PINECREST — It's not unusual for Dodge Ridge to be one of the final non-opened holdouts among California's 27 ski/snowboard resorts.
Dodge, located off Highway 108 near Pinecrest in Tuolumne County, doesn't boast a water source and can't make its own snow. Thus, it is tied at the hip with Mother Nature.
No snowfall, no snow fun.
The holdout, however, has ended. Dodge Ridge, the closest skiing and snowboarding venue to Modesto, will crank on its lifts and open Friday for the winter season.
"The groomers are prepping the mountain and we'll be ready to go," spokeswoman Amber Jenquin said Tuesday.
All 12 lifts and about 85 percent of the terrain will be available Friday. That's enough for Dodge to activate its 300-person crew.
The combined recent snowfall totals, coupled with the major storm on the way this weekend more than 2 feet is expected prompted Dodge officials to start the season.
Until this week, owners Frank and Sally Helm stressed through another hoping-for-snow wait.
Last summer, the Helms and their resort were named the 2012 Small Business of the Year from the 14th Senate District of California. The family was recognized for its 36 years of continuous ownership.
During that time, Dodge has tripled its skiable acreage with the installation of Chairs 7 and 8 and a new T-Bar. Also completed was a $6 million base area expansion featuring the new Family Lodge in 2007.
"The Helms have been through all this before," said Bob Roberts, executive director of the San Francisco-based California Ski Industry Association. "They know how to run a tight operation. Last year was a low point, but they understand how to stretch their budget."
Dodge's record of 152 operating days in 2010-11 incredibly, it opened before Thanksgiving that year was followed by a difficult season last winter. The ignition button to its lifts wasn't pressed until Jan. 25.
Stagecoach and Rocky's Road terrain parks, with six features apiece, both will be open.
"With the fabulous forecast, we hope Granite Bowl (at Boulder Creek Canyon) will be open for Christmas," Sally Helm said.
Surprisingly in an era where there is an almost annual uptick in lift-ticket prices at all resorts, Dodge's rates remain unchanged from last year.
Dodge discount tickets once again will be available at Save Mart and Lucky stores.
At Bear Valley on Highway 4 in Calaveras County, the combination of recent storms and snowmaking have brought a Thursday opening. First scheduled for Friday, officials moved it a day earlier and made it a free day no charge for lift tickets.
Bear stayed open for 121 days despite the relatively dry season in 2011-12, thanks in part to its snowmaking.
"The perception was that there was no snow. That hurt us. We actually worked very hard to get going and we were 100 percent open by Martin Luther King Day," Bear's Rosie Sundell said.
This season, Bear's cross country trails have been open since Thanksgiving.
Kirkwood, purchased this year by Vail, hardly ever suffers from a snow shortage. It's more of the same this year, as Kirkwood opened on Nov. 16 to begin its 40th season.
Badger Pass at Yosemite National Park opened its cross country facilities on Dec. 15, but there wasn't sufficient snow to open the downhill area.
The resorts near Lake Tahoe are taking advantage of the colder temperatures. More snowmaking and more storms are a delightful combination for skiers and riders.
"You don't need as much snow as you used to in order to open," Roberts said. "Slope preparation is better, and snowmaking and improved grooming helps."
Heavenly opened its Olympic Express and Olympic downhill in early December. Also under way is Royal Gorge at the Donner Summit with its 19 trails and 20 kilometers for cross country skiing.
Royal Gorge, America's largest cross-country resort, greeted its customers for the first time under Sugar Bowl Resort management.