Bear Valley is southwest of the Lake Tahoe basin in the central Sierra and caters to families and locals.
Stats and Rating
|Annual Snowfall||359 Claimed / 359 Actual: Rank 27|
|Number of visits||3|
The last time we skied Bear Valley was in 2002 when our kids were young and still learning to ski. I also had a couple of visits in the mid-90’s. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from any of those visits.
On paper Bear Valley looks pretty good with 1900 vertical, 9 lifts, and 1680 acres, but it skis much smaller than that. The problem is that we have never been there when the lower part of the mountain below 7,500 feet was open. This is quite common since the elevation is fairly low, topping out at less than 8,500′. That means that the effective vertical drop is commonly only 1,000 ft. The resort has only 100 acres of snowmaking and mostly old lifts and lodges. It would be a fine family area, but when we were there many of the lifts were center-bar doubles, which we found to be very difficult to load kids on safely.
- Uncrowded and less expensive, the resort is a good choice for central-sierra skiers looking to get away from the bustle and expense of Tahoe.
- They do a good job with grooming and it’s a friendly atmosphere.
- There are lots of shorter black runs available all over the mountain.
- They run a good race program for kids, and that seems to be one of the major activities going on at the resort these days.
- They recently added the “Polar Express” lift on the West Side area, which has the best long groomers.
- The low elevation means the bottom of the resort does not get or hold snow very long.
- The terrain is “upside-down”, with the most difficult terrain on the Kodiak and Grizzly chairs at the bottom. Obviously steep terrain at a low elevation is not a good combination.
- Lack of capital investment has made it uncompetitive.
- Although it does have a high-speed quad on the West Side, it serves only 1,000 feet of vertical, so it’s a quick ride and run down.
Would we go back?
I don’t think we will ever go back due to the other better choices in Tahoe. In 2014, the area was looking for an investor to implement the master plan they have approval to start, which will link the village with the resort for the first time, but that still hasn’t happened as of 2016. There has also been discussion of making the resort a co-op owned by skiers, which would keep it open but would probably mean a continued lack of investment.