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Winter pit stop near Sonora Pass

Discussion about winter adventure sports in the Sierra Nevada mountains including but not limited to; winter backpacking and camping, mountaineering, downhill and cross-country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, etc.
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Winter pit stop near Sonora Pass

Postby ERIC » Mon Mar 27, 2006 10:59 pm

Winter pit stop near Sonora Pass

By MICHELLE RICH
Published: March 27, 2006
http://www.uniondemocrat.com


Miles of snow-covered road separate Dardanelle Resort from civilization in the winter. But owners Chuck and Cindy Fleischer don't get cabin fever when the snow piles up outside.

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Cindy and Chuck Fleischer, of Oakdale, own Dardanelle Resort near Sonora Pass, which was built in the 1920s.

Taking care of daily operations and preparing for the arrival of hundreds of hungry snowmobilers each weekend keeps them busy.

Halfway between Sonora Pass and Highway 108's winter closure point, the resort was built in the early 1920s by John Buckman. Named after the nearby Dardanelle Cone, it operates under a special U.S. Forest Service use permit.

A popular family resort in the summer, Dardanelle becomes a mecca for snowmobilers during the winter. As many as 200 snowmobiles pierce the mountain quiet on busy weekends.

Operating the resort, one of very few in California accessible only by snowmobile in the winter, isn't easy.

Without the help of friends and family, said Cindy, 48, it wouldn't be possible. Although the Fleischers have no employees in the winter, Richard and Darcie Moser live there and help with daily operations.

"Wintertime up here is more like family time," Cindy said. "Everybody helps out everybody else."

The resort's restaurant is open on winter weekends, and overnight accommodations are available.

Some snowmobilers come from Highway 395, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada, and are thankful to have a place they can get gas and rest before riding home.

"I've got people who just want to come in and stand by the heater and get warm, and we don't have a problem with that," Cindy said.

Weathering winter

Like ski resorts, Dardanelle's winter success is tied to snowfall.

Unlike last winter, when snow began falling at the end of October, this year there wasn't enough to ride on until the beginning of January. Before March, the resort had fewer than two feet of snow.

"Last year, when we had so much snow, you couldn't even see out of the store," Cindy said. "I had my kids dig holes so I could see out the windows, and the holes were so big they could back their snowmobiles up into them like little garages."

This year's March storms, however, have brought a happy ending to a season that began slowly. More than 8 feet of snow has fallen on the resort since the month began.

After it snows, the Fleischers groom the snowmobile trails around the resort with two snowcats, a service paid for and coordinated by the Forest Service.

Until December of 2003, the resort could only be reached by snowmobile. Then, the Fleischers bought a Chevy Suburban, equipped it with tank-like treads for snow-travel and began bringing guests in.

Among the first people to take advantage of the service were Stan and Sally Wright, of Stockton.

"Sally's grandfather was one of the first doctors in the Sonora area, so she's been up here 70-plus years," Cindy said. "She was so excited when she found out she could come up here and see this place in the winter. That's always been a dream of theirs."

The Fleischers also use the Suburban to haul supplies to the resort, a job with which the Sonora Pass Sno-Goers sometimes help.

Buddy Rogers, a 67-year-old snowmobiler from Modesto and the Sno-Goers treasurer, said the club's relationship with the Fleischers is mutually beneficial. The resort is a frequent meeting place for the club's 80 families, as evidenced by members' coffee cups hanging behind the counter.

Stranded snowmobilers

The Fleischers are also there when snowmobilers need help, as was the case one cold night in January of 2004.

"I think my friend is dead," gasped an exhausted snowmobiler as he pushed through the resort door.

If not for the couple's help, Ryan McGowan, of Modesto, probably would have died.

"He (McGowan) and some buddies had come up on rented machines," Cindy said. "He went around a corner and saw a tree, so he bailed off. His buddy came around the corner and plowed right into him with his snowmobile."

Chuck, 49, and his sons Cody, 16, and Bryan, 26, rushed on snowmobiles to the accident, near Camp Jack Hazard. Bryan said McGowan was unconscious and covered in snow alongside the trail.

Chuck and Bryan, an emergency medical technician, loaded McGowan into the resort's Suburban and drove him down more than 13 miles of snow-covered road to Highway 108's winter closure point and a waiting ambulance.

McGowan barely survived. His parents told the Fleischers that doctors said he wouldn't have lived if it wasn't for Chuck and Bryan's help and the warmth of the Suburban.

"If you have an emergency, they have a phone," Rogers said.

Bryan, president of the Sno-Goers, said the club strives for safety in the mountains.

"If we didn't have the resort, there wouldn't have been anybody here for that kid that crashed," he said.

Change in ownership

Cindy has been going to the resort — eight cabins, four motel rooms, 34 RV spots, a general store and a restaurant — since childhood.

During summer visits to her family's cabin in Brightman, just down the highway, she remembers eating ice cream on the resort porch and playing on swings behind the store.

In 2003, she and Chuck visited the area for the Fourth of July. They saw a "for sale" sign at the resort and decided to buy it from longtime owner Cliff Cheney.

"We didn't have any experience in it, but we went ahead and bought it," Cindy said.

Although she loves being at Dardanelle, it has become increasingly hard for her to stay there in the winter. Cindy has fibromyalgia, a condition that affects the joint, muscle and nerve systems.

The Fleischers now live on their ranch in Oakdale during the week and have decided to sell the resort. It is on the market for $1.9 million, and Cindy said they are currently negotiating with a prospective buyer.

Family time

In the winter, most of the couple's time is spent taking care of the resort, but Chuck said in the summer most of their time is spent taking care of a steady stream of weekday and weekend visitors.

When the couple took over the resort, they wanted to create a family atmosphere and make it a place where parents could feel comfortable relaxing on the patio while their children play outside.

"I get a lot of people who will call and say, ‘Do you have TVs or phones in the cabins?' The answer is no," Cindy said. "You'd be surprised to find that most people say, ‘Oh, thank God, that's exactly what I was looking for.' "

In the summer, the resort also offers tent sites, showers, a laundry, gas and propane. It also acts as post office.

"I hope whoever takes it over keeps it the same," she said. "It would be sad for someone to come in and make a lot of changes or kick out my old-timers, the people who have been coming here for years."

Even after the resort is sold, Cindy said her family will continue visiting.

"We've formed a lot of friendships with the people up here," Cindy said. "My hope is to find a cabin up here to buy so we can be here whenever we choose."

Rogers also hopes the resort will remain a haven for snowmobilers in the winter and a family-friendly resort in the summer.

"I hope that my great-grandchildren and my great-great-grandchildren will be able to have the same fun we've had here, and the same enjoyment of the sport," he said.

Contact Michelle Rich at 588-4547 or mrich@ uniondemocrat.com.
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Postby hikerduane » Tue Mar 28, 2006 6:52 pm

The story sounds like Bucks Lake Resort up where I live. They had sold it a few years ago, but had to take it back when the people who bought it couldn't make a go of it. It is up for sale again, with the new Forest Service lease still having about 25 years on it. It is a job. A money maker, you just need to know how to take care of people and not blow your money up your nose or elsewhere.
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Postby cmon4day » Wed Mar 29, 2006 3:15 pm

ERIC,

Whats with the snowmobiling articles???
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Postby ERIC » Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:02 pm

What do you mean? Is there a rule against them I should know about? :-k
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Postby hikerduane » Wed Mar 29, 2006 8:13 pm

Thank you for posting a variety of topics. Snowmobiling stories show people what is going on out there beyond their spheres of interest or destinations. They may not also realize how many people are out in the hills in the winter. A couple of the biggest snowmobile clubs in Calif. and Nevada are in the Carson Pass area on 88 and up in Plumas County where I live. Although, I think most here don't have an interest in it.

Some of the best snowcamping I have had, has been on my snowmobile. When Pooch was alive, he and I would head out for aways on my old sled and find a spot to set up camp, enjoy the peace and quiet where no one else goes. It allows me to access territory I could never see just by snowshoeing in or skiing.
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Postby cmon4day » Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:17 pm

ERIC,

No, there is no rule against them except in the Wilderness. I am a fan of human powered activity in the backcountry. For example, I am a backcountry skier and I do not care for snowmobiles. Several of my complaints are the noise, the smell, and the illegal use in the Wilderness. All of which ruin the backcountry experience I seek.

The articles you post are legitimate snowmobile stories. I understand there are a large number of snowmobile users and they are entitled to use the same National Forest land that I am, (Land of Many Uses). For the reasons stated above, don't care for snowmobiles!

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Postby ERIC » Thu Mar 30, 2006 11:17 pm

Vic,

I understand your position on this subject, and don't have a problem with your feelings on it. I’m sure others in our community share your concerns. However, you should know the reason I posted that article is (as you point out) there are a large number of users with snowmobile interests on these forums who do not share your concerns. Snowmobiling is a legitimate Sierra Nevada sport, and there are many places in the Sierra Nevada where it is 100% legal to ride these machines. If or when they are completely outlawed, only then will I stop posting material that advocates this sport. Until that time, my posts about this sport are no different than any of the other articles I post; unbiased, and as agenda-void as I can make them. I may be for snowmobiling, or against it. But it doesn’t matter. Regardless of my regard for the sport, I'm going to continue to post articles related to snowmobiling as it pertains to the Sierra Nevada. I do my best to satisfy as many people as possible. Like anyone else here, I of course have my own political views and beliefs that aren't always going to be in tune every single person on here. But I do my best to keep my personal views to myself and am careful not to let them ruin the equality and integrity of our community. Am I always perfect in achieving this goal? No, of course not. But who is? I do my best. And in the end, my trump card will always be that the design and style of these forums are my responsibility and all related decision making regarding this website is ultimately up to me and me alone. Again, I'll always do my best to make as many people happy as possible. But as the saying goes; "You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all the time." So I’m not going to beat myself up trying. The unfortunate few who I fail in making this place exactly what they want are more than welcome to find another place that suits their fancy better. Or, maybe they can just start their own community? :wink:

Not trying to pick on you in particular. I've had a few complaints recently, and this information/decree is intended for everyone on here. It shouldn’t be new news. Everyone here agreed to the terms of these forums upon registration.

THE END

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