Agostini: Bear Valley moving forward

ragostini@modbee.comOctober 15, 2013 

  • ABOUT THE REPORTER
    alternate textRon Agostini
    Title: Staff writer
    Coverage areas: Sports
    Bio: Ron Agostini has served as a sports reporter and columnist for The Bee for more than 35 years. His stories and columns have won state-wide, regional and national awards and he's a board director and past president of the California Golf Writers and Broadcasters Association. He's a graduate of Fresno State.
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Bear Valley, 44 days before the scheduled opening of its 2013-14 ski season, can't wait to get started.

Then again, its off-season was not boring.

Owners of the popular resort off Highway 4 east of Murphys in Alpine County nearly sold the property last summer. The interested group made an initial investment and signed a purchase contract, Bear spokeswoman Rosie Sundell confirmed Tuesday, but did not complete the purchase last month.

There was insufficient time to complete the process, according to Bear reports, so close to the start of the new season. The party remains interested, but Sundell said nothing will happen until next spring.

"We're still seeking investors," Sundell said. "If you've got millions of dollars and want to own a ski resort, now is the time."

The wild card is the Bear Valley Village Master Plan approved in December of 2012. The ambitious project calls for new lifts linking the village to the ski area — a concept considered for decades — and construction of 350 residential units.

Any new ownership will deal with that vision. Recent trends also will be considered.

Dropping attendance and poor snowpack has hurt Bear, though the resort is aided by snowmaking. Its opening last year was in question as late as last October. Bear rebounded, however, with a strong 2012-13.

"While it (the non-sale) is disappointing, the fact remains that with regulatory approvals for the Bear Valley redevelopment plan complete, the groundwork is in place to move Bear Valley forward," said Greg Finch, managing general partner of Bear Valley Resorts and the president of Colorado-based Dundee Resort Development. "We will continue to pursue the new capital it will take to accomplish that. In the meantime, we are fully prepared for 'business as usual' this winter."

Indeed, Bear launched its job fair last weekend at the Meadowmont Shopping Center in Arnold. More than 250 employees — full-time, part-time and weekend-holiday workers — are sought for the upcoming season. Dodge Ridge near Pinecrest also held its job fair last weekend.

Winter prognosticators think it will be a snowy winter. Mammoth, scheduled to open Nov. 7, received its first significant snowfall last weekend.

"It feels like it will be a good season," Sundell said. "It's a different vibe."

• SKI NOTES — Plans are being made at all resorts for the upcoming season. One of the most fascinating ideas comes from Bear, where it offers free season passes — effective on the weekends — to all 15-year-olds. No California ski area reportedly ever has done this, though Colorado has targeted that age group in the past. "Your body is ready to learn and is ready to build muscle memory. It is the right age," Sundell said. There's only one catch: Students must maintain a C average in school to be eligible. ... The National Ski Patrol training weekend happens this Saturday and Sunday. To sign up, call Dodge at 965-3474. ... Sierra-at-Tahoe, the Highway 50 resort located on the way to South Lake Tahoe, has spent $4.5 million on a new baselodge plaza facility. It's always an encouraging sign to see resorts invest in themselves. ... Sugar Bowl season-pass holders will enjoy free skiing this season at Sun Valley, the iconic Idaho resort.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow Ron via Twitter, @modbeesports.

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