By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY – Staff Writer
Snow Valley Mountain Resort celebrated the last day of its 85th ski season on Sunday, April 16, with large crowds and excellent snow as a result of the blizzard that left a deep base of snow on the slopes.
The ski hill was sold this winter by the descendants of W. R. Sauey to Alterra Mountain Company. The family had owned Snow Valley since 1971. The Alterra Mountain Company owns many other ski resorts, nationwide, including Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Big Bear. Because of that sale, many improvements are planned for Snow Valley after the snow melts this spring as the temperatures continue to rise.
For the last 20 years, the end of the season has been celebrated with a party for the ski instructors and that tradition continued this year. Because the instructors need to turn in their ski instructor jackets, sweatshirts and other uniform items, they must wear something else on the last day.
This year, as in many previous years, the chosen attire was Hawaiian shirts. This last day tradition began originally as a potluck and a “non-uniform” day. That non-uniform day changed into all instructors wearing Hawaiian shirts after the year when one of the male instructors came in a blue taffeta dress as a joke.
In previous years, on the last day the snow was usually very thin, with ground showing and there would be few skiers, so they would have relay races between the instructors and other events. But this year, since the resort received over 200 inches of natural snow during the 2022-23 ski season, the slopes were filled with skiers, with a remaining 72-inch base.
This year after the instructors gave their lessons, which were filled with students, they sat and had lunch together and talked of the season’s wonderful memories. Almost all the instructors, whether teaching that day or not, were there to enjoy the end-of-year potluck and return their uniforms.
One instructor commented, “It is so sad today is the last day; even with the current warm weather, we probably have enough snow to last two more weeks, since I think we got more snow than Big Bear did. But I understand, since spring break is over, that the new company had planned for the construction to begin soon, and those plans were made far in advance.”
Craig Jasqui, the ski and ride school manager, said “Aloha, it’s been really fun this year, with record snow and a record number of total number of students too. Except for that two-week break due to closed roads, we’ve had a record number of students every week, a record number of lessons taught and an iconic year overall. I predict next year will be epic with all the improvements that are planned for Snow Valley.”
Some of the announced $1.2 million in renovations include an addition of a magic carpet and changes to chair lift number two. Other improvements are also in the works, but not yet announced.
The last day included many youngsters taking ski lessons. One youngster was Johanna, aged 6, who was taking an all-day lesson through the Rim Special Athletes (RSA) program. Her instructor was Vickie Smith, a first-year instructor with the RSA program. Smith is also a clinical psychologist and was the perfect instructor for Johanna, who is diagnosed with autism. Smith has taught previous skiing lessons to Johanna, and they had a great final ski day together.
While Johanna was taking her lesson, her mother also received ski lessons from the regular instructors, so in future seasons they will be able to ski together. Sometimes teaching special athletes includes doing art and other communication methods to achieve a successful lesson and learning environment, often with stickers used as recognition rewards for achievement of particular skills for the youngsters. Smith came well prepared with these rewards for Johanna.
The confidence acquired by the special athletes of all ages by learning skiing skills and becoming an independent skier can be a major stepping stone to becoming an individual who can become a self-sufficient adult with a manageable disability. Starting early can make a major difference in that individual’s achievements in life.
The disabled military veterans program from San Diego uses Snow Valley’s RSA program to instill skills and confidence into their amputees. Snow Valley has offered and supported this special athletes’ ski program for years, and it has been recognized as a success story for both the athletes and the resort.
“The Rim Special Athletes program has trained instructors and modified equipment to adapt skiing and snowboarding for a wide variety of disabilities from deafness to blindness, autism, PTSD, amputations and more,” said RSA Program Director Jack Cooperman. Those wanting the RSA ski services should sign up through Snow Valley’s website.
None of the improvements scheduled at Snow Valley this summer will be in the areas used for the popular summer mountain biking activities, which will open after the snow melts, with their opening day now planned at Snow Valley for June 8. Bike park season tickets are on sale now on the Snow Valley website, snow-valley.com. Snow Summit will continue to operate for another couple of weeks while the snow remains viable for those who want to continue to ski this season.