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Hitting the slopes in the 209

Dodge Ridge, Bear Valley offer winter fun close to home


There are quite a few iconic ski resorts in the Sierra.

If you drive up I-80 to Reno, you pass a whole host of places that are visible from the freeway and are designed to capture the business of the passing driver.

That is not how Dodge Ridge or Bear Valley operate.

Both places, which exist almost solely to capture the market of people in the Central Valley, are tucked away off of the respective highways that pass by them.

But that doesn’t mean that they don’t offer the same pristine winter conditions that you’ll find in other places in the Sierra when Mother Nature cooperates and decides to drop enough white stuff to keep the long, steep runs coated for months on end.

No, you don’t have to drive to Lake Tahoe and spend an entire paycheck to enjoy the kind of skiing and snowboarding that will satisfy your craving for adventure or adrenaline.
There’s one little catch, however.

There needs to be snow.

Only a decade ago several ski resorts – Dodge Ridge included – were open by Halloween. Last year the resort didn’t open until after New Year’s Day because snow conditions didn’t remain constant.

And with an Easter weekend cut date – spring skiing conditions at Dodge Ridge and the dying down of annual crowds don’t make it feasible to stay open any later – a short season is bad for both the resort and its season pass holders and the businesses along Highway 108 that cater to the massive crowds that flood the area on the weekends.

That’s only what it takes to actually have the conditions to ski and snowboard close to home. You still have to know what you’re doing, be in shape and have the willingness to hurl yourself down a mountain while mounted or strapped to a piece of fiberglass. It’s the last part that usually gets people – until they try it for themselves.

The physical aspect

It seems so effortless.

Just angle yourself down the hill, lean forward, and then slice back-and-forth like they do on television during the Winter Olympics.

Surely that’s all that it takes to excel, or at least succeed, on a downhill ski run, right?

Not exactly.

While downhill – or alpine as it’s officially titled – skiing is undoubtedly fun and easy to learn, it’s one of the physically demanding sports that there is.

It takes lower leg strength to plant your feet down and cut back. Your torso is required to make short, crisp turns. Keeping your skis straight on long runs means that your body is doing most of the work of keeping you upright and not the physical momentum of the downhill run.

There are actual workout machines that mimic the motion of upright skiing – cross country skiing where you’re using your entire body to pull yourself along flat sections of snow or even up short inclines. It doesn’t seem like a very big deal, but it’s incredibly difficult and requires a great deal of endurance and physical strength to be able to pull off.

Ski areas like Kirkwood and Bear Valley have recognized the market and actually offer specific tracks for cross country skiers. They’re not necessary wildly popular, but if it’s your bag, then you’re right at home.

“I tried it once with a friend of mine – he said that it would make it easier for me to do some of my downhill stuff,” said Oakdale resident Ray Derby. “It helped me not be able to get up off of the couch for three days.”


Pow (n): abbreviation for the powdery snow texture that results from a combination of fresh snowfall and cold conditions.

Bluebird (Adj): used to describe a sunny day immediately following a big snowstorm.

Jibbing (v): the act of sliding or riding ones ski's or snowboard on a non- snow surface or obstacle. Ex. rails, ledges, walls or even logs.

Huck (v): the act of sending one’s body off of a large jump or drop with reckless abandon. Also referred to as a carcass toss.

Yard-Sale: used to describe a brutal fall that results in articles of equipment: gloves, goggles, hats, poles, being strewn all over the slopes.

Grom (n): short for "Gromet", used as a slang term for very young riders whose ability level is well above what is expected for their age.

Booter (n): slang used for any very large man-made jump, usually found in the terrain park.

Scorpion: used to describe a particular type of fall in which the rider falls on their chest and the forward momentum causes their legs to come up behind them like a scorpions stinger, causing their board or skis to hit them in the head, neck or back


Dodge Ridge Ski Area


Pinecrest, CA


62 runs broken up as follows – 20 percent for beginners, 40 percent for intermediate and 40 percent for advanced.


12 total including one high-speed quad, three triples, five doubles and four surface lifts.


832 total acres. The mountain tops at 8,200 feet and has a base elevation of 6,600 feet.


Stagecoach – which stretches on for two miles.


Take Highway 120 into Oakdale and turn left at the main intersection towards Yosemite. When Highway 120 splits off to the right 10 miles outside of town, stay to the left and continue on up Highway 108. Stay on that highway through Sonora and up through the mountain towns and follow the Pinecrest and Dodge Ridge turnoff signs. Markers will get you there the rest of the way.


All-day lift tickets for adults for the upcoming season will be $68. Teens between 13 and 19 will be $55, youth between 6 and 12 will be $20, seniors between 65 and 81 will be $34, active military adults will be $53 and active military teens will be $47. People over 82 and under 5 are free.



or call 209.965.3474.




Alpine County an hour east of Angels Camp
SPECS: 69 runs broken up as follows – 25 percent for beginners, 40 percent for intermediate and 35 percent for advanced.


9 total including one high-speed quad, two triples, five doubles and one carpet lift.


1,280 acres. The mountain tops out at 8,500 feet and has a base elevation of 6,600 feet.


Take Highway 99 north to Highway 4 and head east (turn right off the freeway) up through Angels Camp. Continue on straight and signs on how to get to the resort will be posted.


To be determined.



or call 209.753.2301.