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Bucolic Getaway:
Bear Valley, Calif.

The Bear Valley lodge and village go well beyond the usual attractions for the outdoors-oriented people with a year-round schedule of musical festivals and art shows. The fishing, hunting and hiking is among some of the most beautiful bucolic countryside in California, writes Al Auger.

(Above): The Bear Valley area is a winter wonderland.

Your first reaction upon entering the spectacular main reception room of the Bear Valley Lodge is one of awe and wonderment. The fireplace made with huge boulders, some larger than a human being, that soars up five stories. The sunken main room also reaches for the sky surrounded by four floors of rooms and suites.

Your second reaction is the appreciation of one of the friendliest staff one can encounter. The interior enhances that atmosphere of welcome with warm wood everywhere and native art. Looking at the skiers lazing around the fireplace, boots off resting on the front piece, a warming drink in their hand, you know you have come to the right place. Located near the end of Highway 4, when closed Ebbetts Pass, the lodge is also the centerpiece of Bear Valley ski area a couple of miles up the road.

The lodge was not always thus. Since it was built 39 years ago it has overcome poor management, economic problems. The lodge and ski area are now owned by the same company. Their common target of skiers and ‘boarders come from the triangle of San Jose, Stockton and Monterey. Since having been at the grand opening and skiing there more times than I can count, today I feel as if I’m entering an all new facility.

After an up and down history of reincarnations and ambiance, the lodge was leased as an experiment by the French yuppie international Club Med conglomerate. When it failed to draw the hoped-for European skier, the lodge was redone as time-sharing units. The “marriage” of the lodge and ski area became a reality when the Rasmussen family, owners of the ski resort, bought the lodge. Since then its been sold two or three more times.

(Top): Skiers enjoying themselves in the Bear Valley area. (Bottom): Aerial view of the Bear Valley Lodge.

What we have today is a far cry from the past and each entity complements and presents a strong presence. The whole venue has enjoyed a complete make-over since the new owners took over. The Grizzly Bar and Grill is for the apres skier to remove the war boots, settle down and enjoy his/her favorite beverage. It is also a casual dining spot with a wide-ranging menu.

If you would prefer a more classic dining experience the Creekside Dining Room is your choice featuring a gourmet bill of fare for the discerning diner. For the ubiquitous “ski bum,” the village offers perennial favorites such as pizza, burgers and the like. The Bear Valley village offers everything from such classic lodging as the Bear Valley Lodge to rental condos. Bear Valley offers visitors a year-round center for fishing, hunting, hiking and the ultimate sports, skiing and ’boarding.

With the makeover of the four floors of rooms and suites, the second floor features rooms for conferences and business meetings. The lodge offers a full technological base of operations with modems, wireless capabilities, fax machines and any need to make the meeting a success. Skiers at the lodge also have all this technology available, as well.

The lodge and the village go well beyond the usual attractions for the outdoors-oriented people. There is a full year-round schedule of musical festivals from the classics to jazz, Oktoberfest and art shows. The valley is famous for its fishing, hunting and hiking, among some of the most beautiful bucolic countryside in California.

But Bear Valley has its colorful past that sometimes bordered on the whimsical or bizarre. When it opened 39 years ago, Vince Guaraldi filled the wide open centerpiece with tasty tidbits of music. The late Al Collins, one of the most listened-to jazz DJs in San Francisco, supplied the mirth for the fete. The ebullient Collins later curatored an off-the-wall photo exhibition of eyeballs he photographed at the event.

(Above): Aerial view of the Bear Valley area.

Then there was the erotic brochure “scandal” that really had Bear Valley murmured about throughout the season. It featured a mysterious couple skiing “bare” down the slope sans clothing but tastefully covered by branches and bushes. Wearing ski caps and goggles the couple’s identity was a complete unknown until later the owner ’fessed up it was himself and wife. It also prompted many a skier to wonder, tongue in cheek, whether the owner would rename the “Ski Bear” bumper sticker “Ski Bare.“ Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your own sense of decorum, that kind of flight of the imagination is all in the past.

Bear Valley Lodge has put its colorful past on the shelf and has built itself a perception of a comfortable and welcoming family ski resort and business center with all the 21st century technology. Up on the ski runs Bear Valley is known for its constant heavy snowfall. The skier and snow boarder are well served with the miles of both groomed runs and tracks for Nordic fun. Down hillers will find numerous choices of slopes to choose whether they are beginners or experts.

Something extra that is indigenous to both the ski area and village is the small-town atmosphere and attitude. If you want to escape the cynicism and edge of city living, Bear Valley and the Calaveras Big Trees country is waiting for you.

Al Auger is a freelance writer. He lives in Redding, Calif.


Unsung Heroine:
Agnes Smedley

American feminist Agnes Smedley played a key role in assisting Indian freedom fighters in the U.S. and in Europe in the beginning of the 20th century, writes Ved Prakash Vatuk.

Humble Heroine:
Mukhtar Mai in Sacramento

Mukhtar Mai was declared Glamour magazine’s Woman of the Year for her fearless stand against sexist oppression. She recently visited Sacramento, and our reporter Ras H. Siddiqui was there.

Midair Near Misses:
Air Traffic Crisis in India

India’s exponential growth in air traffic is now the cause of a missed mid-air collision every 15 days, writes Siddharth Srivastava.

EDITORIAL: Unsung Heroine
NEWS DIARY: December
PHOTO ESSAY: 2007: Year in Review
TRIBUTE: Goodbye, Benazir
SCIENCE: A Close Relationship
ETHNIC ISSUES: Study in Contrasts
SUBCONTINENT: India’s New Boom
TRAVEL: Bear Valley, Calif.
HEALTH: Pregnancy 101
COMMUNITY: News in Brief
MUSIC: Kal Ki Yaadein Concert
AUTO: 2008 Acura MDX
BOLLYWOOD: Taare Zameen Par
RECIPE: Hot Kachri
HOROSCOPE: 2008 Yearly Forecast

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