One of the region’s first ski resorts – and the only one to winbragging rights for the longest regular ski season for the past three years – Donner Ski Ranch has managed to maintain the same simple, relaxing atmosphere since its first rope tow pulled skiers up the hill in 1937. The tiny, friendly resort is situated high atop Donner Summit on historic US Route 40 and remains one of California’s last family-owned-and-operated ski resorts. In fact, you may even find the resort’s owner manning one of the chair lifts. Guests always feel welcome to take a seat at one of the picnic tables scattered over the wooden planks of the old lodge’s deck and warm up with a bowl of chili from the cafeteria before heading back up the hill.
For the 2012-2013 season, Donner continues to offer new ticket specials and packages every week. There’s no better place for beginners – especially when you can get great deals like $10 adult passes when you teach your child to ski – than the charming, offbeat Donner Ski Ranch, which stretches 460 acres over ever-changing terrain. The resort sits at a base elevation of 7,031 feet and the modest vertical drop of 750 feet from the summit makes the mountain perfect for beginner and intermediate skiers and snowboarders. In fact, three-quarters of the 52 runs at Donner are designated as such. Five double chair lifts and one triple chair offer access to the mountain’s various trails and terrain, which see about 400 inches of annual snowfall.
In keeping with the beginner-friendly atmosphere, Donner Ski Ranch offers “learn-to” packages at its Mountain Sports School for aspiring skiers and snowboarders. Group and private lessons are also available, and telemark lessons can be purchased upon special request. The modest amenities at Donner, which include the cafeteria, cocktail lounge and rental/retail shop, may not be glamorous but they certainly do the job. It’s all part of the old-school focus that puts visitors’ skiing and snowboarding experience above all else. That’s part of the charm of Donner Ski Ranch. More than anything, it’s a throwback to a simpler time when a day at the slopes meant short lines, easy parking and great value.
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