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Best kept secret in Bay Area – Northern California: Bear Valley family-friendly Ski Resort

Precipitation in California is always very hit-or-miss, but the past several years have dumped some good snow up in the Sierras each winter. This has prompted us to take more trips to the mountains more and experience snow sports with the family.  One thing we like to do is stay in the little town of Murphys and make our way up to Bear Valley Ski Resort.

Location

While the weather is becoming unpredictable in California and the world, we have been  able to visit this great place and avoid the crazy traffic as well as crowds that you find in other ski resorts in Northern California.

Bear Valley is located in the beautiful Central Sierra Mountains. It’s snuggled on Scenic Highway 4, between Lake Tahoe and Yosemite around 7,000 feet of elevation.  

Besides, it’s a great area and I feel like many people don’t know much about it even though it is only about 140 miles from San Francisco (3-4 hours by car) and three hours southeast of Sacramento, and around one hour from Angels Camp, California. However, this could feel a  big “remote”  and it doesn’t get the traffic that huge ski resort in Lake Tahoe get. The result of less crowded means more time skiing for your dollar.

Sometimes part of the road has restriction to “4×4 with chains on” only so I can see why not many people can make it.

This was a very icy road in our way to the Resort

This resort is small and very family-friendly, because it is no commercial or sophisticated. It has a ski school with great friendly staff. It is perfect for beginners skiers to expert with very little lift lines. What that means is you can have an excellent day of skiing at any level. 

Base Village

Includes a hotel, spa, cabins, two restaurants, two full bars, and a pizza parlor. The Lodge at the base facility is known for its majestic granite fireplace and post and beam construction of the atrium style hotel. The hotel’s Cathedral Lounge is a desirable location for weddings and special events. The village also includes a US Post Office, museum, general store and snowmobile rental center.

Where to Stay

To visit this mountain you can stay at the base village hotel with easy access to the mountain.

Another option is Arnold, this town is located in the Calaveras County just 30 minutes from the mountain and at 4000 feet of elevation. It has different hotel accommodations.

As I told you we stayed in a cabin in Murphys, a little small town located fifty minutes from Bear Valley. The road is easy and beautiful, but we had a little challenge with putting on snow chains on top of an icy patch on the road.

 The experience:

I have to start saying that I’m new at skiing and I’m pretty bad at it. I always prefer a warm tropical beach over stormy snowy mountains. However, my husband loves snowboarding and it seems that my kids are getting the same bug. They took here their first snowboarding lesson and I had a skii lesson.

Kids first time snowboarding

The ski school has experience and friendly instructors and the class last couple of hours. We arrived late so we got for the kids the “late lesson” that starts at 10 a.m. and because it was a week-day there is an extra discount.  It totally worth to pay for this lesson because this place is not very crowded, so they get to practice a lot the basic skills. The lesson includes lift ticket, equipment rental, and lunch. Plus few hours free for you to get some good runs. Well, my husband did it.

READY!

My kids started the day off sliding backwards and falling all over themself by the end of the day he was riding the chair lift with their dad and cruising down the Bunny hill. I was very impressed.

He got so much confidence after his snowboarding class

The bunny hill is great because there is plenty of room for people to move around safely whether you choose to snowboard, ski or just play with snowballs.

Important tips: there is a special during snow season 5th graders ski free! check here

Adult first time skiing

I wanted to learn to ski for the first time after 40s. It was a good time to try and I had a great experience because I got a group lesson during week-day per $59 per an hour and 45 minutes, the lesson included your equipment (skis, boots, poles and helmets), lift ticket. I was the only one in the group lesson SCORE!

I got an experiment instructor very friendly and helpful, Richard LeBlanc. He made me feel comfortable and gave me lot of information to run down the Panda Carpet, and the bunny slope. He was very approachable and place small bungee cord device on the front of my skis to keep them closer together and allowed me to age the proper wedge snowplowing to slow down, and we practice how me how to rotate the Skis to make turns.

Although it was a great lesson it require more than it to learn to ski, now I know the basic and I will practice. I will definitely ask for him again.

Important tips: Important to know that your must book at least 24 hours in advance to get the special online price and you should arrive at least 1/2 hour early to get your equipment.

The staff attending the carpet lift,  were respectful and supportive.

A bit More:

Ever since then we have come back few more times and the boys still practicing what they learned, and it is really impressive how comfortable they are. It is specially  fun to see then snowboarding while I drank hot chocolate in the lodge.

The good thing about this resort it is less expensive than others around the area. I rather rent equipment than buying since I don’t come to often and they outgrown them so fast. So, if you want to buy keep an eye on second had stores sometimes they are great deals. Here are the prices for equipment rental on Bear Valley. There was a seating area outside and the rental process was straightforward enough without having to do a long wait each time you want to go down a mountain.

Other place to rent equipment close by are:

Sierra Nevada Rental

Bear Valley Sky and Board   

Also if you are a parent who loves the challenge of a good mountain. The Resort has  some good double black diamond runs. So after few rides with your kids you can you do you đŸ˜‰ Here are the trail maps.

Although they don’t have daycare, there are sledding and tubing area close by. We spent time there after lessons and respective hot chocolate, and while dad was snowboarding. It is always a great time for everyone.

Highly recommended. 

Enjoy

I did took some skii lessons and then went back to my hot chocolate

We got good snow conditions

Tubbing was just perfect after ski lessons

tubing was definitely a super fun activity

10 Comments

  1. What beautiful snow-capped trees! And your kids are brave! I still can’t bring myself to try snowboarding, and skiing is pretty tough. I went last year and all the kids totally owned me as they zipped along without a care haha.

  2. Nina Out and About

    I honestly had no idea it ever snowed in California – how cool! Your kids look like they’re having a wonderful time.

  3. I’m actually so surprised that you get snow in California! The ski resort looks awesome, especially given it has loads of other things to keep you busy too. It looks like you had a great time!

  4. I had no idea North Cali had ski resorts! I will have to tell my brother-in-law about this since he lives in LA and loves to snowboard! Thanks for sharing!

  5. I spent a summer in the bay area a few years back and now I would love to come back for ski season! Looks so beautiful!

  6. This looks so fun! I never knew that you could go skiing in Northern California!

  7. globelop.com

    Looks great. Hope I can visit soon.

  8. Oooh lucky you! It’s amazing that you got a one-to-one lesson for the price of a group tour! Bear Valley sounds really fun and family friendly!

  9. Maria Elsa Jose

    wow, you did had a great adventure! Keep smiling, so cute!

  10. I think the very last time I went to Bear Valley was over 2 decades ago–I think I went in the summer though so I’d love to go back in the winter! I don’t ski or snowboard right now but I’m in the process of trying to decide on one so I’ll have an excuse to spend more time outdoors in the wintertime too!

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