Where to Play in the Snow in Northern California



Looking to play in the snow, but want to avoid the crowds of Tahoe? Winter storms have finally added some powder to the mountains of Northern California, and many of the areas that were closed in early winter are opening for business. Here are some offbeat spots to tube, ski, sled and skate that are driving distance from the Bay Area.  Be sure to check the websites for current conditions.

For non-skiers, Leland Snowplay – three-plus hours from the Bay Area, north of Pinecrest Lake – covers 12 acres at an elevation of 6,300 feet in the High Sierra with tubing hills, snow play areas and a lodge for lunch or warming up by the fire.

Unlike many tubing areas, Leland has “lifts” on its larger hill that allow tubers to be towed 60 feet to the top instead of dragging their own tubes uphill. (Users must be 44 inches tall and pay more for lift access. The lift lines can also be long.) New this season, there is also a “magic carpet” lift on the smaller kiddie hill where double and triple riding, as well as sledding, is allowed.

Rates vary from $19 to $39 per person, with higher rates on weekends and holidays, for lift tickets and access to the bigger hill. Two-hour or all-day lift tickets are available on weekends and holidays. See website for more details.

While Leland does have snowmaking operations, it has been closed in January due to lack of natural snow and high temperatures. Officials anticipate reopening for business by January 26, 2018. (Once open, Leland Snowplay is generally open six days, except Wednesdays.) Check website for updates.

The nearest lodging is in Strawberry, home to both the Cabins at Strawberry and the Strawberry Inn, both on the Stanislaus River. There are also accommodations available in Pinecrest, including the Pinecrest Lake Resort with motel rooms and cabins, and pet-friendly cabins at Pinecrest Chalet, run by UC Berkeley’s Cal Alumni Association. (You do not need to be an alum to stay there.)

Additional lodging is available in historic Sonora, 39 miles to the west on Highway 108.

The resort of Dodge Ridge is the closest ski area to the Bay Area. The typical season runs through April. It has 67 trails, 12 lifts and 862 acres of skiable terrain. Day passes are $74 for adults, $59 for teens, $25 for youth 6-12 and FREE for under 5. A rental shop offers skis, boots, poles, snowboards and boots.  Restaurants and cafes are on site. Nearby hotels include Strawberry Inn (strawberry-inn.business.site) and Long Barn Lodge. Camping is available at Pioneer Trail Campground. 1 Dodge Ridge Road, Pinecrest. 209-965-3474 (guest relations), 209-536-5300 (snow phone).  

The Goat Meadow Winter Sports area is just 1.5 miles from Fish Camp and is a free spot to sled or tube.  Families line up for their chance on one of the many hills to slide down at  5,062 feet of elevation. The area is managed by the Forest Service, and is just a few short miles to the Highway 41 entrance to Yosemite.  For those who want well-heeled accommodations, nearby Tenaya Lodge offers more winter fun.  When conditions are good, the sledding hill and ice skating rink are open for guests.  Rates for sled rentals are $15 for an hour, $30 for half-day and $50 for a full-day.  . Room prices vary basic Deluxe Room w/Two Queens is starts at $215.

There are plenty of restaurants and accommodations available in Oakhurst, including the Best Western Plus Yosemite Gateway Inn  and the Pines Resort. For food try the South Gate Brewing Company, El Cid Mexican Cuisine  or Sugar Pine Pizza .

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