It’s finally all downhill as Dodge Ridge prepares to open

kvaline@modbee.comFebruary 10, 2014 

DODGE RIDGE

Dodge Ridge will open Thursday, ending months of waiting for skiers and snowboarders in the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Bay Area, and just ahead of the three-day Presidents Day holiday weekend.

The ski area – which is about 30 miles east of Sonora off Highway 108 – plans to open about three-quarters of its 852 acres set aside for skiers and snowboarders, as well as four ski lifts and one tow bar. Very limited terrain will be available for beginners, according to a Dodge Ridge news release. More terrain and ski lifts will open as Dodge Ridge staff continue to assess the mountain.

Dodge Ridge is opening after the first big winter storm of the season brought snow to the Sierra and rain to the Valley over the past several days. The storm dropped more than 4 feet of snow at the ski area’s 8,200-foot summit, about 2 feet at mid-mountain at 7,100 feet and a foot at the ski area’s 6,600-foot base. Dodge Ridge does not have snow-making equipment.

This will be one of the latest opening dates for Dodge Ridge in recent years, which has had openings from late November to late January since 2009. But it is good news for tourism-dependent Tuolumne County.

“It’s just so important that we had this storm and got on track,” said Nanci Sikes, executive director of the Tuolumne County Visitors Bureau. “It jump-starts the season.”

Tourism is the county’s top private employer and visitors spend $200 million annually, according to Dean Runyan Associates, the consultant that compiles tourism information for the state of California.

But the county’s hotels, restaurants and other tourism-related businesses recently have taken a huge hit. The Rim fire, one of the biggest in state history, dried up tourism in late summer. The county then had to deal with the partial federal government shutdown, which shuttered Yosemite National Park for 16 days in October. The county now is feeling the effects of the statewide drought and lack of snow, which also has kept visitors away.

Sikes said a three-day holiday weekend in the winter can bring 15,000 to 25,000 visitors to this county of about 54,000 residents. She added that these visitors are vital to the restaurants, shops, hotels and other businesses along the county’s Highway 108 corridor, which relies on winter tourism.

A ridge of high pressure off California’s coast had diverted storms from the state. But the most recent storm broke through the ridge. “We’ve been waiting for the high-pressure ridge to break down and it did,” Dodge Ridge Marketing Director Jeff Hauff said. “It’s a great start.”

For more information, including information on lift tickets and making reservations for ski lessons, visit http://dodgeridge.com.

Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at kvaline@modbee.com or (209) 578-2316.

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