By DENNIS WYATT
Baby, it’s cold outside and there’s now plenty of white stuff on the ground to turn the January-February Northern San Joaquin Valley winter overcast blues into a low-key family fun outing.
And nowhere in the 209 is it more conducive and affordable for family snow fun than along the Highway 108 corridor out of Sonora headed toward Sonora Pass. It’s where the snowpack will eventually melt come spring and make its way through water faucets throughout the region as well as help the fields and orchards in the San Joaquin Valley yield everything from almonds to grapes and walnuts to pumpkins.
Along Highway 108 you can access Long Barn complete with its ice skating ring, a traditional ski resort at Dodge Ridge, the Leland High Sierra snow play area, and a maintained Sno-Park that requires a day permit or season pass.
Leland High Sierra
Snow Play Resort
The ultimate family snow play area minus skiing plus having the added convenience of lifts is the Leland High Sierra Snow play facility.
It consists of 12 acres featuring a “Little Hill” for kids and a “Big Hill” for everyone else. The big thing here is definitely tubing as well as just basic frolicking and having a grand old time playing in the snow.
There is also a lodge with a full kitchen, snack bar, and remodeled restrooms. Toss in a sun deck with plenty of chairs and tables along with a warm fire overlooking the base of the “Little Hill” and it’s ideal for families.
It’s at 6,200 feet.
Weekend and holiday rates are $39 for an all mountain all-day lift ticket, $31 for a two-hour all mountain lift ticket or $31 for an all-day all mountain walk-up ticket. You have to be 44 inches or taller. The rates for the lower mountain for those shorter than 44 inches is $22 for an all-day lift ticket, $19 for a two hour lift ticket, and $21 for an all-day walk up ticket.
Mid-week rates are $25 for an all-day all mountain lift ticket and $19 for an all-day lower mountain ticket.
If you want to make it an overnight trip there are cabins for rent nearby on the Stanislaus River as well as rooms at the Strawberry Inn on Highway 108. You can access information on lodging via the Leland High Sierra website.
*MORE INFO: The website is snowplay.com. Leland High Sierra Snow Play is four miles past Strawberry where you turn right on Leland Meadows Road and travel for about two miles.
Long Barn Lodge
You will find snow here at 5,043 feet that is often conducive to snow shoeing, sledding, snow play and even wilderness/cross country skiing. It is also a 10 minute drive from Pinecrest Lake that has year round maintained restrooms making it ideal as a snow play area for little kids.
But the main attraction is the ice skating. Long Barn offers ice skating Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday is reserved for groups.
Ice skating is $11 with a $3 rental charge for skates. There is no charge to watch. If you are interested in lessons the website has links to an instructor you can book.
Overnight rooms are available for $99. It is an ideal place to simply enjoy a Sierra winter day wandering the nearby woods and exploring, playing in the snow and ice skating.
*MORE INFO: The website www.longbarn.com. Long Barn is accessible via Highway 108 to Long Barn Road, less than a 90-minute drive.
Dodge Ridge Ski Resort
Dodge Ridge opened this past weekend for the season meaning for the next few days lower rates are in effect with adults (20-64) costing $59, teens (13-19) $44, youth (6-12) $15, and seniors (65-81) $39. Those 82 and older as well as 5 and under are free.
Regular all day rates are adults $74, teens $59, youth $25, and seniors $54. Half day rates for skiing from 12:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. are adults $64, teens $52, youth $20, and seniors $44.
The base elevation at Dodge Ridge is 6,600 feet. The summit elevation is 8,200 feet. There are 12 lifts with the longest vertical drop being 1,600 feet. There are 67 runs on 863 skiable acres with 40 percent rated advanced, 40 percent intermediate, and 20 percent beginner. The longest run is two miles. The lifts operate from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. In addition there are thee plus terrain parks at Dodge Ridge.
*MORE INFO: The website is www.dodgeridge.com. The ski resort is off Highway 108; turn right on Dodge Ridge Road, roughly a 90-minute drive.
Sno-Parks are areas maintained in the winter to allow people to park safely so they can enjoy winter activities in national forests such as cross-country skiing, snow shoeing, snowmobiling, and limited snow play. They have pit toilets.
Day permits can be purchased for $5 or an annual pass for $25. The pass is good at any sno-park in California as well as Nevada, Oregon, Washington, or Idaho. They can also be purchased at Strawberry Store that is six miles before the sno-park that’s near the end of the plowed portion of Highway 108. There are parking lots on both the north and south sides of the road. (These are spacious areas compared to the several you will find along Highway 4). You need permits to use the sno-parks between Nov. 1 and May 30.
*MORE INFO: The website for information and to secure online permits or passes is ohv.parks.ca.gov, then click on sno-parks.