Just 60 miles west from Los Angeles’s Ontario International Airport, Big Bear Mountain Resort in the San Bernadino Mountains is comprised of two ski resorts, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, just two miles from each other, both emanating the distinctive vibe of SoCal’s surf and skate scenes.
Bear Mountain was the first to create a freestyle park in the 90s, and was made famous as the location of the weekly film series “Sunday in the Park.” Snow Summit, host of the inaugural Winter X Games in 1997, is a popular go-to for Los Angeles skiers and snowboarders on the weekends. A single lift ticket is honored at both ski areas and there is a free shuttle that transports guests between them.
With a skiable area of 748 acres, 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. Bear Mountain has a vertical drop of 1,665 ft. to a base elevation of 7,140 ft. There are 24 lifts at Bear Mountain, with a capacity for 16,590 guests an hour – these include three quad chairlifts, two triple chairlifts, four doubles and three surface lifts. About 30 percent of the runs are geared towards beginner and early intermediate skiers and boarders, with 40 percent of the runs marked as intermediate and 30 percent advanced.
The mid-sized Snow Summit has a skiable area of 240 acres, serviced by 14 lifts that can accommodate 18,550 passengers and hour. Snow Summit has a vertical drop of 1,209 ft. from a top elevation of 8,174 ft. to a 6,965 ft. base elevation. There are 31 runs here, with 35 percent of these marked for beginner to early intermediate skiers and snowboarders. About 40 percent are marked at intermediate and 25 percent at advanced. The longest run is 1.2 miles.
There are several ski and snowboard rental shops at both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, as well as Big Bear Lake, including Blauer Ski & Board Rentals and Ski Haus, right on the Big Bear Lake Boulevard. Both resorts also have a Ski & Snowboard School offering private and group lessons, as well as an adaptive ski program. Big Bear Mountain Resort is an Ikon Pass destination.
The season for both resorts runs from mid-November to mid-April, thanks to two of the largest snowmaking systems in the world. Snowfall is 100 inches annually and there is snowmaking on 100 percent of the terrain at Snow Summit. Night skiing is offered on 150 acres. There is also the Grizzly Ridge Tube Park, as well as a 30-foot climbing wall at the resort. Like most major ski resorts avoiding weekends and holidays are the best bet to miss the crowds and late season skiing can offer good quality and warm days on the mountain.
Big Bear has everything from cozy chalets to budget hotels to spacious vacation homes for families. The Lodge at Big Bear Lake has an on-site spa, a restaurant, lounge and fitness center, as well as an outdoor hot tub to soak in after a day on the slopes ( www.thelodgeatbigbearlake.com ). Snow Summit Townhouses, the closest accommodation to Snow Summit Resort, has two to four-bedroom units with a recreation room and an unbeatable location to the slopes ( www.snowsummittownhouses.com ). Sleepy Forest Cottage Resorts has rentals from quaint lakeside cottages to three-bedroom family homes with a wood-burning fireplace and stone shower ( www.sleepyforest.com ).
From taco trucks to fine dining, you won’t go hungry in this mountain town, whether on the slopes or on the main street of the Big Bear Lake village. On the mountain, Bear Mountain’s Boneyards offers jumbo smoked chicken wings in their southern style smokehouse in the resort’s main lodge. For a taste of fine whiskey in a rustic chalet, stop in at Snow Summit’s Hawks 52 before carrying on to dinner at the Oakfire Grill, just downstairs, for classic winter fare comfort food ( www.bigbearmountainresort.com ). In Big Bear Lake village, the Peppercorn Grille offers Maui crab cakes and seared Ahi tuna, followed by lobster ravioli or the house chicken Marsala in this local favorite for fine dining ( www.peppercorngrille.com ). On the mountain – both resorts have 11 restaurants and numerous coffee stands.
Big Bear Lake Resort is about two hours from Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport and both have shuttle services that run to the resort during the ski season, via Roadrunner Shuttle and Limousine Service.
Driving, Big Bear Lake Resort is accessible via the 10-east from L.A.X. to the 38-north. Once at the resort, guests can rely on the free transport shuttle between Bear Mountain and Snow Summit as well as the Mountain Area Regional Bus system, though having a car to explore the area may be more convenient.
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