Tioga Pass Resort: A High Sierra retreat | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Tioga Pass Resort: A High Sierra retreat

Jeremy Evans

Kathy and Jerry King of Mill Valley make their way up the Bread Runs near the Lodge.

Tucked nearly 10,000 up in the Sierra Nevada, surrounded by granite spires and swaying pines, rests a slice of Heaven known as Tioga Pass Resort.

Although summertime is when the resort receives most of its business, winter is when nostalgia and charm engulf this backcountry haven.

It’s during winter when a collection of cabins – one of which was built in 1914 – struggle to peek out from a snowpack that averages more than 500 inches. And it’s during winter when customers must either hike or cross country ski nine miles from nearby Lee Vining to a few hundred feet shy of Tioga Pass, the eastern border of Yosemite National Park.

An SUV does you no good here. Highway 120 is usually closed from November to late May. So, it’s during winter when the only sound outside is the hiss of wind cutting through pines, or perhaps in the late afternoon, the trickle of Miner Creek working its way through a snow-filled meadow.

While nearby Mount Conness, Mount Dana and Ellery Bowl provide some of the Sierra’s best ski descents, it’s inside the main lodge, the epicenter of the resort, where the real beauty resides. It is bisected with thick, dark brown logs, and its walls are pocked with photographs documenting the beauty of the High Sierra. It also has a kitchen, two fireplaces, an assortment of couches and chairs, and is filled with outdoor enthusiasts who possess positive attitudes toward life.

It’s a place where a prosperous Bay Area lawyer mingles and sips wine with a photographer from Lake Tahoe, a place where a wind turbine engineer and an art gallery owner play Scrabble and share laughs in a dimly lit corner.

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Since Tioga Pass Resort opened for winter operation in the mid-1990s, it has remained the great equalizer, where a conversation about the numerals in one’s checkbook is always trumped by one about the number of inches of snow that fell overnight. It’s how it keeps its divinity.