Although Hollywood is literally in the shadows of the mountains, people are still surprised to hear that there are prominent mountains just minutes from downtown. These local mountains, the San Gabriel’s, climb up above 10,000 feet in a number of spots. At high elevations you can even ski. The most popular local ski area is at an alpine lake two hours away in San Bernardino. Big Bear Lake is a quaint small town with three ski resorts, but Bear Mountain is the spot that typically yields the most snow and, therefore, the skier’s favorite.
What Makes It Great
Despite its general lack of snow, crowds and lack of trail diversity, Big Bear is an awesome day trip from Los Angeles. The ability to wake up with sunshine and palm trees, and get on snow by early morning is something that will surprise you every time you go.
The mountain itself is surprisingly impressive for being in Southern California, 100 miles from downtown LA. Bear has 12 serviceable lifts (3 of which are magic carpets though so you can pretty much ignore those) that reach four peaks above eight thousand feet. The highest, Bear Peak, reaches all the way up to 8,805 ft and has a vertical drop of 1,665 ft. That is not an unsubstantial amount of terrain to cover, especially when talking to someone who grew up skiing on the dwarfed old mountains of the east coast.
All that is great, but the real appeals of Bear Mountain are the terrain parks. Most of the trails include park feature and allow for boundless combinations from any part of the mountain. The features range in difficulty from a small “kicker” (jump) to a 15-stair handrail and a full vert halfpipe. The more snow they get, the more they can do so make sure to look on their website before you go to check out what they have.
Who is Going to Love It
The terrain is lively and 1,700 feet of ski-able mountain make for a fun adventure. Since Bear Mountain relies heavily on man-made snow for their base and groomed, this means that there is not a lot of backcountry or off-trail alternatives. The mountain is really best for beginners and terrain park aficionados. If you are into skiing groomed runs or looking to work on your skills ,whether its just riding groomers or in the park, then Bear is great. When the mountain gets hit with a storm there is bountiful options for fun the woods, but, given the recent drought conditions, these days are becoming more rare.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
From Pasadena, take the 210 east towards San Bernardino. Stay on the CA-210 for 52 miles, then exit at CA-330 N/City Creek Raod. CA-330 leads up the mountains - after 15 miles it intersects the CA-18, take the CA-18 towards Big Bear Lake. After another 16 miles, this turns into Big Bear Boulevard – this will take you through the central part of town. After you pass the entrance to Snow Summit you will encounter Moonridge Road, turn right and go for a mile- the entrance to Bear Mountain will be on your right.