Imagine granite monoliths, awe-inspiring waterfalls, few tourists and great snow skiing. Welcome to Yosemite National Park in the winter!
Last year, my husband had heard about what a great place Badger Pass Ski Area was for families and beginning skiers, so we looked into it and decided to sock a little money aside and plan to go the following year. Well, that year has come and gone. We just returned from our first annual winter ski trip to Yosemite and plan on doing it again next year.
We had a ball. I can’t imagine a more successful family vacation. At first I was nervous about how the kids (ages 2 and 4) would do on the 6.5 hour drive up there, but they did great…without a DVD player! Before we left I took them to a store and told them they could pick one thing to take with them on the trip. Once it was purchased, they wouldn’t see it again until we were on the road. Nathan picked out a Star Wars Lego Encyclopedia (complete with every Star Wars Lego product ever created, just about), and Ariela picked a Tinkerbell activity set (stickers, pencils, little books, etc).
We pointed out just about anything of any level of interest along the way, packed LOTS of snacks, and made plenty of “potty stops”. The kids did great (and we adults did, too!)
Being a vegan family, food was going to be an issue that we needed to research ahead of time and prepare for as much as possible. I called the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls ahead of time and they were very helpful. We didn’t purchase the all-inclusive package (which included food) since we weren’t sure how much we’d be able to eat, but we were pleasantly surprised that there were plenty of options, and they were very accommodating. Personally, I’m glad that we did not pay in advance for food, since it ended up being less expensive for us to just pay as we went.
The Mountain Room Restaurant, on the valley floor, and on the same property as the Yosemite Lodge, had a very nice restaurant with plenty of vegan options. The kids had the coconut milk and roasted sweet potato soup, I had the soup and a winter vegetable salad, and Doug, my husband, had a pasta dish with Portobello mushrooms substituted for the meat. The food was great.
The Lodge also had a cafeteria-style “food court”. We ended up there each morning for a piping hot bowl of oatmeal or cream of wheat with plenty of raisins to sweeten it up. They even had rice milk as an alternative to cow’s milk for an additional 50 cents.
We brown bagged our lunches up at the ski resort (fruit, trail mix, LARA bars and sandwiches or hummus & pita). For dinner the food court was a good option for us with the kids. There was always a vegan soup available, pasta with marinara and Garden burgers. Not how we would normally eat, and definitely lacking in the veggies, but we did the best we could and will definitely bring more of our own fresh fruit and veggies next time
The package that we did take advantage of was the incredible steal called the Stay and Play package.
For 2 adults and 2 kids it included the following:
- hotel, lift tickets
- shuttle between Yosemite Lodge and Badger Pass Ski Area
- ski or snowboard rentals
- ski or snowboard lessons
- ice skating
- 2 hour Valley Floor tour
We stayed 4 nights, played at Badger Pass for 3 days and all of this came to LESS THAN $800!!!! It’s a steal!
Badger Pass Ski Area was great for us. The first ski resort in California, it is small, but quaint and great for families. There were about 4 different ski runs in addition to the turtle hill. 2 of the 3 ski lifts were running. Since we did the mid-week special, crowds were not an issue. In fact most of the lessons that my husband and son took turned out to be private lessons.
Our daughter Ariela was a bit too young and attached to mom to do much. I tried to ski once, but even just going on the Turtle hill, where she could still see me, I heard her screaming the entire time. No fun for anyone. So I sat out with her most of the time.
Next year we will definitely take advantage of 1-2 hours of the babysitting services that they offer at $10.50/hr. for children ages 3-9 (potty trained). Since Ari wasn’t old enough for a lesson (must be 4) or babysitting (2 1/2 and not potty trained), she and I had a lot of quality time, and cheered for our fellas.
One thing all four of us were able to really enjoy was the tubing! There were 2 short runs they could choose from. Nathan figured out that going down with his belly on the tube made him go much faster.
On the way home we made a list of what we would definitely bring again, what we wouldn’t, and what we didn’t bring this time that we would definitely bring next time.
The room did have a small refrigerator, but no microwave or coffee pot. However we did get as many free coffee tickets to use at the food court as we wanted. I’m not a coffee drinker, but my husband is an aficionado and was very impressed with their fair-trade coffee.
The corporation that runs the resorts in Yosemite Valley (Delaware North Companies) put forth a sincere effort to provide a quality experience, while implementing a “green approach”. Just about all disposable items were made of recycled, compostable or biodegradable materials. The toiletries in the bathrooms were environmentally friendly and not tested on animals. There was also a big effort to encourage and promote recycling vs. just throwing everything in the trash. Even the guest rooms had recycling bins. It was great!
The trek home was a little tougher for our little campers. They did a fantastic job the entire time. Unfortunately, the curvy road leaving Yosemite proved too much for our little girl’s tummy and she did get car sick, but fortunately she still had plenty of clean clothes and felt much better afterwards.
We made food stops along the road at two different establishments. One was Sweet Tomatoes Restaurant in Fresno (Hwy 41, exit Herndon). We were all craving our fresh veggies and fruit by the end of the trip so this salad bar was a great stop for us. The other vegan friendly stop we made was at Chipotle near Tejon Ranch. The kids really like their rice and black bean plates.
As I mentioned the mid-week Stay & Play package was a deal you can hardly pass up. Bring some things to eat in your room (and maybe some utensils and bowls) and some bottled water if you are interested in saving a little more money, and want to eat things you may be a little more accustomed too.
This was a trip that we thoroughly enjoyed and look forward to doing again next year. You just can’t beat the majesty and beauty of Yosemite, especially in the winter when there are so few tourists. You get to see the valley in a more undisturbed state.
Maybe we’ll see you next time!