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Hitting the slopes for winter fun & exercise

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Hitting the slopes for winter fun & exercise

Fresh powder runs at Dodge Ridge are big hits with advanced skiers following a winter dusting.

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POSTED December 19, 2012 5:42 p.m.

There are benefits to calling the heart of California home.

Sure the summer can be unbearable at times – it’s literally hot enough outside to fry an egg on the sidewalk and keeping your house cool costs an arm-and-a-leg.

But in less than two hours you can have your feet in the sand and be taking in the sweet smell of the Pacific Ocean. Head two hours the other direction and it’s the cold frost of the Sierra Nevada snow and the fresh air that very few other places can rival.

With winter just around the corner, enjoying one of Northern California’s most bountiful natural resources – snow – is something that just about everybody can do with little investment.

And if it’s winter sports that you crave, you’re in luck.

Three affordable, family-oriented resorts are within a short drive from the Northern San Joaquin Valley and offer many of the same amenities of their crowded – and often times much more expensive – Lake Tahoe-based counterparts.

While they might not have the recreational opportunities that Nevada offers, a day of flying downhill on fresh groomed runs or bouncing between trees looking for powder deposits doesn’t have to require an overnight stay or a broken bankroll.

Here are a few of the places that you can take in within the 209 Area Code:

• Dodge Ridge Wintersports Area – Billed as “The Closest Snow To Home,” Dodge Ridge offers nearly all of the amenities that you’d expect to find at the high-glitz, high-dollar resorts further north without any of the pretentiousness. It doesn’t matter if you’ve never been on skis or you’re good enough to tackle the double black-diamond runs on the backside of the mountain – there’s something here for everybody and it always ends in fun.

Depending on the amount of snow, the park periodically adds enhancements such as terrain parks, Snowcross courses and even halfpipes for those with an adventurous streak. It’s completely possible to see boarders and freestyle skiers flying off of tabletop jumps and soaring off of the cliff on “The Face” – a freefall drop that sends shivers down the spine of most downhill riders who stare at it on their way to the more intermediate and advanced runs.

It might not be the most conventional form of exercise, but nothing gives you a lower body workout like torquing your body back and forth all day as you slice across the run.

• Bear Valley Mountain – For people who appreciate some of life’s amenities with their outdoor winter fun, Bear Valley offers lodging, full use of a spa and enough terrain to keep you occupied all weekend long. Much like its neighbor to the south, temperatures at the top of the hill can drop into single digits rapidly and snow can form out of nowhere – even when it’s still dry in the valley.

And there are plenty of runs to cater to just about any caliber of skier or rider.

Whether it’s a straight, smooth ride that you’re looking for down the mountain or a sharp cornice to jump, Bear Valley has it all – and it is roughly two hours from the Highway 4 turnoff in Stockton.

Periodic ski and stay rates during the week made it affordable to stay and play, and an extensive assortment of runs and trails for cross country skiers and snowshoers opens up the terrain to an entirely different brand of winter sports enthusiast.

A redevelopment effort is underway by the current owners to link the current housing village with the mountain – blending the two in the same vein as places like Kirkwood and Squad Valley.

• Badger Pass Ski Area – What better place to ski than in one of the most picturesque places on earth?

Officially located in Wawona, Badger Pass – located inside of Yosemite National Park – offers a relatively no-frills experience for those who want to take in a weekend full of the sights and sounds that captivated the likes of Ansel Adams and John Muir.

It has a minimal number of lifts and runs (5 and 10, respectively) and only boasts an 800-foot elevation drop from summit to base. But that doesn’t take away from the Winter Wonderland that is Yosemite.

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