Bear Valley Mountain Resort will open this winter for normal ski operations, a resort spokeswoman said Wednesday.
Speculation about the resort’s future and whether or not there would be a ski season at the popular slopes just east of the Calaveras-Alpine County line ran rampant in the wake of unprecedented layoffs of the majority of the year-round staff in June.
“We’re opening for sure,” said Bear Valley Mountain Marketing Manager Rosie Sundell.
Sundell said she recognized rumors were running wild while the mountain remained largely silent this summer.
“The layoff created a lot of uncertainty coupled with discussions with our owners and no news coming out. There just really was no news worthy of generating any kind of press release or anything like that,” she said. “But there was no reason for us not to open. What happened with the layoff was just something that has never happened here before under this management.”
The resort’s ownership had been planning in recent years for an expansion of condominium housing in Bear Valley Village and a lift directly from the village to the ski resort. The plans were hampered by a weak economy and possibly insufficient sewage-treatment capacity.
Developers hoped the project could bring in as much as $200 million once completed.
Sundell said the resort has scheduled its annual job fair for Oct. 28 at the Meadowmont Shopping Center, 2182 Highway 4, in Arnold. She said the plan is to hire between 200 and 300 workers for the ski season.
Sundell said the mountain is planning for “a regular year” of an average 300-inch snowfall. By comparison, last season only offered 227 inches and the prior year blessed Bear Valley with 567 inches by the end of the season on April 21 and more than 700 inches by the time snow stopped falling late June, she said.
“There will be no expansion (this year) in terms of terrain...and no scaling back,” Sundell said.
At about 2,000 acres of skiable terrain, that puts Bear Valley “a little bigger than Sugar Bowl, a little smaller than Kirkwood,” she said.
“If we could plan it to snow on Wednesday and Thursday every week and be sunny on Sunday, that’d be ideal,” Sundell said.
She said she does see the potential for lasting impacts from the uncertain summer.
The 19 laid off employees are not yet back and “I think with any layoff, you run into...people have moved on to other things,” Sundell said.
“I think it’s going to impact a portion of our business,” she said. “Rumors travel fast. But when adversity happens...you hope you come out bigger, stronger and faster.”
The resort is operated by Colorado-based Dundee Resort Development under contract with the Stanislaus National Forest. It is required to submit a yearly operations plan by Monday with the Forest Service.
U.S. Forest Service officials had maintained until Wednesday that while they fully expected a plan to be submitted by the deadline, they had not yet heard anything official. Patty Clarey, public service program leader for the U.S. Forest Service on the Calaveras Ranger District, said Wednesday that she had spoken to the resort’s ownership by phone that afternoon.
“At this point in time, the ski area is opening,” Clarey said.
“We want people to come up and enjoy this place just as they always have,” Sundell said.