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Blog Step Back In Time At Badger Pass
Alex Silgalis | 12/21/2022Attractions, Family Friendly, Sports, Winter Fun |   

Although summer is when most people visit, winters are a magical time in Yosemite. Century old traditions like the Bracebridge Dinner. Ice skating under snow-capped granite walls. Up almost 4,000 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor, you’ll also find the oldest ski area in California within the park’s boundaries – Badger Pass Ski Area.

Inspired By The Swiss

The first question that comes to mind is how did skiing and winter sports come to Yosemite? Since the very beginning, adventurous souls have explored the region, but it was one man’s vision that brought the idea to the forefront. His name was Don Tresidder, and he was the first president of the Yosemite Park and Curry Company. It was the trip he and his wife took in 1928 to see the Winter Olympics in St. Moritz that inspired him. After the experience, his goal was to make Yosemite the “Switzerland in the West.” Upon returning, he immediately created the Yosemite Winter Club to do just that. Within the same year together with the club’s support, he created a small skill and jump near the Tenaya Creek Bridge.

Olympic Hopeful

Image appears courtesy: NPSJust a few hours south of Yosemite, Los Angeles was awarded the 1932 Summer Olympics. In addition to the summer games, the United States was going to have their 1st winter games as well. Tresidder saw this as an opportunity for Yosemite to hold the Winter Games. Yosemite's notoriety as a travel destination with first-class lodging and a newly built ice rink made the park an excellent contender. Unfortunately, it lost to Lake Placid because it lacked venues for most of the sports.

Notoriety Leads To A Winter Boom

Stars Over Wawona TunnelYosemite may have lost its bid for the Olympics, but it did help spark interest in experiencing Yosemite in winter. As many can attest, Yosemite Valley’s low elevation doesn’t hold snow for long. To really enjoy winter sports, you best go higher. Upon completion of the Wawona Tunnel, this was a critical component to connecting the valley to the high country.

Badger Pass Is Born

Image appears courtesy: NPSTwo years after the completion of the Wawona Tunnel, Badger Pass Ski area opened in 1935. In its inaugural season, nearly 25,000 people skied down its slopes. Before the advent of a chairlift, the ski area hosted a lift called the “Upski.” The contraption earned nicknames like the “Queen Mary” or “Big Bertha.” This was due to a large sled attached to a cable that slid up and down the mountain carrying six people at a time. The popularity continued to blossom. In 1936, the greatest skiers visited its slopes to practice for the Olympics, and by the 1940’s, over 70,000 visitors would come annually.

A Nice Dollop Of Parkitecture

Badger Pass Ski ResortBesides the skiing, a ski lodge was also built in 1935. The day lodge was inspired by Swiss Chalets but reflected the now famous “Parkitecture” that was invented in Yosemite. The idea is to have a ski lodge that blends into its surroundings making sure that nature’s beauty is what lasts.

Badger Pass Today

Photo by: Local FreshiesDespite the “Queen Mary” no longer here, you can still enjoy a frosty pint at the Snowflake Room in the Ski Lodge overlooking the slopes. Schuss down the same slopes as visitors like Walt Disney did years ago. The real crown jewel of Badger Pass Ski Area is its cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trail network. More than a hundred miles of trails are available to be explored with thirty of them being groomed.

Gateway To Glacier Point

Yosemite; cross country skiing, glacier point; winterPhoto by: Local FreshiesAs the snows begin to accumulate, the famous road closes to the legendary Glacier Point. For those that have adventure in their soul, you can still set off on a pair of skis for the 21-mile loop from the ski area to see this view. And if you’re not up to heading back after the 10.5 mile jaunt, you can opt to stay overnight at the Glacier Point Ski Hut and cozy up to the fireplace while the hut-keeper prepares dinner.  

Note: For 2022-23 Ski Season, the Glacier Point Ski Hut is closed.

Even if you don’t make it to Glacier Point, we HIGHLY recommend renting a pair of Nordic skis and exploring the network. As soon as you leave the ski area settlement, you’ll be gifted with pristine landscapes and views that may inspire you to become the next Ansel Adams or John Muir.

Alex Silgalis

Alex founded localfreshies.com® in 2014 to be the #1 website providing the “local scoop” on where to eat, drink & play in mountain towns throughout North America. When he’s not writing and executing marketing strategies for small businesses & agencies, he’s in search of the deepest snow in the winter and tackiest dirt in the summer.

Our annual Visit Yosemite | Madera County Visitors Guide can answer all your questions about visiting California's Gateway to Yosemite. From the park itself to the museums, wineries, art galleries and more throughout Madera County, our guide can help you plan the perfect vacation. Please note that we mail to the USA only, but anyone can download the guide.
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