September has long been a quiet month for Bear Valley Mountain Ski Resort, with most of those who remain on the mountain either fixing up ski lifts, wrapping up season pass sales or sprucing-up condos in the run up to ski season.
This month’s been even quieter, though, with unmaintained ski lifts, unsold season passes and unreserved vacation rentals fueling whispers the resort may not open at all.
“I’m asked that question three times a day,” said Bear Valley Real Estate’s Eric Jung. “My answer is, ‘Yes: The mountain will open.’”
“We rely on people to be here on the mountain. It’s something that affects our business,” Jung added. “I don’t know a single Realtor who says their winter sales aren’t directly proportionate to ski days. So it makes sense people are worried, but it looks to me like they’ll open.”
Nearly a year removed from one of the driest winters on record – and just months after laying off much of the mountain ski area’s staff – Arnold real estate broker Don Shinn isn’t so sure.
Shinn said he is most frustrated by Dundee Resort Development, the Colorado-based partnership group that manages the ski area.
Dundee is yet to provide a statement on the upcoming Bear Valley ski season. Members of the mountain’s three-person ownership group could not be reached for comment and did not return calls.
For Shinn and other business owners along the Highway 4 corridor, the silence from Bear Valley’s top brass has proven deafening.
“Being an integral part of the business environment it would seem they would recognize a duty to tell the community what’s going on,” Shinn said Wednesday. “It’s too bad the partners don’t seem to agree, because now when people ask ‘Is Bear Valley going to open?’ we have to tell them we don’t know.”
Sierra Nevada Adventure Co. co-owner Jill Seale agrees. As one of Bear Valley’s lift-ticket sales partners, she’s hoping management can quiet the Ebbetts Pass rumor mill in time to reassure ski season visitors.
“It’s going to affect all of us, the whole corridor and the whole county, if they don’t open,” Seale said. “There’s so much rumor, so much hearsay and conjecture, it’s really put the community on pins and needles. So if we could just get some communication then my hope is that the community could come together again.”
In the meantime, Sierra Nevada Adventure Co. is still renting kayaks, though it will be cutting back on inventory and changing-up hard goods orders. In that much, Seale said, she’s far from alone.
“That’s what you have to do if you’re in it for the long haul,” she explained. “I mean, everyone got a half-priced turtleneck last year. After a year like that, all I would say is you don’t want to be quite as exposed.”
Stanislaus National Forest Ranger Patti Clarey confirmed Thursday that some news is on its way for Seale and other Highway 4 business owners.
That’s thanks to an upcoming deadline on Bear Valley’s ski area operations plan, which is submitted annually as part of the resort’s decades-old permit agreement with the forest service.
The plan detailing ski patrol operations, lift inspection reports, and organizational charts is due on Clarey’s desk Oct. 15.
“They’ll turn in a plan,” Clarey said when asked if she was worried about the due date. “If they have changes in personnel, they will send me a new plan.”
“It’s a requirement under their permit,” she added. “And then once they accomplish all the things outlined in the plan they’ll be ready to open.”
Contact James DeHaven at email@example.com.