A ski resort with terrain for all levels and closeby lodging, lots of apres ski activities and a good ski school make for great vacations on snow.
There are two resorts at this popular lake, a vacation zone for Southern Californians for many years. Snow Summit was among the first of the local resorts, founded by Tommi Tyndall, a legend in southland skiing. Tyndall is credited by many as the man who truly invented and started to use snowmaking guns to guarantee skiing in shaky winters. He was later killed grooming his slopes when his groomer rolled over on him. His wife Jo ran it for a number of years following his death. The resorts are now owned by Alterra Mountain Company.
Bear Mountain, its nearby sister resort, has a totally different flavor, catering to Southern California's "skateboard in the mountains" culture of snowboarding. The combination is wonderful for the whole family and the resorts are just two miles apart, so you could even meet for lunch via a free connector bus if you split the terrain and style picks.
Snow Summit sits at 7,000 feet and is a full-service winter resort with all types of lodging accommodations available nearby from motels to condos to mountain cabins, shops, full-service restaurants, and plenty of after-ski entertainment. The Wall, Dicky’s, and Olympic runs serve up challenging, steep terrain for advanced skiers and riders when there are fresh tracks to be had. Miracle Mile and Log Chute are terrific intermediate cruisers. Snow Summit also has several freestyle parks including Ego Trip, the Skyline Creek Fun Zone, and Westridge.
There is a 1,200-foot vertical drop at Summit spreading skiers and snowboarders out on 31 trails (some 40 percent are advanced) over 240 acres. You'll ride on 16 lifts (including three quads). Play in two terrain parks.
Bear Mountain is a haven for a rabid cadre of snowboarders and freeskiers who play in the area's three terrain parks and pipes along with a double black run sure to get the most adventurous freeskier's blood rushing. The prevailing vibe is so boarder-centric that the area also fields its own pro snowboard team.
The Park at Bear Mountain was the nation’s first all-mountain freestyle park. It's big – spread over 198 acres – and innovative. There are 150-plus jumps, 80-plus jibs, a superpipe, standard halfpipe, and other, strategically signature features. There are 12 lifts.
The park staff at Bear Mountain keeps it fresh by regularly redesigning and upgrading everything.
The vertical is 1,565 feet and you'll ski and board over 988 acres. Ride 19 lifts (including four high-speed quads) on 57 trails. Bear Mountain is made up of three peaks: Silver Mountain, Goldmine Mountain and Bear Peak, which at 8,805 feet, is the highest peak serviced by a lift in Southern California. Goldmine once operated as a separate ski area.
The third resort in the trio is when one visitor's intent on skiing, riding and staying at Big Bear Lake for the weekend whoosh on by. It's a big mistake. Snow Valley is about 11 miles closer to Los Angeles at Running Springs (near Lake Arrowhead). Missing it is silly for families, as Snow Valley offers plenty of fun and friendliness in its own right.
The vertical at Snow Valley is 1,042 feet and you can play on 240 acres on 28 trails (46 percent intermediate). There are 12 lifts and tows including a six-passenger chair. You even can go sledding and ride a lift to get up the hill. It's only about 20 minutes to drive to Big Bear Lake. Snow Valley is owned by the Nordic Group.
Big Bear Lake itself is one of those old-fashioned mountain towns where grandma and grandpa used to come every summer with the family. It has that look. But, don't be fooled. There are good restaurants and some lively nightlife. And, hey, you may be able to bunk in with grandma and grandpa. Truthfully, many homes at the lake have been passed from generation to generation. This isn't "Vail Village" and has a distinctive "old shoe" vibe that people love.
In the mood to shop? Along Big Bear Boulevard and side streets, check out At Barrel 33, where you'll find handcrafted wine barrel furniture and wine accessories, which you can peruse after you've enjoyed a glass at the shop's wine bar. Looking for unique gifts, souvenirs and local food items to bring back home? Try Big Bear Discount Gifts and Souvenirs, Shirt Shanty in The Village, Bear Essentials, Brown Bear Gift Shop and The Village Sweet Shoppe.
While most of the restaurants primarily offer traditional American fare, you also can find Hawaiian, Indian, French, Italian, Mexican and more. The Peppercorn Grille serves up dishes with "immense flavor." Meanwhile, Tropicali's sushi and poke bowls are called a must-try, but you can likely expect a wait.
Big Bear Mountain Ski Resort at Big Bear Lake, California encompasses two ski resorts: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. These very different twin resorts are two of the most popular destinations in Southern California, no matter the time of year. The two areas are located two miles apart. Snow Valley Mountain Resort is about 11 miles closer to Los Angeles at Running Springs, and skiers and riders can choose to stay at Big Bear Lake or Lake Arrowhead.
Big Bear Lake is actually a reservoir in the San Bernardino Mountains. Snow Summit and Bear Mountain are both in town about a snowball's toss from the lake shore; while Snow Valley is 11 miles down Highway 18 back toward L.A.
Surrounded by natural landscapes, Big Bear Mountain Resort provides breathtaking panoramic mountain views. The twin properties - Snow Summit (peak 8,200 feet) and Bear Mountain (peak 8,805 feet) - offer generally excellent snow conditions, a long season, and the most rideable terrain in Southern California. The two areas alone offer access to over 400 skiable acres, 19 lifts, and more than 58 runs in total. Snow Valley at nearby Running Springs adds 240 more acres to the picture.
This one takes some explaining. The main difference between the two is that Snow Summit has more traditional runs while Bear Mountain focuses more on terrain parks. The best place to find beginner slopes is at Snow Summit. The mountain is a great place to learn how to ski without getting in the way of a fast skier or snowboarder. Summit even has night skiing, something its"sister" does not.
Bear Mountain, on the other twin's hand, has a far more adventurous vibe and won the favor of snowboarders over skiers.Visitors will find lots of halfpipes perfect for freestyle skiing and snowboarding, as well as the largest beginner area in Southern California - perfect to learn to snowboard. Bear Mountain also has some of the best terrain parks in the country, ranging from beginner to expert.
It generally snows between late November and early April, but the peak snowfall is around January and early February. High hovers around 43 degrees with the low sitting around the low twenties. There are also periods of bad weather, with very heavy snowfalls, and cold waves with intense frosts, during which the temperature can drop to 5 °F or even below. In these cases, the lake can freeze over. January is the snowiest month at Big Bear Lake with 15.8 inches of snow. Big Bear averages 66 inches of snow a year.
The three main roads to Big Bear Lake are Hwy 330 (through Highland), Hwy 38 (through Redlands) and Hwy 18 (through Lucerne Valley). If you're flying commercial into California, the most common airports are Los Angeles International (LAX), a 2 hour-12 minute drive; Ontario International (Inland Empire), and John Wayne Airport in Newport Beach (Orange County). Mountain Transit provides fixed route service through the Big Bear Valley and to/from off-mountain cities like San Bernardino, Crestline, and Lake Arrowhead. The Free Big Bear Trolley offers service throughout the Valley free of charge. Dial-A-Ride service, Park & Ride ski resort transport service, Airport Shuttle service, and fixed route buses all allow you to leave your vehicle parked and be driven to your ski and riding adventures.