"IT'S A 'DAY OF THE GODS,'" DECLARES MY TEENAGE SON, CLARK, AS WE RIDE THE SKI LIFT AT THE PARK'S HISTORIC BADGER PASS®.
Paul Gauguin's painting by that name is a masterpiece, but only Mother Nature can create one in real life such as where we're about to ski. From our vantage point at almost 8,000 feet in Yosemite National Park, we can see nothing but endless mountain snow glittering in the sunshine, fresh as new bread.
The bountiful powder in California's Sierra Nevada has been delivered by a blizzard that chased away all but the hardiest tourists on this February day. So we hardly have to share at all.
My Southern California kids proved beyond intrepid throughout the journey through urban jungle and mountain storms to reach this glorious peak. We've come 400 miles not just for downhill skiing adventures, but to experience winter – to sled, snowshoe, skate, and to cavort with the snow angels.
Abraham Lincoln first preserved Yosemite as a park. Ansel Adams immortalized its scenic wonder with his photographic genius. The park is so vast that it's the size of Rhode Island and so varied that there's an outdoor experience geared to every taste.
The Sierra winter has so much to offer those who meet its challenges. Yosemite gets 3.5 million visitors each year. But February is generally the only month without triple-digit tourism numbers (that is, less than 100,000).
"I love the winter here; it's peaceful. You get an amazing amount of wildlife," said Park Ranger Scott Gedimans. "It's a wonderful chance at solitude."
In storied Yosemite, winter offers a fresh perspective on the famous scenery. Gliding along the open-air ice rink while gazing up at Half Dome literally takes my breath away. The park works hard to make winter special with events like wine-tasting dinners, free ranger-led snowshoe walks, and hearthside storytellers. Shuttle buses to the main trailheads and hostelries run even during blizzards. The highlight for us is always Badger Pass®, a glitz-free ski resort dating back to the 1930s.