Bear Valley Mountain ski resort will remain quieter than usual for the remainder of the summer.
The resort laid off 19 employees from its maintenance and office staff who typically work year-round. That’s raised concerns about the operation’s long-term viability.
General Manager Jim Gentling noted in an end-of-ski-season blog post that just 75,000 visitors skied or snowboarded at the Alpine County destination off Highway 4. Fewer people took to the slopes during a winter that disappointed in terms of snowfall but still provided surprisingly good conditions.
Gentling wrote that about 130,000 winter sports enthusiasts visit the slopes most years.
Attempts to contact Gentling and other Bear Valley representatives were unsuccessful.
Speculation about the mountain resort’s future ran rampant Thursday on the Bear Valley Mountain Facebook page with many posters feeling left in the dark by a lack of response from resort staff.
Winter skiing is a huge draw to the entire Ebbetts Pass corridor in Alpine and Calaveras counties, generating visits at Arnold-area hotels and vacation homes. But summer is normally quieter, with visitors and residents alike drawn more to water activities at sites like Lake Alpine and White Pines and Spicer reservoirs.
Greater Arnold Business Association President Bob Doten said he has heard little reason for long-term concern.
“Our understanding is the only thing closed is the mountain and many of those laid off were re-employed elsewhere in the village,” Doten said. “It’s premature to know how this might affect Arnold. If this remains a temporary thing ... while it’s sad to hear that people lost their jobs, we expect the impact on Arnold to be next to nothing.”
Doten said things are perking up overall in Arnold, where the recession hit harder than in most areas of Calaveras County.
He said there have been five consecutive quarters of “positive trends” in the real estate market and new home buyers have noticeably been heavily young families.
“This is an attractive and affordable place to be if you’re coming up from the East Bay,” Doten said.
Colorado-based Dundee Resort Development, which operates the resort, has been planning an expansion of condominium housing in Bear Valley Village and a lift directly from the village to the ski resort, but the effort has been hampered by a weak economy and sewer capacity concerns.
Developers have hoped the project can bring in as much as $200 million once completed.