Each fall, California ski areas hop to a big list of tasks bringing in supplies, hiring "lifties," spraying a base of manmade snow.
But many resorts become almost as busy as they prepare to devote resources to summer recreation.
They're also getting creative. The 2012 menu of summer activities goes past staples such as concerts or mountain biking on ski trails to include flat-water paddling, disc golf, star- gazing, skateboarding, zipline rides and even wacky pursuits such as obstacle races through mud.
"Summer programs for resorts have become vital to our business," said Bob Roberts, director of the California Ski Industry Association. "Fewer places are putting a chain across the road and closing up. Summer revenue helps a resort cover fixed costs and provides jobs for employees you want to keep."
It's true for resorts small or large. At the Bear Valley Cross Country ski area on Highway 4, founder Paul Petersen morphs his business into the Bear Valley Adventure Co. in late May. Summer activity today constitutes around 20 percent of his business.
When the adjacent Bear Valley downhill ski area closes, Petersen turns his 45 miles of groomed ski routes into mountain-biking trails and offers flatwater paddling in kayaks or on stand-up surfboards on four area lakes, Alpine, Spicer, Utica and Union.
There's a free disc golf course set up across the street from his shop and four tennis courts a short distance away.
In addition, a nearby business, Mountain Adventure Seminars, offers guided climbing and backpacking. The village has two restaurants and abundant beds, supplemented by a half-dozen public campgrounds.
"We may not have a Ritz-Carlton, or South Lake Tahoe's nightlife, but we don't have teeming crowds or dense traffic, either," said Petersen. "If a family is after good, clean summer recreation in the mountains, we offer a nice alternative."
The upshot: People hunting a place to design a vacation with a maximum of help and a minimum of fuss are well-advised to give winter-fun sites a look this summer.
Here are a few prospects.
Boreal Mountain Resort
Boreal boasts a big, new indoor facility, Woodward Tahoe. It's 33,000 square feet in size, with a skateboarding and BMX park, and dry-land skiing and snowboarding (with foam pits for landing tricks).
Open for weeklong camp sessions for youths and young adults now (a snow half-pipe and terrain park will be available outside for a while), and to the general public on Aug. 17.
More information: www.woodwardtahoe.com.
Dates for lift-accessed mountain biking, include the Sierra Cup event July 28-29, also the dates of the resort's Wildflower Festival which includes guided hikes. The Fat Tire Mountain Bike Fest is Aug. 18-26; the Thin Air Chili Cookoff is Sept. 1 and includes 5K and 10K runs.
More information: summer.kirkwood.com/site.
Heavenly Ski Resort
A scenic gondola ride goes 2.4 miles from Lake Tahoe's South Shore to Tamarack Lodge, running 10 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. (Cost is $34 for adults; or score a summer-long pass for $59.)
Hiking is free, but there are modest charges for use of a climbing wall, summer tubing run, the "Spider Zone" for kids, with cargo nets and slides. Sniff the food smoker at the lodge, and you'll want to dine, too.
More information: www.skiheavenly.com.
Mammoth offers a huge, lift-served bike park with 3,000 feet of vertical and 80 miles of single-track. There are scenic gondola rides, a climbing wall and ziplines. Nearby are tennis courts, a skateboard park, horseback rides, and alpine fishing. The Unbound summer camp for kids ages 8-15 is July 29-Aug. 3.
More information: www.mammothmountain .com.
An 18-hole golf course is open, with $80 greens fee ($60 after 1 p.m.). The mountain bike park, with 33 dedicated and 11 multiuse trails, can be accessed by lift for $46 all day ($32 for half-day). Hikers can take lifts to the mountaintop for $10, or come at night for star-gazing tours for $30. Adventure Club day camps for kids; tennis camps for kids and adults. Free roller-skating at the rink ($10 if you rent skates). More information: www.northstarattahoe.com/ info/summer/summer_ activities.asp.
Squaw Valley USA
Aerial tram rides to High Camp ($29 for adults, $10 for kids) bring you to hiking trails, live music, a swimming pool, a roller rink, a zipline, tennis courts and two paintball venues, one with natural, the other with manmade features. Rent bikes to ride a seven-mile paved path from the valley to Tahoe City.
More information: www.squaw.com.
The resort offers new events: the Sierra Recon Obstacle Mud Run (various distance and age divisions, entry $65-$85) on July 14; and the Haulin' Up Hawley Grade Run (seven miles, lots of elevation gain) on Sept. 2.
More information: www.sierraattahoe.com.
Editor's note: This story was changed July 6 to correct the price for Squaw Valley's aerial tram.