Bear Valley is located in between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite at the end of State Route 4. A moderately sized western ski resort at 1680 acres, Bear Valley has 75 named runs with a vertical of 1900 feet. The resort has a difficulty mix of 25 percent novice, 40 percent intermediate, and 35 percent advanced trails with three terrain parks. While Bear Valley receives an average of 360 inches of snow per year, on days where snow is skimpy, there is snowmaking coverage over 100 acres of trails. The resort features 10 lifts to move skiers around with 1 high-speed quad, 2 triple lifts, 6 doubles, and 1 surface lift.

Skiing Bear Valley

When you arrive at the day lodge at Bear Valley, where you’re going to ski depends on your ability. For novice skiers, all the fun you could want is right in front of you. A dedicated novice area with four easy groomers and a bunny bowl is serviced by two lifts and a magic carpet. Once you have your ski legs under you, head up the Koala Chair and move to the left when you get off. The Hog Back intermediate is a nice cruiser with a moderate slope and an easy turn to the left. It’s also extremely wide, so you can ski at the sides and not worry about faster skiers backing up behind you.

For intermediates, you’re going to be happy with the easier runs that the Koala Chair presents. Lonely Pine and Sugar are moderate steeps with a fun drop in that evens out as you near the base camp. For more of a challenge, take the Kuma or Bear Chairs up to the peak and turn right. That side of the mountain is your oyster. Bear West has four primary ways down, ranging from the steeper Shady Grove to the nice cruising West World. There are two lifts waiting at the bottom for you depending on which route you take, both of which will take you back to the peak. From the peak, you can get back to the base one of two ways. Take Tuck’s Traverse along the ridge to Hog Back, or ski down the backside along Lunch Run and take the Shuttle Bus back to the lodge.

Experts have their work cut out for them on the lower peak. Drop ins, chutes, cliff faces, glades and an awesome lift line steep all await. For chutes, work your way down the series from the upper peak, starting with The Face and going down until you end up doing the double black West Ridge to Uptight. The transition from the ridge to the chute into Strawberry Fields is a great powder run. If you’re after bowl skiing, Porridge is at the peak and has a wide open drop in that quickly narrows when you head into the tree-lined Spring Gap. Dodge the slow area and scoot over to Kyle’s Run for a last minute bumpy steep that needs a sharp right at the end to avoid the novice hills.

Après Ski

Today’s Bear Valley is a far cry from the ski resort of ten years ago. A huge renovation project has revamped the entire village and Day Lodge, allowing visitors to have a true resort experience. A full spa, two bars, three restaurants, and a full sports shop are all features of the village. The Lodge is a full service, ski-in/ski-out hotel with a huge granite fireplace that is perfect for warming yourself up between runs. If you’d like an adult beverage, Monte Wolf Saloon has cold beer on tap, wines from local vintners, and a host of friendly locals to help you pass the time. Grizzly Lounge is another local favorite, attracting visitors from around that aren’t here to ski; they’re just here for the drinks and atmosphere. For a more formal dining affair, Wednesdays are a tradition at the Grizz. You get two dinners with drinks for a low price and the menu changes every week. Creekside is a formal dining room that serves a menu from Chef Mason and Pastry Chef Trim; leaving room for dessert is difficult, but always worthwhile.