Author: Tyler Kearn
Southern California may be famous for its sunny days and nice beaches, but it also has some worthwhile places for skiing and snowboarding. Rainstorms may flood Oxy, but they also bring snow to our local mountains. In the wake of our recent storms, now is the perfect time to check out the nearby ski slopes.
Though skiing in Southern California can require a bit more determination than hitting the slopes in known snow havens like Mammoth or Tahoe, there are several mountains nearby that meet a skier’s needs. The following is a rundown of the three most prominent local ski resorts.
Mt. Baldy is the ski area closest to Oxy – it’s the largest of the three and has excellent terrain, but is somewhat run-down and the most susceptible to bad snow conditions. Baldy has four lifts that service the mountain’s 2100 vertical feet and 800 acres. Baldy has the best steep terrain – nothing at the other areas compares to the chutes, drops and tree runs at Baldy.
A blue at Baldy is a black or a double black at the other areas. For advanced and expert skiers, Baldy is definitely the best mountain. However, it does not have as much intermediate terrain as the other areas, and its beginner terrain is really just one run.The ski lifts at Baldy are all old, slow two-seaters, and the facilities are pretty utilitarian, with an old restaurant and rental shop at the top of the first chairlift. This gives the area an old-school feel, but patience is definitely a virtue when your chairlift is crawling up the mountain.
Baldy doesn’t have much in the way of snowmaking machinery, so just a few of the highly-trafficked spots are covered beyond the natural snowfall. This, combined with Baldy’s steeper slopes (which make it harder for snow to accumulate), means the area is particularly dependent on favorable weather conditions for the skiing and boarding to be any good.
Distance: You can leave Oxy and be at Baldy’s slopes in an hour, assuming perfect conditions and no traffic. However, on a busy, crowded day, it can easily take two hours or more to get there.
Price (for an adult, all-day ticket): $54, or $64 if they deem it a “peak weekend.”
Mountain High consists of three areas – the west, east and north – that are each about a mile apart. Each area has different terrain and different specialties. The west portion is filled with terrain parks and half pipes to cater to younger skiers and snowboarders. The east is considered to be more of a family area, with longer runs and fewer rambunctious boarders, and the north is a small beginners area.
That said, which area you go to might inevitably be determined by where you can find parking, since there is not enough of it and the spots near the east hill (and closer to the highway) tend to fill up first. Combined, the three hills boast 16 lifts across 290 acres with a rise of 1,600 vertical feet.
Most of the terrain at Mountain High is in the beginner to intermediate range, but to try and make up for this, they pack the area with “terrain features” such as jumps, rails and half pipes.
While the mountain does label a few runs blacks and double blacks and gives them intimidating names like “Vertigo,” these runs are significantly easier than the advanced and expert terrain at other, bigger mountains.
Both the east and west hills are serviced by high-speed quad chairlifts, and the infrastructure at Mountain High is generally decent, with rental shops and a lodge at the base and on the hill. Their snowmaking machinery is quite good, keeping the slopes covered and skiable even when the weather hasn’t been stormy recently.
Distance: Mountain High is near a town called Wrightwood, which can be an hour and a half from Oxy in perfect conditions, but will likely take two hours or more.
Price: $50 for four hours, or $55 for eight. If it’s a “peak weekend,” it’s $60 for four hours and $65 for eight.
Big Bear/Snow Summit
There are two resorts off Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest – Big Bear and Snow Summit. They are a little further from Oxy, but they often get more snow, have more amenities (lodges, rental shops, restaurants, hostels, etc.), and are set up to handle crowds better than the closer areas.
Snow Summit has 240 acres and 1,200 vertical feet, serviced by 14 lifts including two high-speed four-seaters. Big Bear has 198 acres (and 550 accessible out-of-bounds acres) and 1,665 feet of vertical, with 12 chairlifts, of which two are high speed quads.
Like Mountain High, the Big Bear resorts feature predominantly beginner and intermediate terrain. The steep slopes here do not compare to Baldy.
Snow Summit offers a slightly higher percentage of beginner terrain than Big Bear, and each mountain has large areas devoted to terrain parks for skiers and snowboarders interested in jumps, rails and the like. That said, the Bear resorts do attract a wider variety of skiers and boarders than Mountain High.
The Big Bear areas have lots of amenities at the base and on-mountain, and have enough lifts and quads to avoid long-lift lines forming on most days. Their snow-making abilities border on the ridiculous. Since there is an infinite water-supply in Big Bear Lake, they can cover every nook of the mountain with snow regardless of the weather.
Distance: Big Bear is just over two hours due East of Oxy, but it can take three hours or longer to get there if the traffic or weather conditions are bad.
Price: $53 for an adult (22+) and $43 for a young adult (13-21). On “peak weekends,” it’s $66 and $56, respectively.
There are a lot of good options for skiing and snowboarding within a short distance of Oxy, and this is one of the best snow winters in years.
Whether you’ve been skiing or boarding for years or are just learning, now’s the perfect time to get out to the slopes. Head to these nearby ski areas early, have a blast on the hill and enjoy some of the best skiing Southern California has to offer.
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