As a resident of Southern California, I love the close proximity of some great ski resorts. It really is possible to leave the house at 6 a.m., be on the slopes by 8 a.m., finish around 1 p.m., and be back home by 3 p.m. to get some work done.
My favorite local ski resort is Bear Mountain in Big Bear Lake, California.
About Bear Mountain
The resort operates under a permit on National Forest Service land in the San Bernadino Mountains. The area is 748 acres of land with 12 total lifts, including two high-speed quad chairs. The top elevation is 8,805 feet with a base elevation of 7,140 feet. There are 17 miles of ride-able terrain, including one run that's 1 1/2 miles long. There are extensive snow-making capabilities but the Southern California weather usually keeps a good base of natural snow. I've also always found the resort well-groomed, even during rainy or icy conditions.
The resort is easy to get to from Los Angeles via well-maintained roads. Visitors should note the roads are two-lane, so unless you time your arrival and departures carefully, it can be crowded with traffic.
The resort used to get a bit overcrowded, and I think they've gotten it under control by limiting the number of tickets they sell. For travelers who plan to visit on crowded weekends or holidays, advanced reservations are available and recommended. Tickets can be easily purchased online.
Adult regular season lift tickets, which offer access to both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, are $59 for the day, $49 for half-day, 33 for full-night, and $23 for half-night. Holiday and peak weekend lift tickets are $72 for adults with discounts for seniors, young adults (13-21), and children. Skiers under 6 are free.
Season passes (good for both resorts) are available for $299 for midweek, $399 for midweek and Sunday, and $659 anytime, with a price increase after November 18, 2012. All tickets are good for both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and a shuttle operates between the two resorts.
Where to stay
We've stayed at the Northwoods Resort (40650 Village Drive, Big Bear Lake), which is right at the edge of Big Bear Village. We love the heated outdoor pool and Jacuzzi, and the rooms have a hip charm to them. Rates are around $99 on weeknights and $200 on weekends and holidays, with some good packaged deals available.
The Big Bear area retains a casual, homey charm and it's not necessarily a place for fine dining. For good steaks, we like the Millcreek Cattle Co. and Diamond Lil's Saloon (41072 Big Bear Blvd.). It has a beautiful view of the lake, a well-stocked bar, and very knowledgeable bartenders.
Freddy Sherman grew up in Philadelphia and first learned to ski on community field trips to local resorts like Jack Frost and Camelback. Now a resident of Los Angeles, he skis Big Bear and Mammoth a few times each season and has even skied at the European resort of Innsbruck, Austria. You can follow him on Twitter, @thefredsherman.
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