California's Bear Valley Ski Area Gets an Upgrade

Bear Valley Ski Resort, located in the Central Sierra Nevada Range in California, hopes to remain quaint despite plans for major renovations this spring, including village developments, a new lift, and the addition of 400 skiable acres.
Bear Valley, California

At California’s Bear Valley, a season pass costs only $450, there is just one lodge at the base area, and the resort doesn’t plan on replacing lifts with high speed quads anytime soon. Bear Valley, a 1,280 acre ski resort on Highway Four through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, wants to keep skiing simple and cheap. But they also want a makeover. Just three hours from most San Francisco bay area communities, the ski area has a cult following among skiers who prefer to avoid the congestion of Lake Tahoe. “We don’t want to be an Intrawest resort,” says Bear Valley’s Rosie Sundell, “but would rather continue to consider the entire spectrum of skiers. The renovation plans incorporate a general idea of minimalism, while working to improve our service to every type of skier, from the parking lot van campers to the families with five kids in ski school.”

Bear Valley’s idea of service begins with a new base area village. Designers of the Zermatt village in Switzerland will attempt to mimic the style of the Awanhee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, seeking to include hotels, condos, and dog-friendly inns. “We are considering a range of price points for skiers visiting the area and want a variety of options for our guests. The mountain’s priority is to accommodate current changes in the ski industry, economy, and environment,” says Sundell. As for their level of eco-consciousness, the village will model European ski towns, increasing emphasis on pedestrian travel. And to decrease car traffic, a new lift or gondola will transport skiers from the town to the resort.

For most visitors the more important addition to the mountain is 400 skiable acres called the East Bowl. Mostly south facing, the terrain will make Bear Valley larger than Sugar Bowl, one of Lake Tahoe’s well-known ski areas. These additions will not happen until July 2011, which is when Forest Service permits will allow them to turn dirt for the first time. With a cat skiing operation, avalanche and mountaineering courses offered, and a plethora of structural facelifts, skiing at Bear Valley may offer a better experience than fighting the masses anywhere else. Just as Rosie Sundell says, “We don’t do chaos at Bear; it’s just skiing and enjoying the mountain lifestyle.” []



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