Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge
Would it be blasphemy to suggest that Yosemite National Park get out of the ski business?
Now, that's not expected to happen any time soon, but that question does come to mind as park officials turn to the task of tending to the time-burdened Badger Pass Ski Lodge, an historic structure in California's alpine ski history. Built in 1935, the day lodge not only anchored that state's very first alpine resort, but its architecture also reflected "Parkitecture" with a dollop of Swiss chalet influence.
As time understandably has taken a toll on the resort lodge, Yosemite officials now want your input on how best to address that toll. Beginning on January 14 and running for 30 days, Yosemite officials will take your comments to help them compile an environmental assessment outlining how best to tend to the lodge's needs.
The purpose of the rehabilitation project is to provide a phased program for rehabilitation of the Badger Pass Ski Lodge that will:
* Maintain and protect the integrity of the historic Badger Pass Day Lodge and character-defining features of the Badger Pass cultural landscape;
* Treat critical deck, structural, and drainage deficiencies contributing to past and ongoing water-intrusion damage;
* Replace temporary structures with permanent buildings of compatible construction to maintain continued ski area operations; and
* Maintain ski area service and support functions while protecting the winter recreation visitor experience at Badger Pass Ski Area.
The rehabilitation would protect areas of primary historical significance, while allowing flexibility to accommodate the needs associated with current and future Ski Area use in non-character-defining areas.
The lodge rests in Monroe Meadow at an elevation of 7,200 feet at Badger Pass, roughly midway between Wawona and Yosemite Valley. It is accessible year round via Glacier Point Road and has served as a family ski area and winter recreation center in Yosemite since 1935.
Park officials say repairs to the lodge are needed to "protect its historic integrity, assure visitor safety, and maintain ski-area visitor services while preserving the natural and cultural resources at the ski area."
But what if someone suggested that the lodge be wiped from the park's landscape? Would Yosemite officials consider that? How appropriate is it for a national park to feature a downhill ski resort? After all, when the Disney empire wanted to build such a resort in the Mineral Basin area of what today is part of Sequoia National Park, there was an incredible uproar, one that lasted nearly 20 years until the U.S. Forest Service gave the land in question to the Park Service to prevent its development.
And once upon a time there was a downhill ski area in Rocky Mountain National Park, but it was shuttered in 1991 after 36 years of operations.
As to the historic nature of the Badger Pass Lodge, some no doubt would claim the O'Shaughnessy Dam that is responsible for the reservoir that fills Hetch-Hetchy Valley is historic, but many no doubt also would applaud if it were dismantled.
On the other hand, for many long-time Yosemite vacationers, Badger Pass is key to their wintry pilgrimages to the park. They learned to ski there, as did their parents, and now their kids. To them, the Badger Pass Ski Area is as much part of the Yosemite experience as is climbing Half Dome, floating the Merced, or picnicking on the shores of Tenaya Lake.
Plus, the ski area has a small footprint, covering just 80 acres, and is relatively far removed from the Yosemite Valley and its iconic geology. Expansion is not in its future, and the mellow nature of the resort -- 80 percent of the runs are rated either for beginners or intermediates -- lends to its low-key, generally unobtrusive nature.
“Badger Pass is here to stay. Anything you write, those last six words are the most important message I can give you,” says Kenny Karst, public relations manager for DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc., the park's main concessionaire. “It is a family institution in the Sierra. It is the oldest ski resort in the Sierra Nevada. It also is renowned for its ski school, so if someone wants to learn how to ski, Badger Pass is the place to visit.”
While there were rumblings back in 2003 that perhaps Badger Pass had outlived its usefulness, DNC thinks otherwise. This past summer it invested $2.5 million in not only applying paint to the day lodge but, essentially, rebuilding the Eagle chairlift with a new motor house, control room, wheel assemblies and haul cable. Plus, DNC has bolstered its marketing efforts.
And it shouldn't be overlooked that Badger Pass offers tubing, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing options for winter park visitors. How fair would it be to do away with alpine skiing but allow these other winter activities to continue?