Everywhere one looks in the Sierra, there’s snow. It’s enough to make the seasoned skier or snowboarder throw a party.
The ski scene, after a few mostly dreadful years, has begun early and figures to stay deep into the spring. To El Niño, ski resorts far and near say a grateful, “Thank you.”
Consider Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, the closest skiing to home, off Highway 108 east of Sonora. The 2014-15 season amounted to a tiny blip on the radar screen – open Dec. 15, closed Jan. 19.
This year has been close to perfect – an opening day before Thanksgiving for only the 10th time in the past 40 years. Dodge Ridge received 33 inches of snow at the summit Monday and a foot at the base. The result is that 62 of 67 trails, including the quad chair which accesses Boulder Creek Canyon, are open.
Dodge has 37 inches at the base and 50 inches at the top, which means close to ideal conditions for Christmas and New Year’s week.
“Ear-to-ear smiles everywhere you go, a nice change,” Dodge spokesman Jeff Hauff said Tuesday. “Not only are we open, but the conditions are great. We figure to get another foot with another cold storm on Thursday. It’s our Christmas gift.”
It’s also ideal at Bear Valley Mountain on Highway 4 east of Arnold, which began seven-days-a-week operations last Friday. Unlike Dodge, Bear can make its own snow, though Mother Nature already has done the heavy lifting. All chairs on the front side near the mid-mountain lodge are open, and Polar Express on the back side was initiated last Saturday.
Badger Pass Ski Area at Yosemite National Park, California’s original resort, opened for the season Dec. 12. Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails are available at both Bear and Badger Pass.
Kirkwood Mountain Resort boasts 100 percent of its terrain open. Also up and running is the cross-country center. The resort never seems to lack snow, even during the worst years, but – like everywhere else – the snow continues to fall. Kirkwood, Heavenly Mountain Resort and Northstar California Resort reported three feet of new snow during this week’s storm.
Squaw Valley Ski Resort checked in with a four-foot dump since Saturday. Both Squaw and its companion, Alpine Meadows Ski Resort, figure to have its full 6,000 acres open for skiing and riding over the holidays. On-mountain tours with Olympic gold medalist Jonny Moseley are available at Squaw.
The immediate future appears to be favorable. Hauff said Dodge Ridge already has received more than 120 inches of snowfall, about a third of its average, and the El Niño prognosis calls for an increase of between 100 and 120 percent over the norm.
“These are perfect conditions for families,” he said.
Perfect for everyone who likes snow, that is.