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Year in Yosemite: The Blessings of Winter

Year in Yosemite 1

When the gods want to punish us, they answer our prayers.

-- Oscar Wilde

It seems the gods have answered my prayers this year. All through the summer and into the fall, as my husband and I debated moving away from Yosemite National Park to a warmer climate, I declared, “If only we had spring weather all year round, I’d stay here happily.” Wish granted. As in so many other parts of the country this winter, Yosemite is holding steady with temperatures at spring highs and nary a snowflake in sight. But there’s a problem with that.

We stayed in Yosemite so our daughter, Karis, could get in one more year of skiing. So far, that is not to be. I now publicly acknowledge and thank the gods for specifically listening to me, but, at this point, love of my daughter (and fear of the fires that would beset Yosemite this summer) have me changing my tune. For my daughter, her whole class, California skiers, ski resort employees, and anyone who is interested in continuing to have drinking water, I’m now officially changing my prayer.

One of the great perks of living in Yosemite and having a child at one of its three schools is that come winter, once a week for ten weeks, Yosemite Park schools close so all the kids can go skiing. The bus to Badger Pass Ski Area is provided by Delaware North Companies, Inc., the park’s concessionaire. Ditto for the lift tickets and ski rentals. Parents conduct the lessons (many teach skiing professionally the rest of the week). The cost for all of this is $24 per child­ -- for the entire season! If ever our daughter was going to learn to ski, this is the time and, most definitely, this is the place. 

I say that not only because of the $24 price tag but also because of where these kids get to ski -- Badger Pass. One of only three ski areas in a national park, Badger Pass was built in 1932 in the hopes of attracting the Winter Olympics to Yosemite. Lake Placid won out. Thank heaven. Because the Olympics passed it by, Badger Pass is not some big bruiser of a ski resort attracting masses of people to its carefully groomed slopes and offering wild rides for snowboarders. No, Badger Pass, like Yosemite throughout most of the year, is quiet, family-friendly and inviting.

Skiing_Boarding Family at Badger Pass

Its runs (which have to rely on nature-made snow, no artificial snow allowed) are just difficult enough to send the heart soaring but not so testosterone ripped that you fear for your life. Add to that zero après ski nightlife and most wild cowboy-snowboard types steer clear of here and head for Mammoth Mountain in the Eastern Sierras. If there is a better place for a child, or anyone for that matter, to learn to ski than Badger, I’d like to see it.

When we came here over two years ago, Karis’s teacher told her she had only two goals for her third-grade year. One was for her to love to learn math, the other was to learn to be a good skier. The jury is still out on the math, but she’s taken to skiing like a condor to a current. While I can’t stand snow, cold and ice, there isn’t anything about skiing Karis doesn’t like. In her first two years on the slopes she went from never having stood on skis to being a good, solid intermediate skier. And this year, she gets to move on to snowboarding…maybe.

Sitting here right now on what should have been her school’s first day at Badger Pass, I see nothing outside my window but green forest and sunshine. Karis’s snow pants, parka, helmet and newly purchased ski gloves are all waiting for a workout. Loving my daughter as I do, (and fearing for the health of the planet), my only thought now is let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

-- Jamie Simons/Photos credit: DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite

In May 2009, while hiking in Yosemite National Park, long-time Los Angeles resident Jamie Simons turned to her husband and said, "I want to live here." Jamie and her family have since lived in the park. Check out all of her blog articles by clicking here.

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