Most people envision sunshine and beaches when they think of Southern California. Or movie stars walking the star-studded streets of Hollywood. What about sports? Surfing and skateboarding come to mind, right? What about snow? Many people do not realize that it snows in Southern California. In fact, some of the best ski slopes can be found not far from Los Angeles.
Skiing and snowboarding in Southern California are some of the best in the nation. The Los Angeles basin is surrounded on three sides by mountain ranges, with peaks reaching nearly 9,000 feet. One of the best things about having lived in Southern California is that you can be at the beach in the morning and be high on a mountaintop by lunchtime.
Snow Summit, Big Bear Lake
Nestled in the heart of the San Bernardino National Forest, Snow Summit Resort sits at a base level elevation of 7,000 feet with a top elevation of 8,200 feet, with an average of 100 inches of annual snowfall. The top elevation gives skiers and riders access to 1,200 feet of vertical drop. The resort has over 240 acres of terrain with 18 skiable miles for all ability levels.
The area’s 27 trails are serviced by 11 chairlifts and 5 moving carpets. The trails are suitable for all skill levels, including 10 percent for beginners, 65 percent for low-intermediate and intermediate, and 25 percent for advanced. If you’re ready to try more advanced or freestyle skiing, one lift ticket provides access to both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
On-mountain activities include Grizzly Ridge Tube Park. A magic carpet takes tubers to the top of the 300-foot tubing lanes.
Bear Mountain, Big Bear Lake
Bear Mountain Resort is the sister resort of Snow Summit (about 3 miles away), offering its own appeal to Southern California skiers and snowboarders. It is highly regarded as one of the most innovative snow parks in the snow sports industry.
The resort’s 14 terrain parks boast Southern California’s only halfpipes. These parks, along with nearly 200 skiable acres, are why Bear is a favorite of top-notch freestyle skiers and snowboarders alike.
Bear has a peak elevation of 8,805 feet with a vertical drop of 1,665 feet. The terrain parks, plus 14 trails (map), are serviced by 8 chairlifts and 4 moving carpets. With 100 inches of annual snowfall plus a state-of-the-art snowmaking system and constant grooming, this resort has one of the longest ski seasons.
Note: Bear Mountain’s terrain is not the best choice for beginners, traditional (old-fashioned) downhill skiers, or families.
Shop for gear, forgotten items, and resort souvenirs at both Snow Summit and Bear Resorts, as well as at the Big Bear Mountain Resort shop in nearby Big Bear Lake.
Both Big Bear Mountain Resorts offer a variety of dining options. You’ll find restaurants, snack shops, and bars in the base area, on the top of the mountain, or on the hill.
Where To Stay
Skiers and snowboarders headed to Big Bear Resorts will find everything they need in Big Bear Lake Village, including lodging, dining, shopping, and other activities.
Snow Valley Resort, Running Springs
From the best beginner terrain in the region to the steep slopes of Slide Peak, elevation 7,841 feet, Snow Valley Resort has something for all ages and skiing ability levels during the winter. It is easy to get to, just 85 miles from Los Angeles, on the western slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Snow Valley’s 240 skiable acres offer long-cruising intermediate trails, three terrain parks for all snowboarding ability levels, black-diamond trails for the more advanced, and double-black-diamond trails for experts only. See Snow Valley’s trail map here.
Southern California’s first and only high-speed 6-seat detachable chair lift can be found at Snow Valley, along with a beginners-only area with two dedicated lifts and the only snow sledding area serviced with its own chairlift.
Snow Valley has a great sledding area open every day. Note that the chairlift only operates Friday through Sunday, plus holidays. Snow Valley’s award-winning Learning Centers offer lessons for all ability levels and ages.
Where To Stay
Mount Baldy Resort
Mount Baldy is the closest ski resort to Los Angeles, only 45 miles away, making it a perfect day-trip destination. Baldy has one of the most unusual resort layouts, and I think it is one of Southern California’s most laid-back and fun-filled resorts.
From the parking lot, visitors will take a 20-minute ride on the Sugar Pine Chairlift to the Top Notch Recreation area at 7,800 feet. Boasting the most spectacular views overlooking Los Angeles all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The view alone is worth the drive.
At the Top Notch area, there are 3 chairlifts providing access to over 800 acres of skiable and rideable terrain, including the most vertical drop in Southern California, at 2,100 feet. Skiers and riders of all skill levels will enjoy the traditional runs, open bowls, chutes, and tree runs that Mount Baldy has to offer. Resort and trail map here.
A 3-hour day pass provides a scenic ride on the Sugar Pine Chairlift to the Top Notch Recreation area, where visitors can enjoy snow tubing, zip lines, and the Top of the Notch Restaurant.
Where To Stay
The Los Angeles basin is within minutes of Mount Baldy Resort, where there is a plethora of lodging and dining options.
Mountain High Resort, Wrightwood
Mountain High is the second closest ski resort to Los Angeles (80 miles). You won’t find an easier drive to the mountains anywhere. Mountain High was my favorite growing up. It was only 45 minutes from my house in the Mojave Desert. On a clear winter’s night, the hillside would light up for night skiing. It was a beautiful sight.
Mountain High actually has three separate mountains. They are only a mile apart, but they offer distinct differences in terrain and atmosphere. You can ski or board at all three resorts with one lift ticket. See trail maps here.
Mountain High’s North Resort offers 70 acres of lower-level trails perfect for beginners, families, and the mature-aged skier.
The East Resort offers traditional skiers and snowboarders a true alpine experience. It boasts long trails that are serviced by a single high-speed quad-chair lift. It is known for its groomed runs, gladed tree skiing areas, and with its 8,200-foot peak, it offers the most breathtaking views.
The West Resort is the most popular of the three. It has beginner to advanced terrain plus a world-class terrain park. It is also Southern California’s only local resort open nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. during peak season.
Open 4 days a week, snow play activities such as tubing, sledding, and scenic chairlift rides are available at Mountain High’s own Yeti’s Snow Play.
There are nine different dining options throughout the resort’s three areas. Bullwheel Grill at the West Resort offers a cozy fireplace, while the East Resort has mountaintop dining at the Grand View Lodge.
Where To Stay
For an extended stay, you’ll find a range of lodging and dining available in the town of Wrightwood, less than 4 miles from the ski resort.
Mammoth Mountain Resort, Mammoth Lakes
At 11,053 feet, Mammoth Mountain boasts the highest summit of any California resort, making for deeper, better snow and breathtaking scenic views. The resort has 3,500 skiable acres, an average of 400 inches of snowfall, and 300 days of sunshine per year. Because of the elevation, the ski season here typically stretches from November to June.
Mammoth is known for some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the nation. It has seven different and unique terrain parks with 3 halfpipes, 100 jibs, and 50 jumps. It’s no wonder pros like Shaun White and Chloe Kim love Mammoth.
Mammoth Mountain Resort is just over 300 miles from both Los Angeles and San Francisco. Once you arrive, you can park your vehicle and take advantage of the free shuttle buses that run throughout Mammoth Lakes and The Village.
Mammoth has winter activities that no other Southern California ski resort has. Tubing, of course, but they also offer cross-country skiing, back-country tours, snowmobile riding, and scenic gondola rides that transport visitors to the summit, where you’ll be stunned with the 360-degree views.
Where To Stay
Mammoth has a wide collection of lodging and dining venues. Everything from luxury cabin rentals to several lodges and inns, even an RV park. Many offer stay-and-ski packages.
Always check the weather and ski conditions in the Southern California mountains. While it may be warm in Los Angeles, mountaintops elevations can be quite a bit colder. All the resorts listed have current weather and ski conditions on their websites.