Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley Ski Resorts prep for opening of 2016-17 ski season

The closest snow to home is just two hours from Stockton!

Though another big storm is required before our county’s nearest ski resorts can open, Dodge Ridge Ski Resort and Bear Valley Ski Resort are prepping for another snowy season.

Grandson Jack Taylor took quickly to snowboarding last season after lessons at Dodge Ridge Ski Area.

Both resorts are closer than other options in the Lake Tahoe area, family-friendly, less expensive than more distant ski hills and don’t require summiting a mountain pass to reach the ski areas. From my north Stockton home, Dodge Ridge is just 98 miles, Bear Valley, 106 miles – each only about two hours distant!

Dodge Ridge is celebrating its 66th year, one of the Sierra’s granddaddy resorts. Notes the resort’s Adam Fox, “we have focused on continued improvements to learning programs and rental and demo equipment for the new season. The family friendly atmosphere is perfect for one-of-a-kind lessons, customized for every age and level of skier and snowboarder”.

Adds Fox, “The resort’s Intro to Snow program provides one-on-one introduction to skiing or snowboarding for kids as young as two years old, a two-hour program available daily. Kinder Club is another program tailored for beginner skiers and riders aged 4 and 5; the Kid’s Club offers full day and half day lessons for ages 5 to 12. Last season, our six year-old grandson Jack took to snowboarding immediately, assisted by friendly Dodge Ridge instructors and benefitting from two carpet lifts.

Family of five gathers in Dodge Ridge's Boulder Creek Canyon area for photo op!

All lesson packages include lift ticket, equipment rental, and helmet. The Dodge Ridge Rental Shop is stocked with specialized ski and snowboard equipment specifically designed to fit kids as young as two years old. Reservations are highly recommended.

Dodge’s Progression Pass is a gateway to a lifetime’s enjoyment of skiing and riding for guests ages 13 and over. The Dodge Ridge Progression Pass offers a season’s worth of unlimited beginner lessons, rentals and a lower-mountain season pass. Skiers and snowboarders are able to progress all the way up to intermediate levels with new Elan gear”.

Master’s Clinics, for veteran skiers 50 and older, allow fine tuning of skiing skills in a relaxed, social atmosphere. These workshops are offered twice weekly throughout the 2016-17 season, starting mid-January. Save Mart or Lucky Supermarkets offer discounted lift tickets.

Skier schusses through the Sonora Glades just off Dodge Ridge's Chair 8 quad.

Dodge Ridge offers a variety of cross-country ski trails emanating from the base area, as well as other choices on the access road and in Pinecrest.  The area features a number of dining options at the ski area, including the Creekside Lodge and Café; on weekends and holidays, the North Fork Bistro in the Family Lodge is a fine place for families to dine and slopeside dining is offered at Local’s Café, bottom of Chair 7.

Other reliable dining options nearby: The Steam Donkey (steaks, seafood, pasta), in Pinecrest and Mia’s Italian, Cold Springs, are favorites. Overnight lodging is offered at Pinecrest Lake Lodge or Pinecrest Chalet, the Christmas Tree Inn, Mi Wuk Village or the Long Barn Lodge in Long Barn.

Bear Valley continues to evolve under new ownership, and is celebrating both expanded snow making and new ski runs down to the Bear Valley Village area. Bear Valley has installed more than $300,000 of improvements in its snowmaking and grooming operations in anticipation of the 2016-17 season. The enhancements include a better and more efficient snowmaking system along with new snowcats to groom increased production of snow.

Skiers bask in sunshine at Bear Valley, looking northwest from the Day Lodge.

“An upgraded pumping capacity will allow us to operate continuously during optimum temperatures for snow making,” says Bear Valley’s snow product manager, Tim Schimke. “This important improvement will allow uninterrupted operation of our snowmaking system for weeks at a time, translating into more snow production.”

Bear Valley has installed a full automation snowmaking control system along with the addition of automated snowmaking towers on the mountain. “Automation will provide the ability for our system to respond to optimal temperatures for more efficient snowmaking,” added Schimke. “We have also started the process of adding fixed emplacement towers for more efficient snowmaking in trouble areas on the mountain. To accompany the improved snowmaking system, Bear Valley has upgraded it snowcat fleet to process the snow and make it skiable with newer models”.

Kids enjoy a 'Ski Bears' lesson in the sunshine at Bear Valley Resort.

Bear Valley’s Rosie Sundell adds, “We have added new intermediate trails, a major project approved by the forest service in 2012.  These are beautiful trails that originate at the top of Koala Chair and will give guests that enjoy long groomed trails a scenic ride almost two miles long down to Bear Valley Village. These trails reside in what is known as “Sunrise Bowl”, historically only available to expert snow enthusiasts.  Intermediate skiers and riders will can enjoy this amazing terrain that offers a spectacular view of the Dardanelles known as Cape Horn Vista”.

Bear is also remodeling several guest areas including tickets, season passes, and major improvements at our Kid’s Learning Center; in the Village, the Bear Valley Lodge is being remodeled and expected to complete half the rooms before winter season. Bear Valley Cross-country Ski Center, with 38 trails over 3,000 acres, adjoins Bear Valley Village.

A family that boards and skis together, at Bear Valley.

Bear Valley offers a variety of food and drink choices at its mid-slope Day Lodge; in Bear Valley Village, the Lodge offers light fare in the Grizzly Lounge, steaks and seafood in the classy Creekside Dining Room and pizza and pasta in the Trattoria, for families with big appetites!

Closer to the Valley, one can find numerous dining options in Arnold, and even more good eats in Murphys, including the highly rated Alchemy Restaurant and the historic Murphys Hotel.  Arnold and Murphys both offer a variety of hotels and motels for overnighting.

How to get there: From Stockton the start is the same for both destinations; take Highway 4 east to Copperopolis.  To reach Dodge Ridge, go south on O Bryrne’s Ferry Road and east on Highway 108 to the ski area. For Bear Valley, continue on Hwy. 4 all the way to the ski area.

For more information: Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, dodgeridge.com, 209.965.3474; Bear Valley Ski Resort, bearvalley.com, 209.753.2301;

Contact Tim Viall at tviall@msn.com. Follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. Think snow, and happy travels in the West!

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