort

Northstar California Resort Tahoe 

A part of Vail Resorts, this laid-back luxury resort is a self-contained village complete with lodging, restaurants, shops, a movie theater and skating arena. The Ultimate 4 Lessons, for kids and adults, cap students to four so you get lots of one-on-one time with your instructor. Private and group lessons are also available. Vail Resorts surveyed visitors and found that women would like customized lessons and more time with their children, and so is offering new programs through the Women in Skiing initiative this winter.

In the Women’s Ultimate 4 lesson offered on Mondays, female skiers and riders learn or brush up on skills with a female coach. Mommy and Me lessons (offered at select Vail Resorts) enable an instructor to spend time with a mom and child, and provide tips for developing the child’s skills.

Family Après Snow Play includes interactive snow sculptures, sleds, music, s’mores, bungee trampoline, skating and featured wine selections for mom and dad.Located at the mountain base, spacious village condos have fully-equipped kitchens, fireplaces and ski lockers. The mid-mountain Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers such posh touches as ski valet (no more lugging skis) and a full service spa. A gondola connects the Ritz to the village.

Be sure to sign up for Epic Mix, an online and mobile application that enables you to share photos and track where you’ve skied as well as newly learned skills in ski school. This information is shared with all Vail Resorts.