YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — As always at this time of the year, thousands of snow enthusiasts have flocked to the slopes in the Far West's cradle of winter sports.
Ice-skaters, snowshoers, cross-country skiers, downhill skiers and those who make annual winter pilgrimages to the park just to enjoy the scenery have been coming and going since mid-November and will continue to arrive until the snow melts in mid-March or early April.
Yosemite, set aside as a state park in 1864 and as a national park in 1890, has been a mecca for winter recreation for more than a century. In the early days, winter visitors were drawn by sleigh rides through the High Sierra back country and by a big outdoor ice-skating rink in Yosemite Valley, with Half Dome as a backdrop.
In 1920, a ski jump went up in the valley and was erected again each year until Badger Pass was opened in 1935, when a diesel-powered, cable-drawn giant sled called the Queen Mary pulled 20 skiers at a time up the steep slopes. Badger Pass is California's oldest established downhill ski area and the Yosemite Ski School, which began in 1928, is the oldest ski school in the West.