Southern California: Get The Real Picture With Great Skiing, Riding -
When most people think of Southern California the first image that may come to mind is one of sunshine and beaches.
Or of Hollywood and movies. Or of desert rats and Joshua trees out in the Mojave. Or of endless miles of asphalt and freeways.
But you might want to add this to your mental picture of Southern California: Great skiing and snowboarding.
Start off with Mammoth Mountain, an easy six-hour jaunt up the east side of the Sierra Nevada range via all-weather highways or a 65-minute flight out of LAX. The resort lives up to its lofty moniker: There are more than 3,500 skiable acres to cavort on, with 3,100 feet of vertical and 150 named runs serviced by 28 uphill conveyances including high-speed quads and six-packs and gondolas.
You’ll find everything from groomed cruisers to steep chutes to powder trees strewn about the massive resort. And Mammoth is home to seven terrain parks which have been ranked among the top three in the country.
Or you can stop by Mammoth’s little sister June Mountain which is 30 minutes up the road, but a world away in June Lake. Situated above a string of glacial tarns and hemmed in by the towering Yosemite backcountry, June Lake, though half the size of Mammoth, is huge on scenic vistas and family-oriented fun.
Just over the Sierra crest from Mammoth on the west slope of the range lies Sierra Summit. This medium-size family-style resort – seven chairs and 45 runs – is popular with the citizens of Fresno and the southern Central Valley and caters to mid-level skiers and snowboarders with more than half of the trails (61 percent) designated with blue squares.
Closer to the Los Angeles basin area is a handful of resorts that are perfect for day-tripping. Indeed, they are so close that a morning of skiing or snowboarding and an afternoon of surfing is not an uncommon occurrence.
Four resorts that can cater to your every whim are in the San Gabriel Mountains, which form the northern boundary of the L.A. Basin.
Mountain High, 90 minutes from downtown Los Angeles off Interstate 15, is a snowboarder’s paradise, with three separate mini-resorts: West Peak is an all-mountain terrain park for day and night riding, East Peak is for cruising groomers, and North Peak is all beginner terrain. Mt. Baldy, which lies 14 miles north of Upland off I-210, has a great throw-back vibe – minimal glitz and glamour and minimal snowmaking. Its four lifts are all double chairs, and of its 26 named runs, six are of the truly double-black diamond variety.
Two other small hills are in the San Gabriels – Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge. These are neighboring resorts about an hour from downtown Los Angeles. Both have only a couple of double chairlifts and almost non-existent snowmaking. Hours of operation can be iffy because they must rely on natural snow.
A little farther east are the San Bernardino Mountains, home the Big Bear Mountain resorts of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, which are 1.5 miles apart above the southeast shore of Big Bear Lake.
Bear Mountain Resort has 12 lifts that provide access to an all-mountain, all-day and all-night terrain park. Snow Summit has 14 lifts and caters to a more traditional type of clientele, i.e., skiers and snowboarders who simply wish to cruise on groomed runs. Both resorts have snowmaking covering 100 percent of their respective mountains, both are accessible by a free shuttle bus, and both have an interchangeable lift ticket.
Yes, there is a little more to Southern California than you may have imagined.