By MOLLY TOWNSEND
The Union Democrat
Ski resorts have fared well throughout the 2010-11 season thus far, with snow levels and visitation remaining at an all-time high despite a drier January.
Dodge Ridge Ski Resort near Pinecrest has received a total of 392 inches of snow as of Tuesday — 86 percent of last year’s total seasonal snowfall of 456 inches, according to Amber Jenquin, marketing manager.
Bear Valley Ski Resort on upper Highway 4 has received a total of 317 inches of seasonal snowfall as of Tuesday, in comparison to 196 inches that time last year, said Rosie Sundell, marketing manager.
She said the resort receives an annual average of 365 inches.
Both Dodge Ridge and Bear Valley resorts are still ahead in visitor numbers as well, according to Jenquin and Sundell.
“In terms of visitation we’re up from last year at this point (by 1 or 2 percent),” said Jason Smith, communications manager for Bear Valley Ski Resort. “It’s been sort of overall a better ski year than last year. “
According to Sundell, Bear Valley resort’s busiest days were seen during the Christmas holiday, followed closely by Presidents Day weekend, particularly Sunday, after last week’s storm produced mass amounts of fresh powder — approximately 84 inches.
Jenquin said that Dodge Ridge resort saw significant numbers in visitor turnout for events such as the Slope Style Competition during sunny days of late January.
“Compared to last year we have more snow to date,” Jenquin said. “We’ve actually began talking about capital improvement. We haven’t made any decisions yet, but we’re starting to look at what areas we want to add to as far as infrastructure and development.”
Jenquin noted that Dodge Ridge has had an increase in enrollment in children’s lessons of 10 percent this season compared to last, which prompted the addition of two new children’s programs; Snow for Youngsters, and Kinder Ski.
Dodge Ridge will host the new Senior Winter Challenge and Festival benefiting Habitat for Humanity of Tuolumne County Thursday through Sunday, with both competitive and non-competitive Alpine and Nordic races, an All-Mountain Adventure Challenge, wine tasting, live music, fireworks, brewfest, children’s activities and more.
Times of scheduled events are subject to change depending on weather conditions, though activities will still take place.
In partnership with the California Senior Games Association, Bear Valley will host its second annual California Senior Winter Games, March 11 through 13 which includes activities such as competition in Alpine, cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and more, according to their website.
Heavy snowfall in November helped boost the start of the season at Bear Valley, according to Sundell, who noted that last November 2009 the resort measured only 20 inches of snow, compared to a whopping 115 inches this past November.
A milder January this year brought in 28 inches of snow at Bear Valley and 33 inches for Dodge.
“We’re definitely seeing a lot more activity in our parks with skiers and snowboarders,” Sundell said. “(Late January’s) spring weather brought out more people. The sunny weather suits a lot of folks.”