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.
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.
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.
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.