Outdoors

Agostini on Skiing: Dodge snow remains – more needed

Skiers and snowboarders take chairs up to the slopes at Dodge Ridge. More than 2,000 people came to Dodge Ridge the day after Christmas, where 75 percent of the terrain is open, according to Sally Helm, Dodge Ridge owner.
Skiers and snowboarders take chairs up to the slopes at Dodge Ridge. More than 2,000 people came to Dodge Ridge the day after Christmas, where 75 percent of the terrain is open, according to Sally Helm, Dodge Ridge owner. dnoda@modbee.com

Dodge Ridge enjoyed another bluebird Tuesday from the Creekside Cafe at the base to the Face at the top.

It’s been that kind of 2015 thus far at Dodge, the closest skiing and snowboarding resort to the Valley – sunshine, fun on the mountain and, yes, more snow needed.

The sooner the better.

“I was out there today, and the skiing is still pretty good,” Dodge spokesman Sean Waterman said. “Obviously, we can use more snow.”

That said, complaints are few at Dodge. This season marked the first time in three years that the resort near Pinecrest was open for the holidays. Last year, Dodge didn’t open until February in a commentary to the three-year drought that has saddened skiers and riders up and down the Sierra’s entire $1 billion ski industry.

There’s been little if any follow-up to the December storms that allowed everyone to open. Dodge, which cranked on its chair-lifts on Dec. 17 (about its average opening day), has not received any measurable snow since Dec. 29, though its storm on Christmas Day amounted to a holiday gift.

“Christmas was a good day to ski, as it turned out,” Waterman said. “We were just thrilled to be open over the holidays. The cold temperatures at night have helped us keep our snow.”

Dodge is grooming 20 to 25 trails each night, so there’s enough white stuff for now. Waterman also reported a record attendance at the children’s ski school over the holidays.

“Our holidays exceeded our expectations,” he said. “It was nice to see a new generation of people come into the sport.”

In more sobering news, Leland High Sierra Snow Play off Highway 108 above Pinecrest announced its closure Tuesday. Owner Lance Vetesy said he’ll reopen if more snow comes, but for now, he was forced to lay off about 30 employees.

“We opened on Dec. 14 and had record crowds over Christmas. There were one-hour waits at some restaurants,” Vetesy said. “We just don’t have enough snow to stay open. Our living is at stake for us and the local economy. We were open only 32 days last year.”

Elsewhere, Bear Valley off Highway 4 east of Murphys reported six chairs open for business. Erik Arvidsson, a member of the U.S.A. Ski Team, trained at Bear over the holidays. He knows the place well. He started at Bear at age 6 and competed for the ski racing team.

Bear’s snow-making has proven important, but it’s not a solution. Cold weather and water are musts, and both have been in short supply in recent years.

That said, the mood is upbeat at Bear after the ski resort was sold last summer to Toronto-based developer Skyline International. Bear is the company’s second U.S. acquisition after the historic Cleveland Arcade complex.

Skyline specializes in properties that supply year-round fun for the family, which makes Bear ideal.

“It’s a perfect fit. This is what they do well,” spokeswoman Rosie Sundell said. “They’ve started investing, and you see a lot of nice additions around the lodge. They are already finishing our snow-making system.”

Bear opened on the weekends on Nov. 30 and for daily operation two weeks later. It’s gearing up, like all resorts, for the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in two weeks. Bear again will hold its Winter Explosion, featuring fireworks and the torchlight parade.

“We had live music on the mountain over the holidays,” Sundell said. “People were so happy just to be in snow over Christmas.”

As for Dodge, 18 inches still remains at the top and thinner at the base. It’s enough to remember better days, such as the 150-day season in 2011-12.

Send out an all-points bulletin – snow needed.

Bee staff writer Ron Agostini can be reached at ragostini@modbee.com or (209) 578-2302. Follow him on Twitter @ModBeeSports.

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