Snow in Bear Valley

I snuck over to Bear Valley this weekend for some late-season skiing. Previously a Tahoe skier, I was pleasantly surprised with Bear Valley’s laid-back vibe. In lieu of towering ski lodges and tiny children toppling into tree wells were cozy cabins and locals cruising on snowmobiles with happy dogs galloping in tow. 

Cabin in Bear Valley.
The diagonal redwood slats and geometric structure are wonderfully accentuated by the snow bank covering the backside of the cabin.

Located off Highway 4 in the Stanislaus National Forest, Bear Valley opened in 1967, a relative latecomer to the California ski scene. The cluster of cabins I explored were built a little later in the 1970s and 1980s. Excusing the occasional Lincoln Log structure, most were well designed and fresh.

A-frame cabin in Bear Valley
The A-frame here looks both rustic and modern, especially with its orange shutters.
Vacation homes allow owners to experiment with design in new ways. In the case of Bear Valley, many of the cabin-owners are from cities and deal with limited square footage in their own homes. These cabins—outfitted with large windows, balconies, decks, and the occasional carved bear (!)—feel both cozy and expansive.

Red cabin in Bear Valley
Amidst the brown natural tones of the surrounding cabins, this orange-red exterior pops. The contrasting charcoal trim and coordinated art in the window pull the whole thing together.
From a design standpoint, vacation homes also present a different set of obstacles to consider, in this case, snow, hills, and trees. I enjoyed seeing architectural elements, such as corrugated steel and natural wood, in place due to harsh weather conditions, rather than decorative purposes. It was also interesting to observe how the snow collected on architectural elements like A-frames, cantilevered roofs, and multistory homes. Depending on the location and structure, the snow would pile up, slide down, or disperse perfectly to create a charming picture. While it made taking photographs a pain, the snow was a great modern home accessory here: crisp, clean, and organic.
Cabin in Bear Valley
Although not too far off the road, this home looks tucked away in its pine grove. The corrugated steel roof and vertically oriented windows keep this design from looking too much like a quintessential cabin.

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