The great thing about living in the 209 is you can hit the beaches one day and the slopes the next day.
While you’ll have to venture a short way out of the 209 to reach beaches there are five skiing options in our backyard.
And thanks to heavy December snowfall, this month will be an opportune time to play in the white stuff.
*DODGE RIDGE: Located on Highway 108, this ski resort is a relatively short drive from Oakdale, Manteca 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.
All day rates are adults/teens (20-64) $89-$99 variable pricing by date, youth (6-12) $35 all season, seniors (65-81) $75 all season, and golden age (82 plus) free all season as are children 5 and under. Half day rates for skiing from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. are adults $72, teens $59, youth $23, and seniors $59.
Those 82 and older are free.
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 longest run is 2 miles. 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.
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 for peak pricing days — Saturdays, Sundays, and select holidays — are $153 for those 18 to 69, $142 for ages 13 to 17, seniors 70 and older are $142 and kids 5 and under are $28.
Regular rates are $132 for those 18 to 69, $95 for ages 13 to 17, $95 for those 70 and older, and $22 for both ages 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 you to the resort.
YOSEMITE SKI AREA
This is one of only three ski areas with lifts in a national park. It requires paying a $35 vehicle entrance fee to Yosemite National Park.
They expect to reopen downhill skiing and snowboarding sometime this month. Such uses are currently not being offered due to COVID protocols in the national park.
Snowshoeing, cross-country ski rentals, lessons and guided snowshoe walks remain open.
The ski area information number is (209) 372-1000.
The base elevation at Yosemite Ski is 7,200 feet while the summit elevation is 8,000 feet. There are 10 runs and five lifts.
*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.
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 ($45 during peak times), $30 for ages 60 to 69 or 13 to 17 ($40 during peak times), $25 for those over 70 ($35 during peak times), and $25 for ages 7 to 12 (peak times $35) and $5 for those 6 and under ($15 during peak times.)
*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. An online service fee of $1.95 is added for each permit processed. The pass is good at any sno-park in California as well as Nevada, Oregon, Washington, or Idaho. They can also be purchased at Strawberry Store that is six miles before the sno-park that’s near the end of the plowed portion of Highway 108. 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 off 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 within a two-hour drive and is at 6,200 feet.
Weekend and holiday rates are $43 for those 44 inches and over and $24 for those under 44 inches. There is no charge for those 2 and under or viewing from the lodge’s deck.
Mid-week rates are $29 for those 44 inches and taller and $21 for those under 44 inches.
The height prices reflect using the mountain or a smaller hill.
They are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
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.
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 for $99. It is an ideal place to simple 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.
Curry Village Skating Rink
With snow draped Half Dome providing the backdrop this is the most stunning skating rink in California.
Tickets good for up to two hours of skating are $14 for seniors and adults. Children 12 and under are $12.50. Skate rentals are $4.75 while helmets are free.
Tickets are sold at the Curry Village tour and activity desk adjacent to the registration office.
Hours are 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Weekend times are noon to 2:30 p.m., 3:30 p.m. to 6 p.m., and 7 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
MORE INFO: The website is travelyosemite.com/winter/curry-village-ice-skating-rink. You can call (209) 372-8333 for more information. There is a $35 pass cost to access Yosemite that’s good for seven days.