• WHAT: Bear Valley Mountain Resort
• WHERE: 2280 State Route 207, Bear Valley CA
• WHAT: A full mountain resort complete with a spa, cabins, dining and shopping options which operates under a special permit in the Stanislaus National Forest.
• LIFTS: 10 (1 high-speed quad, 2 triples, 5 doubles and 1 carpet lift.)
• TERRAIN: A total of 67 runs – with 25 percent designated for beginner, 40 percent for intermediate and 35 percent for advanced skiers and riders – spread out over 1,280 acres comprise the park and resort. An additional 35 trails covering 3,000 acres exist for cross country skiers and snowshoers.
• ELEVATION: 8,500 feet at the peak and 6,600 feet at the base.
• SNOWFALL: 359 inches
• TO GET THERE: Take Highway 99 North to Highway 4 East. Stay on Highway 4 through Angels Camp and continue on another 45 miles into the Sierra. Make a left onto Highway 207. The resort will be a half-mile up.
BEAR VALLEY – A light dusting just won’t cut it.
In order for ski resorts like Bear Valley to fire up their lifts and officially start their season they need five feet of snowfall.
That’s 70 inches of what amounts to white gold for resorts that only have a brief window every year to serve customers – every day they can stay open matters when talking about the overhead and the maintenance required to turn the rugged terrain of the High Sierra into buttery, smooth terrain that skiers and boarders can appreciate.
And there’s a lot that goes into getting those downhill runs ready for the season.
Bear Valley Resort Human Resource Supervisor Isabel Franke oversees the hiring of roughly 300 seasonal employees every year that take care of everything from operating the lifts to manning the ticket booths.
Prep work begins as early as July when technicians start inspecting lift cables to make sure that they’re ready to pass the inspection required before the resort can open to the public.
When the temperature drops below 27 degrees – something that’s not uncommon during the night at high elevations – snowmaking helps fill in bare spots and augment what Mother Nature brings in with storms like the one rolling through this weekend.
This is the season of downhill. This is the season of serving the people.
“We’re pretty much known as the friendliest mountain in the West, and we try and uphold that,” Franke said. “We try to hire the best of the best in our departments because it takes a certain type of personality to work a seasonal job like this – a lot of our people have been here for a long time and are ski and board enthusiasts themselves.
“They work where they play and play where they work and that has a lot to do with the why they look forward to being here.”
The mountain predominantly draws their customers from the Bay Area – roughly a four-and-a-half hour drive up to the resort. The village that features a lodge and cabins for those wishing to stay the weekend is just under two miles away from the mountain, and is popular year-round thanks to ski-and-stay packages throughout the week that feature lodging and lift tickets.
But all of that is just the icing on the cake when you take into consideration the conditions on the mountain that offer something for skiers and snowboarders of every ability level.
With nearly 2,000 feet of elevation drop from the summit to the base, “Bear” – as it’s called by locals and those that frequent its groomed slopes – features twists and turns and black diamonds and cornices and terrain parks and jumps and freestyle runs and everything you’d expect from a first class establishment.
Franke says the target date for opening is Dec. 21.
“It’s one of those things that you never know about,” she said. “If we can get it a few days earlier that would be great. I know people would be happy about that.”
Bear Valley Ski Resort is located at 2280 State Route 207 just off of Highway 4. To get there take Highway 4 off of State Route 99 in Stockton and follow it all the way up through Angels Camp and into the Sierra foothills. State Route 207 will be on your left and lead you straight to the resort.
— JASON CAMPBELL/