Yosemite Profile: Chuck Carter – Badger Pass Ski School Director

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If you’ve taken a ski or snowboard lesson at Badger Pass, odds are you’ve met Badger Pass Ski School Director, Chuck Carter. Soft-spoken, efficient and friendly, Chuck has been a fixture at Badger Pass for 46 winters, introducing new skiers and snowboarders to the slopes. That experience has given him a unique perspective on the ski area.

Chuck first fell in love with Badger Pass when he was in high school in Mariposa – sneaking up for a day on the slopes even though his football coach at the time prohibited it. The warm sierra sun gave him away when he and his teammates would show up back at practice with a tell-tale goggle tan, a tanned face, minus the area covered by ski goggles, but that still didn’t stop him.

Chuck Carter is celebrating his 46th winter at Badger Pass. Pictured here organizing ski and snowboard lessons.

Chuck Carter is celebrating his 46th winter at Badger Pass. Pictured here organizing ski and snowboard lessons.

Soon he met the legendary Nic Fiore. “Everybody knew Nic. He had such a big personality.” Nic arrived at Badger Pass just for the 1947-48 season but as he says, “Yosemite made such an impact on me. I fell in love with the place.” He ended up working at Badger Pass for more than 50 years, teaching more than an estimated 100,000 people how to ski, becoming a leader in the Professional Ski Instructors Association, and writing a book titled “So You Want to Ski”.

Chuck carries on Nic’s focus on teaching, and seems to be shooting for the same longevity. He started working as a part-time ski instructor for Nic Fiore in the winter of 1969-70, when he was in college, making the drive to Badger Pass every weekend and as many weekdays as possible.

Enjoying sunshine and a snack on the deck at Badger Pass.

Enjoying sunshine and a snack on the deck at Badger Pass.

What keeps him coming back year after year? First, it’s the people. Chuck enthusiastically mentions not only the instructors and Badger Pass staff from all the different departments, but also guests. “People come up every year for decades. It’s like seeing a bunch of old friends.” Plus, he loves being outside in Yosemite. Regulars to Badger Pass have fond memories of soaking in the bright Sierra sunshine from the deck.

When asked about what has changed during his time at Badger Pass, his answer is consistent with his focus on people — Nic’s retirement. Of course, there have been other changes as well, new lifts, and most recently a refresh that upgraded the deck and lodge, but according to Chuck, part of the beauty of Badger Pass is how faithful it has been to its roots. “The idea of it has stayed the same. It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago.”

Lessons at Badger Pass "It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago."

Lessons at Badger Pass “It’s the same atmosphere as many years ago.”

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Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite National Park: California’s First Ski Resort

Did you know that we celebrated the 80th anniversary of Badger Pass Ski Area in 2015? Since 1935, California’s first ski resort has taught generations of families to enjoy winter sports. Offering rental equipment and ski instruction – now including snowboarding – visitors to Yosemite National Park of all ages can learn new winter sport skills at Badger Pass Ski Area. Legendary Badger Pass ski instructor and U.S. National Ski Hall of Fame member Nic Fiore once said, “Come to Yosemite. We have a ski school which really teaches people to ski and focuses on beginner and family. You can have a really lovely day here.”(2) Nic arrived in Yosemite in 1948 and never left. It is estimated that he taught over 100,000 people to ski during his time in Yosemite. Things haven’t really changed at Badger Pass since Nic’s days as head of the Yosemite Ski School. The Badger Pups program – one of the first children’s ski programs in the country – still teaches Yosemite’s youngest visitors to ski and snowboard.

Nic Fiore was director of the Yosemite Ski School from 1956 to 2001

Nic Fiore was director of the Yosemite Ski School from 1956 to 2001

Always modest in size, Badger Pass Ski Area doesn’t compare to the large ski resorts at Lake Tahoe or in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. At an elevation of 7300 feet, Badger Pass Ski Area’s longest run is only 800 feet, but the impact that Badger Pass had on the growing popularity of skiing looms large. Though ski touring was always a popular sport for the Yosemite community and winter visitors, the idea of a resort with lifts and groomed slopes occurred to the head of concessionaire Yosemite Park & Curry Company, Donald Tressider, in 1934. The opening of the Glacier Point Road and Wawona Tunnel in 1933 made it possible for the YP & CC to create Badger Pass Ski Area 23 miles from Yosemite Valley in 1934 with the Badger Pass Ski House completed in 1935. Competitive ski races and contests and the addition of experienced European ski instructors to the Yosemite Ski School contributed to the popularity of Badger Pass in California and skiing as a winter sport in the United States. By 1936, the world’s greatest skiers were practicing for the Winter Olympics, and by 1937, state skiing championship races were being held at Badger Pass. By the 1940s, Badger Pass was welcoming over 70,000 skiers during the winter season and Donald Tressider had become vice president of the California Ski Association.

The first mechanical ski lift at Badger Pass was also the first mechanical lift not only in California but in the American west. Known as the Up-ski, the lift had sleds (with nicknames like “Big Bertha” and “Queen Mary”) that carried 8 people at a time to “Ski-Top”, the start of the Rail Creek, Bishop Creek and Strawberry Creek runs. Today, only Rail Creek is marked as a ski run, accessible from Badger Pass for experienced backcountry skiers, but the lift is long gone after it’s thirteen years of service beginning in 1935. After World War II, the ski industry had grown and lured skiers to places like Aspen, Colorado and Sun Valley Idaho. With so many options for skiers across the nation, Badger Pass Ski Area had to distinguish itself with one of the ski industry’s first all-inclusive packages, called the “Mid-Week Ski Special”. This special included lodging, dining, equipment rental, lift ticket, lesson and transportation from Yosemite Valley all for $25 dollars a day!

The Up-Ski was the first mechanical ski lift in the American west

The Up-Ski was the first mechanical ski lift in the American west

The Badger Pass Ski House (today’s day lodge) was designed by architect Eldridge T. Spencer and opened on December  17th in 1935. In 1954, the day lodge was enlarged by adding another building with a breezeway in between. The lounge area originally contained a large open fireplace with cast iron panels of skiing figures mounted above. The panels were designed by Robert Howard Boardman, who also designed the wildlife mural in the Mural Room at The Ahwahnee. The fireplace has since been removed, but the panels are now installed around the fireplace in the Mountain Room Lounge at Yosemite Lodge at the Falls in Yosemite Valley. Ski races continued to be hosted at Badger Pass during the 1950s and 1960s, though today only the Silver Ski race is hosted by the Yosemite Winter Club. In 1965, National Park Service approved the installation of chair lifts for the first time and the Badger Pass Ski House was renamed the Snowflake Day Lodge.

With all of it’s storied history, today’s winter visitor still finds Badger Pass Ski Area an uncomplicated place to take the family for a day of snowy fun in Yosemite. Snowboarders join skiers on the slopes and and a snow tubing hill has been added for the park’s youngest visitors. Equipment rental is available at the rental shop along with souvenirs and apparel at the ski shop. The free shuttle bus from Yosemite Valley provides daily transportation for lodging guests and private vehicles will find plenty of parking. Dine on the sun deck or inside the day lodge at the Skiers Grill or upstairs in the Snowflake Room. Rent lockers for your gear by the day or the season. Cross-country skiing is an option, along with snowshoeing, and rental equipment is available at the Cross-Country/Nordic Center. Groomed cross-country trails originate at Badger Pass and continue down the Glacier Point Road to the terminus at Glacier Point – one of Yosemite’s most spectacular views now covered with snow! If the 10 mile ski to Glacier Point is enough for one day, you can opt to stay overnight at the Glacier Point Ski Hut and cozy up to the fireplace while the hutkeeper prepares dinner. You won’t need to ski to earn your keep and enjoy winter in Yosemite Valley at The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls and Curry Village. Take advantage of great winter lodging deals like Stay Two Ski FREE and Stay ‘N Play.

 

 References:

1. Magic Yosemite Winters by Gene Rose

2. Mountain Dreamers: Visionaries of Sierra Nevada Skiing by Robert Frohlich

3. Yosemite’s Innkeepers: The Story of a Great Park and it’s Chief Concessionaires by Shirley Sargent

6 Ways to Enjoy Winter in Yosemite

1. Ice Skating

Where: Curry Village Ice Rink in Yosemite Valley
When: November through February 29
How: Skate rentals available – and don’t forget the s’mores kits for the fire pit!

2. Skiing, Snowboarding and Snowtubing

Where: Badger Pass Ski Area
When: Mid-December through March
How: Lessons, rentals, and dining available

3. Chefs’ Holidays

Where: The Ahwahnee
When: January and February
How: Dine with famous chefs and attend cooking demos in an historic national park lodge

4. Ostrander Ski Hut or Glacier Point Ski Hut:

Where: Backcountry lodging along the Glacier Point Road
When: Mid-December through March
How: Not accessible by vehicle in winter, you can snowshoe or cross-country ski to Yosemite’s ski huts

5. Snowshoeing

Where: Badger Pass Ski Area
When: Every day when enough snow covers the ground, evenings during the full moon
How: Rent snowshoes at Badger Pass Ski Area on your own, join park rangers or Delaware North at Yosemite interpretive naturalists on guided walks (snowshoes included)

6. Camera Walks

Where: Yosemite Valley
When: Several days a week in winter, find the schedule in the Yosemite Guide
How: With instructors from the Ansel Adams Gallery

Snow in Yosemite: Badger Pass Ski Area in Pictures

As California’s original ski resort, Badger Pass Ski Area has been a favorite winter activity in Yosemite National Park for generations of families. We invite you to enjoy some of our favorite Badger Pass photos, all taken by long-time Yosemite resident and acclaimed photographer Chris Falkenstein.

Badger Pass

One of the many beautiful clear days at Badger Pass.

At the Top

Skiers get ready to take to the mountain.

Snowy Day

The base of the mountain on a snowy day.

Grooming

A groomer prepares the runs.

Ringing the Bell

Chuck Carter, head of Yosemite’s Winter Sports School, rings the ski school bell.

Racing

Snowboarders participate in a race at Badger Pass

Ranger Station in Snow

The ranger station after a big snow.

Day Lodge

The Day Lodge

Sunset at Badger Pass

Sunset at Badger Pass

Your Yosemite Stories: Winter

Winter Trees by William Neill

Winter Trees by William Neill at http://www.williamneill.com

Nothing conveys the secret splendor of a Yosemite winter like firsthand stories.  In our winter newsletter, we asked Yosemite community members to share their favorite Yosemite winter story. So, enjoy four stories as Yosemite residents share some magical winter moments with us:

Michael B Schwartz “I remember walking to work one morning and the river that runs under the bridge from Yosemite Falls was stacked with a huge ice flow. The entire river. It almost touched the bridge. Blocks and blocks of ragged chunks of thick ice, being forced and pushed by the falls. It was amazing. That is just one of many winter memories. At the time, I was probably a busboy at the Ahwahnee, late 1986.”

Casey McClanahan “Me and an Australian couple ice skated under a half moon on a frozen over Merced River by the Pines Campgrounds one night. Water was frozen from bank to bank and for a good 80 yards. Could see all the rocks underneath and feel the ice move. Still have the pictures. I was a mechanic at the garage in 2006 and 2007.”

Colleen Cassidy Murch “In 2005 when the federal government shut down, I was an assistant manager at The Ahwahnee. All reservations were canceled and all the food was bought for Bracebridge – the hotel was decked out in its Christmas glory! I was asked to stay at the hotel during this time to keep an eye on things. It was a little creepy to be the sole human in the hotel at that time. I remember reading my book and sitting in the solarium very late one night with the moonlight highlighting the trees. I sat and ate a bowl of oatmeal in the Dining Room early one morning in compete silence – the only person in the entire building. Later in the week, my best friends joined me to celebrate Christmas. They were let in to share this amazing historical building and you could hear the echoes of years past; the celebrations, the generations, the experiences, the war time memories. So many memories in Yosemite but this one was at the top of my list.”

Alanna Dolen Llama “I worked in the park summers of 2002-2005 and spent only one winter there. I was an Ahwahnee Dining Room Captain from fall 2004 to spring 2005. My favorite memory, by far, was the day that I unexpectedly made it to Dewey Point on cross-country skis. I knew that the trail changed from beginner’s to expert at one point, and planned to turn around there, but I didn’t notice it. Suddenly, I found myself looking down at Yosemite Valley in front of me! I was amazed! It was so silent and breathtaking. I had phone service up there even back then, and I called a bunch of people because I had to tell someone about the amazing view that I saw! I loved seeing the snow fall against the Valley walls.”

To subscribe to the Yosemite newsletter, visit our website at www.yosemitepark.com and select the Email Updates tab in lower right corner.

Visit Badger Pass at the Fresno Ski Swap

We’re all getting excited for the upcoming ski season, and we just got a nice base layer from the recent snow. If you’re getting excited about the winter season too, be sure to stop by and visit the Badger Pass Ski Area booth at the Fresno Ski Club’s Annual Ski Swap and Sale this weekend. The event is Nov 9 – 11 at the former Border’s Book Store in River Park (110 El Camino Blvd). Stop by to purchase season passes and enter for a chance to win a five-night stay at The Ahwahnee complete with breakfast, skiing and other Yosemite winter activities. Badger is also offering season passes and ski lessons in the raffle.

“Got Snow?” Contest Winners

Star-spangled, carmel corn, candy snowman

Congratulations to our creative snowmen designers who won the “Got Snow?” contest! It’s hard to complain about the beautiful sunny days that we’ve been having lately, but it’s always good to dream up some winter white, and happy snow-people like this one.

First prize, four lift tickets at Badger Pass Ski Area, went to Kathi A. for her star-spangled, carmel corn, candy snowman. Second prize, two snowshoe rentals at Badger Pass, went to Carolina D. for the picture of her lovely “Minne-snow-ta” wedding snow couple made out of rice crispie treats and fondant. Third prize, a Yosemite beanie hat, went to Jackie M. for the creative mini forest snowman and his friend.

Thanks “snow” much everyone!

“Got Snow?” Contest

This is a snowman pizza we created to inspire you. Let's be honest, we enjoyed eating it too!

Now that we have a bunch of snow on the ground, we are starting to see snowmen everywhere! Celebrate snow with our “Got Snow?” contest by creating a multi-tiered snowman using any materials.

Submit a photo of your snowman to contests@dncinc.com by 2/1 at 12 p.m. PST. Multiple entries are welcome. Grand prize is four adult lift tickets at Badger Pass Ski Area, 2nd prize is two snowshoe rentals at Badger and 3rd prize is a Yosemite beanie hat. And once you’re done, wander on over to our Yosemite Facebook page and share your creation there – or just get inspired.

Badger Pass Opening January 26, 2012

Lookin' Good - Badger Pass 1/24/2012

The 77th winter season at Badger Pass Ski Area begins Thursday, January 26 after recent snow storms dropped more than 24 inches of snow; making now the perfect time for riders and skiers of every level to plan a Northern California snowboarding or ski trip to Yosemite National Park.

Yosemite’s Badger Pass Ski Area
has been operating as California’s original ski area for family fun since 1935. With 10 slope runs and five convenient lifts, families can enjoy stress-free skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing, all at a fraction of the cost found at other ski resorts. To help celebrate the season, we’re offering several packages and season pass offers designed to help guests hit the slopes for less.
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