By all accounts, Bear Valley, Calif., was a happening ski area back in the early 1970s. It wasn’t outrageously popular, overcrowded, or expensive — but it regularly hosted celebrity ski races and was a frequent hangout spot for the Hollywood likes of Clint Eastwood, Robert Conrad, and William Shatner. Many believed the 1,680-acre resort was the next Sun Valley (albeit a smaller one).
But by the 1980s, Bear Valley Ski Resort was experiencing some hardships. Droughts, money problems, and questionable business decisions led the resort down a rough road. It changed hands several times and went through at least one rebranding, but it never returned to the glory of its past.
The back bowl went fallow. Morale was low. Grooming was inconsistent. Basically, while the resort never closed, it was limping along and running on borrowed time.
However, that might change now that California Mountain Resorts Collection (CMRC) has acquired it.
“Non-ski people have owned Bear Valley for nearly 20 years,” Tim Cohee, president of CMRC told GearJunkie. However, now, under the umbrella of CMRC and the Cali Pass, it’s being turned back over to people who are not only passionate about the sport and the lifestyle, but who also have a combined 60 years of experience in resort ownership and operations.
“Bear Valley was one of the most popular resorts in the West back in the ’70s and ’80s, with tremendous skiers, energy, celebrity skiing, pro racing, etc. It was allowed to go dormant,” Cohee said. “It’s time to bring the Bear back.”
Resurrecting Bear Valley Ski Resort
As part of the acquisition, CMRC has determined to breathe new life into Bear Valley. It will require investments of time, money, and energy. And the new owners are fully prepared to do whatever it takes.
“The main change this season on the mountain is the consistent opening and grooming of Grizzly Bowl and Snow Valley, the marquis terrain Bear Valley is known for,” Cohee said. The 1,100-foot vertical Grizzly Bowl is 500 acres, and Cohee said it’s been ignored for years.
“This fall, we sent machines and a crew to the lower sections to remove brush and trees that had kept Grizzly and Snow Valley from opening without several feet of snow,” he explained.
The resort is also adding a brand new bar in the day lodge, named Maury’s after the legendary Bear Valley skier, Maury Rasmussen, who died on the slopes in 1974, and whose legacy is still imprinted on them.
“It will create a whole new sense of place and gathering for our guests,” said Cohee.
Cohee and CMRC’s CEO Karl Kapuscinski bring a lot of experience to the table. CMRC also owns and operates at Mountain High, China Peak, and Dodge Ridge Ski Resorts. Cohee and Kapuscinski have a proven track record for successfully operating these resorts. Between them, they have 60 years of combined experience. So now, they’re just applying their formula for success to Bear Valley Ski Resort.
“Bear Valley has been undercapitalized and under-managed. They have a strong team but did not have the support of ownership, morale was low, and the intensity it takes to provide a quality product every day was not there,” Cohee said. “Our goal is to bring the same passion for doing it right every day we have at our other resorts.”
Joining the CMRC ‘Cali Pass’
Bear Valley is the fourth mountain on the CMRC “Cali Pass,” joining Mountain High, China Peak, and Dodge Ridge. The pass also includes limited access to 19 other resorts scattered around the world. It offers discounts for pass holders on everything from food and retail to mountain biking, lessons, and accommodation. It seems to be California’s answer to the Epic and Ikon passes of Colorado.
The Cali Pass is $700 for adults over 22. For young adults between 13 and 22, it is $650. For children 6-12, it is $350, and for children under 6, it is just $100. To compare, the full adult Ikon Pass this year is $1,310. The full adult Epic Pass is $970. And the Indy Pass (which provides 2 days at over 180 small ski resorts in the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Europe) is $500.
CMRC is clearly pricing the Cali Pass at the same premium as other resort conglomerates. But if you buy yours before November 10, you could save up to $200. That discount would put it in the top bracket for affordability among its conglomerate ski pass competitors.