We thank our guest poster, Oakland mom and NASA engineer Tamar Cohen, for sharing her recommendation of Dodge Ridge.
Dodge Ridge, kid-friendly skiing and snowboarding like you wouldn't believe, is my secret mountain and let me tell you why:
We are now in our 3rd season of skiing with our 6 year old son — he delights in skiing, and is a solid intermediate skier. [Ski lessons at Dodge Ridge begin at age 2] Being an avid skier and snowboarder myself it is a completely different experience to teach my son to ski than it is to just ski as an adult — I now prefer to ski with him! There's nothing better than spending the day as a family on the slopes, where we can play with our son, and he can be the leader.
Kids age 5 and under ski FREE, and there are several options for parents who want to ski with their kids.
Dodge Ridge also has parents split ticket (called 2 for 1! Parent Exchange Program, for parents of daycare aged children who are not ready to ski or ride and require constant supervision), so you can have one adult stay with your kids while the other adult goes off to ski.
In addition, they have a wonderful snow school for kids (and adults) with all-day programs and half-day programs starting. Warning — the lunch food is really bad in this program, so if you send your kid to ski school I recommend packing a lunch. (That's about the only negative!)
An all-day child's lift ticket is $29 (ages 6-12) and adult's is $79, but you can get discount tickets at Lucky and SaveMart supermarkets.
In terms of the terrain — our son's favorite area are lifts 7 and 8, the “backside”. These go to the top of the mountain and so the runs are much longer — there are intermediate runs from there and many of the expert runs are half intermediate. We find it's generally not too crowded all over the mountain; sometimes we will have to wait a couple of minutes to get on the lift but usually, we can ski right up. The lift operators are also very helpful in getting our son onto the lift, as he's too short to get on himself.
Getting to Dodge Ridge from the Bay Area
Dodge Ridge is by far the closest snow to Bay Area and Central Valley locations. Dodge Ridge is much easier to get to than the resorts in Tahoe — there can be traffic from the Pleasanton through Tracy corridor but after that, it is a straight shot.
We stay in Twain Harte and it takes us about 2.5 hours to get there from Oakland. Since Sonora pass closes in the winter you don't have the through traffic or crowds you can get in Tahoe. Many of the resorts in the Pinecrest area have deals where you get free lift tickets with your lodging. There is an excellent supermarket in Twain Harte if your place has a kitchen.
There's also great sledding on the side of the highway at “Little Sweden” and there is a sledding resort called Leland Snow Play (which is fun, but in my opinion pricey for just sledding).
Plan your visit to Dodge Ridge with kids
Then again … don't go! I don't want it to get crowded on my mountain!