It’s not the Swiss Alps, but Big Bear is pretty great when it comes to SoCal snow skiing and snowboarding; and the fact it’s just 110 miles away from Los Angeles makes it the go-to mountain getaway for many Angelenos. Even though its close enough to go for a day trip, Big Bear has a lot to offer and it’s best to plan for at least one overnight.
Think Snow, and Think Ahead
The trick to a great Big Bear ski vacation is planning. Spontaneity is fun, but the reality is that without reservations for accommodations or lift passes you might arrive in Big Bear and not find the there’s no room at the inns or the resort is sold out. Both of the main Big Bear resorts, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, limit the number of tickets that can be sold to keep the slopes from becoming overcrowded. Check out the website (www.bigbearmountainresorts.com) to reserve tickets and get snow and road conditions before you begin your road trip. Check out Big Bear Vacations for rentals of a wide array of properties of all sizes and amenities, from luxurious homes to cozy cabins.
To get the most out of your day, arrive when the mountain opens at 8:30 am to beat the crowds. To save time, you can go online before your arrival and sign the computerized ezWaiver system.
The snow sports schools at both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are known for great instruction. The program overall is five-stars, but the onboarding process can be less than streamlined when a hundred people are all trying to get geared up for classes at the same time, so arrive early.
At either resort first-time snowboarders can rent Burton Learn to Ride equipment. Since the most common complaint of learners is constant falling, Burton designed these special snowboards with beveled edges that reduce falls, so learners spend less time on their butts and more riding.
The beauty of Big Bear, besides the incredible vista of the San Bernardino National Forrest, is that visitors have two nearby resorts just two miles apart from which to choose. Both resorts are operated by the Big Bear Mountain Resorts, so lift tickets are interchangeable, and guests can take a free inter-resort shuttle between them.
The People’s Park
Known as the People’s Park, Bear Mountain has a slightly higher elevation and about five percent more advanced trails. It is also home to California’s only Superpipe and has many freestyle terrain runs with jibs, jumps, rails, boxes and walls for boarders. Bear Mountain is famed as the stomping grounds of Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White and draws more snowboarders than its sister resort Snow Summit. Even kids 3 to 6 years can snowboard at Bear Mountain at Riglet Park, a bunny slope with terrain features where toddlers are lead around with a tow rope. Overall, Bear Mountain is for geared for young adults and teens, which one can sense walking up to the base of the slopes, known as The Scene, where loud music blares in an outdoor bar-like environment, where everyone is hobbling around in ski boots.
Family Friendly Skiing
Snow Summit is known I s known as the most family friendly of the Bear Mountain resorts. One popular feature is their family Park of easy runs where only slow riding and skiing is allowed, and patrons are reminded to maintain slow speeds with signs and a looped announcement on a loud speaker. The atmosphere at the base area of Snow Summit is more relaxed and less crowded and more spread out than at Bear Mountain, though Snow Summit requires a lot of walking to get around and has seemingly endless flights of stairs, which can be difficult to maneuver in bulky ski boots, carrying skis and poles, and assisting children with all their gear. Snow Summit also has night skiing, 3 to 9:30 pm, which is an exciting, magical winter wonderland experience when it’s snowing.
Cali4nia or Bust
Lift ticket prices vary throughout the season. Kids under six are free. Special deals are available when booked 48 hours in advance. The Cali4nia Pass offers all-season use for Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, Mammoth and June Mountain and includes deals on lessons, rental discounts and other perks.
Before you head up the mountain, check the road conditions. Chains are required on roads in higher elevations — even if they are not installed on your tires you must carry them in your vehicle.
With a little planning, your trip to Big Bear will be a blast, not a bear.