The Badger Pass ski area typically opens in mid-December. But the same issue causing trouble for Badger Pass is laying the groundwork for a record-setting season at the park.
The road to Badger Pass is closed and in the distance, ski lifts sit dormant over a backdrop of brown. Snow comes halfway down the mountains, but every run ends in grass. Not a good look for a business that, because of its location in a national park, relies on natural snow.
"Especially for this week we're in right now, Christmas and New Year's is a really popular time for Badger Pass," said Lisa Cesaro, public relations manager for DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, which runs the park's hotels as well as Badger Pass. "We get a lot of families that come up here, so it's definitely one of the weeks we love to be available for our visitors."
It definitely is cold enough for snow. If you look down on the ground, you'll see brown patches of grass and in the middle of them, just as much ice as there is snow. But if you look up in the sky, you'll see not a cloud, and that means no snow.
"No skiing, but we did manage to find a little snow here at the entrance to Badger Pass, so with that, we'll take it," said Sean Dean, whose family was taking its annual trip from Lompoc to Yosemite.
This year, the Deans couldn't ski, but like most other visitors, they're making the best of it. Park rangers are too. Attendance is way up for the late fall and winter as tourists take in the spectacular landscapes without worrying about snow or ice on the roads. But ice is a welcome sight elsewhere in the park. This unnatural phenomenon let ice lovers get their kicks Friday, thanks to a golf course sprinkler. And Curry Village is playing host not just to ice skaters, but also curling matches -- the likes of which the ice rink hasn't seen since the 1930's. The lack of snow also means Tioga Road is still open later than it has been in more than thirty years, so skaters are gliding up to Tenaya Lake.
"Over the Christmas weekend there were about 150 people up there ice skating," said Kari Cobb, a park ranger at Yosemite. "It makes for great photos, a good place to take the kids and it's kind of the buzz right now. It's pretty amazing to see."
So while one view may not be the best for winter sports, another is as good as it gets in late December.