Dodge Ridge Ski Resort celebrates its 60th anniversary this year with a nod to its past as it prepares for the significant changes in store for the future.
The resort opened in 1950 under the direction of owner Earl Purdy.
At the time, the resort had fewer than 50 seasonal employees, a single lodge, chair lift and rope tow, according to a release by Marketing Manager Amber Jenquin.
The current owners, Frank and Sally Helm, bought Dodge Ridge in 1976.
Under the guidance of the Helm family, Dodge Ridge expanded both in the number of people it serves and in the amenities it offers.
Four hundred seasonal workers attend to thousands of visitors who come from across California to play on the 832 acres of skiable area.
The resort offers eight chair lifts, three surface lifts, two full-service base area lodges and one mid-mountain lodge.
Two of the newest chair lifts, added in 1985 and 1998 respectively, tripled the skiable acreage at Dodge Ridge, opening up higher elevations and challenging routes to expert skiers and snowboarders looking for a test of their skill.
“The past 35 years has been both exciting and challenging,” said owner Frank Helm. “Challenges are nothing new to anyone in the ski industry, but after 35 years, Sally and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”
This season, Dodge Ridge is adding something for the kids, Jenquin wrote.
The resort will install two new conveyor lifts — what staff are calling “magic carpets” — to bring youngsters and inexperienced skiers to the Children’s Learning Area on large conveyor belts similar to those found in some airports.
The new lifts will help small children and beginners who have difficulty navigating traditional chair lifts.
The new lifts are only part of capital improvements envisioned in a 15-year development plan in the works at the resort.
That Master Development Plan got underway in 2007, Jenquin said.
Part of that plan includes a snow-making system that will ensure that Dodge Ridge has skiable snow predictably throughout the season.
The mountain already averages between 300 and 500 inches of snow each year.
More immediately, the resort plans to install high-speed detachable chair lifts that will shave minutes off of the time it takes visitors to travel from the bottom of the mountain to the top of the ski trails.
To celebrate its 60th year, Dodge Ridge will put on a host of events, including a Family Winter Carnival and a Senior Challenge Benefit.
Proceeds of the Senior Challenge will go to the local Habitat for Humanity chapter. Both of those events will include fireworks, which were reintroduced to Dodge Ridge last year after a seven-year hiatus.
“The fireworks are amazing,” Jenquin said. “They explode over the snow and it gives you almost a water-like visual effect.”
A full calendar of events is available at www.dodgeridge.com.
The 2010/2011 ski season will kick off when the snow builds up, hopefully by mid-December, Jenquin said.