The atmospheric river dumped tons of snow and there are plenty of clear days in the forecast.
There is no better time than now to go play or ski in the snow.
Given Mother Nature might not dump a lot more snow anytime soon, the next two to three weeks are ideal to explore what “white stuff” the 209 offers.
This year there are several skiing options and plenty of snow play areas in the 209’s backyard.
*DODGE RIDGE: Located on Highway 108, this is the closest ski resort to Manteca, Oakdale or Turlock.
*BEAR VALLEY: This is the eighth largest ski area in California. It is reached via Highway 4.
*YOSEMITE SKI: You can reach it via Highway 120. It is the most low-key with five lifts. It was known for years as Badger Pass.
*BEAR VALLEY CROSS-COUNTRY: It is separate from Bear Valley Ski Resort and is located right along Highway 4 several miles before the turnout to the downhill ski resort.
*YOSEMITE CROSS-COUNTRY: While this is accessed at the former Badger Pass Ski Resort, there is no charge for access save for the $35 vehicle entrance fee to the park that’s good for seven days.
There are also a number of snow play and skating options.
DODGE RIDGE SKI RESORT
The ski runs are nice but arguably the best draw is the fact you can reach it a good 30 to 45 minutes quicker than any other ski area. That means you can get more slope time in without having to get up earlier.
It doesn’t hurt that on the way back home you can stop in Sonora with the widest variety of dining options in the Mid-Sierra.
Regular all day rates (9 a.m. to 4 p.m.) are adults (20-64) $89, teens (13-19) $75, youth (6-12) $30, and seniors (65-81) $75. Those 82 and older as well as children under 5 are $10.
The base elevation at Dodge Ridge is 6,600 feet. The summit elevation is 8,200 feet. There are 12 lifts with the longest vertical drop being 1,600 feet. There are 67 runs on 863 skiable acres with 40 percent rated advanced, 40 percent intermediate, and 20 percent beginner. The lifts operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. In addition there are three plus terrain parks at Dodge Ridge.
*MORE INFO: The website is www.dodgeridge.com. The ski resort is reached via Highway 120 to Highway 108 and then turn right on Dodge Ridge Road. It is roughly a 90-minute drive.
BEAR VALLEY SKI RESORT
The largest ski resort in the 209, Bear Valley also operates a NASTAR course nearly every weekend making it one of two ski resorts in California with a rich history in racing.
All day rates regular rates are $120 for those 18 to 69, $86 for ages 13 to 17 as well as seniors 70 and older, $56 for ages 6 to 12 and $20 for ages 5 and under. Holiday rates are $139 for those 18 to 69, $129 for ages 13 to 17 as well as seniors 70 plus, $89 for both ages 6 to 12 and $25 for those 5 and under.
The base elevation at Bear Valley is 6,600 feet while the mid-mountain lodge is 7,750 feet. The summit elevation is 8,500 feet. There are nine lifts with the longest vertical drop being 795 feet. There are 75 runs on 1,680 skiable acres. It ranks as the eighth largest resort in the state in terms of skiable acres. The lifts operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.
*MORE INFO: The website is www.bearvalley.com. The ski resort is reached via Highway 4 to Highway 207 where a left turn takes his you to the resort. It is a little less than a two-hour drive.
YOSEMITE SKI AREA
Badger Pass is temporarily closed for 2021.
*MORE INFO: The website is www.travelyosemite.com. The ski resort is reached via Highway 120. Once in the park, drive to the valley and take the Tunnel Road to reach Glacier Point Road where the resort is located. It is a roughly two-and-a-half hour drive.
BEAR VALLEY CROSS COUNTRY
The Bear Valley Cross Country and Snowshoe Trail System consists of 35 trails covering 3,000 acres. They offer a variety of lesson options and some equipment rental.
All day passes are $35 for ages 18 to 59, $30 for ages 60 to 69 as well as ages 13 to 17, $25 for ages 7 to 12 as well as 70 and older, and $5 for kids 5 and under. Military are $25.
*MORE INFO: The website www.bearvalleyxc.com. The cross country ski area is east of Arnold on Highway 4.
YOSEMITE CROSS COUNTRY
There are 90 miles of trails and 25 miles of groomed track.
This is also the only area I’ve ever skied in the 209. The reason is simple. The 21-mile round trip to Glacier Point with its incredible wintertime view of the valley below, Half Dome, Nevada Falls and the Sierra mountains beyond makes any other cross-country ski venture mundane.
Given you can’t drive to Glacier Point in the winter due to the snow, the solitude at Glacier Point is stunning although there will be a handful of skiers at the overlook.
While there is no trail charge, there is a large a large selection of rental equipment including snow shoes. You can also book two tours that also include trips to two overnight huts including the stunning one at Ostrander Lake. I’ve hiked to it in mid-spring when there was still plenty of snow on the ground and as light snow flurries fell. It was gorgeous so I can only imagine how incredible it is with a heavy blanket of snow.
*MORE INFO: The website is www.travelyosemite.com
There are sno-parks along the Highway 4 and Highway 88 corridors.
Sno-Parks are areas maintained in the winter to allow people to park safely so they can enjoy winter activities in national forests such as cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, and limited snow play.
Sno-parks are far better than just pulling over to the side of the road. Not only do they have pit toilets and parking but they are sited in areas conducive to a wide variety of activity close to where you park.
Day permits can be purchased for $5 for a single day or an annual pass for $25. The pass is good at any sno-park in California as well as Nevada, Oregon, Washington, or Idaho. They can be purchased online at ohv.parks/ca.gov/?page_id=1233. They can also be purchased at local vendors such as Sierra Station No. 40 in Long Barn, 29822 Highway 108 (seven days, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.); Sierra Nevada Adventure Co., Arnold, 2293 Highway 4 (seven days, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.); and Ebbetts Pass Sporting Goods, Arnold, 925 Highway 4 (seven days, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
The Highway 108 sno-park is six miles east of Strawberry that’s near the end of the plowed portion of the state highway. There are parking lots on both the north and south sides of the road. (These are spacious areas compared to the several you will find along Highway 4). You need permits to use the sno-parks between Nov. 1 and May 30.
There are three sno-parks along Highway 4. One is at the Spicer Meadow Road turnoff, one at the end of the plowed road near Lake Alpine, and a new one at Round Valley old Highway 207 leading to Bear Valley.
Leland High Sierra
Snow Play Resort
The ultimate family snow play area minus skiing plus having the added convenience of lifts is the Leland High Sierra Snow play facility.
It consists of 12 acres featuring a “Little Hill” for kids and a “Big Hill” for everyone else. The big thing here is definitely tubing as well as just basic frolicking and having a grand old time playing in the snow.
There is also a lodge with a full kitchen, snack bar, and remodeled restrooms. Toss in a sun deck with plenty of chairs and tables along with a warm fire overlooking the base of the “Little Hill” and it’s ideal for families.
It’s less than a two-hour drive away at 6,200 feet.
It is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Tuesday and closed Wednesday. (They will be open, however, Wednesday, Feb. 17, for ski week). Equipment included in the prices.
Weekend and weekend rates are $43 for the all mountain all-day lift ticket for those 44 inches or taller and $24 for those under 44 inches.
If you want to make it an overnight trip there are cabins for rent nearby on the Stanislaus River as well as rooms at the Strawberry Inn on Highway 108. You can access information on lodging via the Leland High Sierra website.
*MORE INFO: The website is snowplay.com. Leland High Sierra Snow Play is reached via Highway 120 to Highway 108 to a point four miles past Strawberry where you turn right on Leland Meadows Road and travel for about two miles.
Long Barn Lodge
You will find snow here at 5,043 feet that is often conducive to snow shoeing, sledding, snow play and even wilderness/cross country skiing. It is also a 10 minute drive from Pinecrest Lake that has year round maintained restrooms making it ideal as a snow play area for little kids
But the main attraction is the ice skating. Long Barn offers ice skating daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. There is limited capacity due to the pandemic. When the rink is at full capacity skate time is limited to two hours.
Ice skating is $12 with a $3 rental charge for skates. There is no charge to watch. If you are interested in lessons the website has links to an instructor you can book.
Overnight rooms are available starting at $89 for midweek. It is an ideal place to simply enjoy a Sierra winter day wandering the nearby woods and exploring, playing in the snow and ice skating.
*MORE INFO: The website is www.longbarn.com. Long Barn is reached via Highway 120 to Highway 108 to Long Barn Road.