Section 12: Southern California

The following information on Southern California is provided courtesy of Carlson Peters (

Southern California Skiing

Warning: With the possible exception of Mammoth, none of the SoCal resorts compare favorably with, for example, a Colorado resort. On the other hand, they are probably worth sneaking away to for a day on a buisiness trip. Conditions are often soft and slushy. What Easterners call hard pack, Southern Californians generally refer to as ice. But do not be lulled into complacency by a warm Santa Ana wind, they are often cold and bitter once you have made your way to the ski areas. Driving is much more treacherous in storms since you always have to traverse the snow line to get to or from the resorts. Chains are often required in storms.

Southern Sierras


There are other places in the Southern Sierras, but since they all are a five hour drive and Mammoth is so big and the rest are so small everybody in SoCal goes here. This is really a resort for SoCal residents only since flying into Mammoth is expensive and flights originate from SoCal only. Mammoth is big (about 25 lifts). It gets about 500" of snow anually. It has some real steep skiing but at least half the terrain consists of noodly lower intermediate runs and there is virtually no sustained upper intermediate terrain. Forget ambiance, the mountain facilities resemble fallout shelters. The town is modeled after a SoCal planned suburb with Swiss motifs nailed on as afterthoughts.

San Bernardino Mts.

Big Bear Area

The only place to ski when the snow hasn't fallen yet. Due to the near limitless quantity of water that can be drawn from Big Bear Lake, smowmaking can quickly cover Snow Summit and Bear Mt. 100% by Christmas provided that there is ample cold weather. Snow Summit is mostly all lower intermediate with just a smidge of beginner and advanced terrain; 1000' vertical. Bear Mt. has more upper intermediate and beginner terrrain. Bear has fewer runs than Summit but 1600' vertical and a high speed quad more than make up for it. The drive to Big Bear is a torturous cornucopia of tight curves. 45 miles from San Bernardino via either CA-330 or CA-38.

Snow Valley

Mostly lower intermediate. There is advanced skiing on slide peak (hidden from view). They have a small resevoir and do supplemental snowmaking. Slide peak is only open after a big storm however. The only advantage to going here is it is at least a half an hour shorter drive than Big Bear. 30 miles from San Bernardino on CA-330.

San Gabriel Mts.

Mt. High

2 Mts. connected by shuttle bus, East is 1600' vertical, West is 1000'. They have large resevoirs and can cover quite a bit of terrain but wait for a few decent dumps before going there. West has lots of short runs, headwalls really, that are faily steep and challenging. They let many of them get really moguled - unlike the Big Bear area where everything gets groomed every day. East has a high speed quad with three long cruisers and a handful of interesting connector runs to add variety. Olympic bowl has some truly steep terrain when it is open. Perhaps the best thing about Mt High is the drive. Virtually no treacherous roads. One minute you're climbing into the high desert, the next minute you're parking your car. Take I-15 to CA-138 to CA-2 past Wrightwood.

Mt. Baldy

The gem of the local ski scene - when it has snow (no snowmaking). The lower mountain is seldom open because of it's low base elevation (6500') and southern exposure. You ride 1300' to the lodge and ski off two separate peaks that converge at the lodge. One peak has a wonderful mix of upper intermediate, advanced and expert terrain. The other peak has some long lower intermediate terrain. The runs are cut from a very sparse forest so skiing is possible almost everywhere. The upper area holds snow even when the lower mountain is totally bare. And speaking of the lower mountain - it has a good assortment of steep chutes and gullies that would challange most anyone. Even when the one intermediate run is open to the bottom, many people opt to ride the chair down to the parking lot. 20 miles from I-10 and Upland on Mt. Baldy Road.

Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge

Two very funky but fun ski areas. Both have slow, diesel fired chairs. Kratka's main chair is a single! Waterman is the better of the two. The face drops steeply down into the parking lot and has 1000 ft. of very steep, knarly runs and glades. Above is the lodge and above and behind the face is another area with some shortish beginner and intermediate terrrain. Of course, there is not a single snow gun between them and grooming is primitive and patchy. Check them out if only to remember what skiing used to be like 30 years ago. Almost no amenities, so come prepared. 45 beautiful miles from La Canada and I-210 on the Angeles Crest Highway.

Baldy...................(714) 981-3344
Bear Mt.................(213) 289-0636
Kratka Ridge............(818) 449-1749
Mt. High................(213) 626-6911
Snow Summit.............(213) 613-0602
Mt. Waterman............(818) 790-2002

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