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The High Sierra is a land of contrasts. Striking any time of year you visit, winter’s blanket of snow transforms the region into a magical winter wonderland. Don’t just hibernate this winter, grumbling about the weather. Instead, here’s 4 reasons you need to visit the High Sierra in the winter.


Black Bear Inn in High Sierra in Arnold California during winter storm
Image appears courtesy: Calaveras County Visitors Bureau – Photo by: Lisa Boulton

Being the first mountain range on the continent, from around Late November through March, huge storms roll in from the Pacific and dump FEET of snow across the peaks. This transforms the upper elevations into a winter wonderland. And for those that like to play in the snow but not BE in it, you can stay in one of the many cozy towns like Arnold or Oakhurst which are just below the snow line.

Bluest Blue Skies

Emerald Bay Lake Tahoe on a winter day
Image appears courtesy: Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority

We know what you’re thinking. All that snow must mean cloudy winter days. Nope! On average, the snow only falls on 50 days a year. This translates to three days of fair weather for every day of fresh powder. Storm activity usually lasts for a few days or up to a week, but once it clears, expect lots of sun. In fact, over 300+ days annually. Also, due to the lower temperatures in winter, there’s less water vapor in the air, creating the bluest skies you’ve ever seen. Perfect to capture photos of places like Emerald Bay or Half Dome.

For all the comforts of home and the majesty of Yosemite National Park, season after season consider The Redwoods In Yosemite. Located in the quaint town of Wawona 4 miles INSIDE the southern entrance of Yosemite you’ll have the feel of small town but the energy of being within the park’s boundaries.

World Class Skiing & Snowboarding

Bear Valley in High Sierra in Arnold California during winter storm
Bear Valley – Image appears courtesy: Calaveras County Visitors Bureau

What goes well with blue skies and lots of snow? Skiing of course! And the High Sierra is home to a HUGE selection of ski resorts. From under-the-radar spots like Bear Valley Mountain to the legendary slopes at Squaw Valley | Alpine Meadows in North Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Mountain on the southern end of the range. You could literally ski your entire life in the High Sierra and still not hit every trail.

Other Winter Time Fun

Northstar Ice Skating Rink
Image appears courtesy: NLT Chamber of Commerce

Not a skier? No problem! In addition to the world class skiing & snowboarding, the High Sierra is host to an assortment of winter-time activities. For those that want to lace up skates, you can pick from a vast selection of rinks to ice skate on like Northstar at Tahoe’s rink. Want to embrace the wintry scene of frost and snow covered landscapes? Consider a jaunt on a pair of cross country skis at Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center or an excursion onto a pair of snowshoes to a dinner at Rock Creek Lodge. Or, just grab a shovel, sleds, and a winter coat for a bit of family snow play fun!

Don’t be Mr. Grinch this winter. Instead, be like Olaf from Frozen and embrace the snowy fun. It’s time to head to the High Sierra for some wintry, wonderful fun.

Author: Alex Silgalis

Alex Silgalis is an outdoors travel writer who enjoys snowboarding, mountain biking, or having a cold one from a local mountain brewery. See more of Alex’s work at

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