Yosemite National Park Opens for Winter:
Activities on a Beggar's Budget 
By Kathy Chin Leong


Beloved Yosemite puts on a graceful winter coat as trees, mountains, and rooftops are blanketed with the white stuff as inviting as a thick downy quilt. After paying the $20 park entrance fee, you and your kids can ride a free shuttle bus that takes off twice a day from the various Yosemite hotels up to Badger Pass ski resort.

These enormous coaches are extremely comfortable with large windows, allowing for amazing views.  Even if you don’t ski, the ride up and down the path is inspiring during the winter.

At the top, kids can frolick at Badger Pass , rent tubes for $11 for a two-hour session.  For cross-country skiing, adults are $17 and kids are $10, including trail maps and rental gear.

Throughout the season, daily two-hour snowshoe hikes with a national park ranger are free to visitors who come to the A-frame ranger station. A suggested $3 donation for snow shoes is recommended, and the hikes begin promptly at 10:30 a.m. 

On the valley floor, near the Mirror Lake Loop Trail , a wide snow play area is free to kids and anyone who wants to hurl a snowball.  And there’s also the outdoor ice rink with skate rentals at $6.50 for adults and $5 for kids 12 and under.

By April 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., the park hosts its annual Spring Fest , an all-out ski carnival with races for all ages, an outdoor barbeque, snow sculpting, obstacle courses, and outrageous costumes. People are welcome to observe or participate, says Kenny Karst, media relations manager for Yosemite.

And here’s another freebie: the Crane Flat Campground within Yosemite near Hwy 120 is an ideal sledding area, notes Scott Gediman, Yosemite Park ranger.  “I take my kids there every season, and we make a day of it. Most of the time, there are no more than six or seven cars parked there.” 

Families can haul in their own saucers, sleds or toboggans, and spend as much time there for free. The park service clears the snow away for ample parking. Gediman notes that less than two miles away the Crane Flat gas station has restrooms and a store that sells hot chocolate, coffee, and food. 

The Goat Meadow Winter Sports Area south on Hwy 41 near Oakhurst and Fish Camp is run by the U.S. Forestry Service, and has entertained hundreds of families for years.  Free to the public, kids can also bring their own play gear. Call 209-327-0200.

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NOTEWORTHY WEBSITE:
www.yosemitepark.com or call 209/372-1000.

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