Ron Agostini

Ski season inches closer

The ski-snowboard season has begun. Sort of.

Last week's storm prompted the opening of several Lake Tahoe area resorts, but the scene was less definitive closer to home.

Dodge Ridge, the Sierra's lowest ski-snow resort in elevation, remains one good snowfall away from opening day. Bear Valley on Highway 4 east of Murphys opened only on the weekend and plans to reopen for the season on Thursday along with Badger Pass at Yosemite National Park.

Conclusion: It takes more than one good storm system to switch on those chair-lifts.

For Dodge, the timing is predictable for a resort -- it has no snowmaking capacity -- which expects to open around the second week in December every year.

"We have 10 inches at the base and 18 inches at the summit. We're close to making an announcement," Dodge spokesman Dan Wyllie said. "We spent the weekend packing down that base to get ready for the next storm."

There is hope for snow this weekend and early next week.

Bear's two-foot base resulted in the opening of the mountain closest to the lodge -- Cub, Super Cub, Kuma and the carpet -- last weekend. Spokeswoman Rosie Sundell reported a turnout of about 2,000 snow enthusiasts, most of them coming before a nasty windstorm Saturday night.

"We had to close some trails on Sunday," Sundell said. "We'll know more on Wednesday what terrain will be available later this week. It is cold and the (snow) guns are going strong. We're crossing our fingers."

The storm caused a stir of snow-based throughout the Sierra. Open and running, at least for parts of their respective resorts, are Northstar, Kirkwood, Squaw Valley USA, Boreal, Diamond Peak, Sugar Bowl, Homewood, Mt. Rose, Alpine Meadows and Sierra. For more information on North Lake Tahoe resorts, check

DISCOUNTS -- Valley skiers and riders don't have to travel far to purchase lift tickets. Vouchers for Dodge tickets are available at all Save Mart stores for $44, a break from the regular price of $52.

Tickets for Bear can be found at all Save Mart and Safeway outlets, Valley Sporting Goods in Modesto and Bilson's Sports Shop in Turlock. The price is $46, a discount from the $59 price at the Bear lodge.

For those who prefer not to drive, Dodge again offers its SnowCruiser bus service. Storer Transportation and Save Mart spearhead the program to be available on Saturdays and holidays beginning Saturday if there is snow. Buses will pick up skiers and riders at various Save Mart stores in Modesto (3900 Pelandale Ave.), Turlock, Oakdale, Tracy and Sonora. The price is $66 for adults.

For more details on the SnowCruiser and bus schedules, visit or call 965-3474.

GOING GREEN -- Dodge Ridge was ranked 14th and Bear Valley was 17th out of 18 California ski resorts in the eighth annual Ski Area Environmental Scorecard. It evaluated Western ski facilities on energy and water efficiency, wetlands destruction and pollution.

Alpine Meadows and Squaw Valley received the top grades. Squaw improved its standing after poor grades in recent years. Kirkwood, which has undergone major expansion in recent years, was ranked last in the state. Badger and other small ski areas were not rated.

For more information on the ranking, check

Bee sports columnist Ron Agostini can be reached or 578-2302.