Union Democrat staff

Area ski and sledding resorts are preparing for the upcoming season by hiring employees and making snow - not to mention keeping an eye on the sky.

Forecasts call for snow showers to start tonight and last off and on until Thursday. Several inches of snow are possible, providing a base layer of snow for area resorts.

"Everybody up here is hoping the snow comes and we can open before Christmas break," said Lance Vetesy, owner of Leland High Sierra Snow Play. "The last thing we do before bed is check the 15-day forecast and the first thing we do in the morning is check the forecast. We just live and breathe by the weather right now."

The sledding resort, off Highway 108 near Strawberry, held a job fair Saturday.

Nearby, Dodge Ridge Winter Sports Area continues to hire its seasonal staff and prepare for the upcoming ski and snowboard season.

As to when Dodge Ridge will open, resort spokesman Jeff Hauff said it's all based on snowfall.

"Thanksgiving would be an amazing option, but we rely on Mother Nature to say when opening day is," he said.

When it does snow, skiers can receive instant snowfall updates via cell phone text messages. That's one of the high-tech improvements at Dodge Ridge this year, along with new webcams and a soon-to-be-installed weather station.

Bear Valley Mountain Resort, off upper Highway 4 just east of Calaveras County, started making snow over the weekend.

The resort plans to have lift access available on weekends starting Nov. 30 through Dec. 15, with daily operation beginning Dec. 20. Those plans are all weather permitting.

"We're starting snowmaking operations, but we really need natural snow combined with the snowmaking," said Bear Valley spokeswoman Rosie Sundell.

Bear Valley will hold its "Winterfest" activities on Thanksgiving weekend, including a Backcountry Film Festival on Nov. 29 and a Polar Dash the following morning.

"We want to get people in that 'winter-is-upon-us' kind of feeling," Sundell said.

Meanwhile, Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite National Park is scheduled to open for the season Dec. 13, weather depending.

Its lodge has been remodeled this year, with a new deck and carpeting among other upgrades, said Lisa Cesaro, spokeswoman for DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite.

While the lodge will be ready to open next month, the ski area will need to see some precipitation before welcoming skiers and snowboarders.

"We're kind of doing the snow dance and hoping we get some snow," Cesaro said.