Have a B-trip to LA this winter. Any one skied the near by areas?
The skiing in LA is surprisingly good. You have your choice between a number of resorts but i will outline the ones i know the most about. The thing about socal is that people there are really into snowboarding so the trick is to stay away from the areas overcrowded with terrain parks.
1) Mt High: Located probably hr and a half from LA has a lot of nice terrain and good snowmaking. The really nice place about me high is that they have 2 areas within 2 miles that you can take a bus in between for free. The east area has 1,200 ft of vert and a lot of really nice slopes that are long and have a moderate pitch. Also, the east area is less about terrain features which means that it is MUCH less crowded but also means that they devote less time and effort to snowmaking. Also, it is a little lower in elevation by 300 or 400 feet which can make quite a difference on a poor snow year or real late season. The west area is really nice and has a lot of options especially if there is ample natural snow. However if you are there on a weekend it can be packed with snowboarders. If you go to Mt. High i would suggest going to the west area early in the morning then have a lunch there at the outside grill, great burgers, then head over to the east area.
2) Mt. Baldy: Have not been there but have heard that it is an amazing area in a good snowfall year. They have a vert of 2,100 so really do have the advantage when it comes to size. However, they have little to no snowmaking so unless there has been a good amount of snow go somewhere else (on a good snow year they can have a base up to 6-8 feet!!!!). Also, they cater to skiers but beware of going there if it is snowing because the roads are very windy and you dont want to be behind a california driver in snow.
3) Big Bear area: Snow valley, snow summit, and Bear Mountain are all in this area. Stay away from bear if you dont want to do terrain parks, it is 100% covered by terrain features. Snow summit and snow valley are nice and cater to both skiers and boarders. They have 600-1000 ft of vert (cant remember the exact) but have a nice variety of terrain. Snow summit and Bear have by far the best snowmaking in Big Bear because they can draw directly from Big Bear Lake. Even on a really poor snow year they will both have bases of 3-5 feet of manmade.
As far as i know those are the 5 resorts in socal. If you are driving make sure to be prepared for anything and carry chains because they are required on the mountain roads. Hope this helps!!
I go to LA 2-4 times per year on business. In the winter months I always schedule the weekend before or the weekend after for skiing. With one exception I have always gone to Mammoth and/or June. Mammoth is world class and reliable from Nov. - May and perhaps longer. It is an easy 5 hr. drive from LA. Twice I've skied Mammoth on the 4th of July. From Pasadena, I take 210W, 5N, 14 N, 395N. The latter goes thru the desert, the Antelope Valley and the Owens Valley. It is basically flat and lightly traveled. The Highway Patrol will give you 80 with no hassle, just obey the posted limits in the towns, even if it drives you nuts; there are only a few of them. Beginning in Bishop the road climbs steadily from 4500 ft. to 7000 at Mammoth Lakes, but it is never twisting and is always very well cleared. Bishop to Mammoth Lakes is about 40 minutes.
Big Bear/Snow Summit is perhaps 3 hrs. from LA but the mountain roads for the last 45 minutes are white knucklers, far tougher than those leading to Mammoth. The terrain at BB/SS is nice but there is no upper end to compare with Mammoth. There is a vast cultural difference between Mammoth and BB/SS, if you care about such things - I don't. The average age at BB/SS is half what it is at Mammoth. On a warm sunny day the women in the outdoor grills/bars are stunning. Snowboarders outnumber skiers on most days. I brought only my board on the weekend I went there. It's worth a look see if you are in LA in winter.
The real gem of the close in areas is Baldy. It is just 45 minutes from Pasadena (my business location) and the terrain is gorgeous, seriously steep and lots of it. However I've never been there when it had snow. To get there you take an exit off 210E, drive thru a suburban neighborhood which turns into a switchbacking mtn. rd. that climbs about 2500 ft. in 5 miles. When you start down that suburban road you would never dream where it would take you in just 5 miles. The backside of Baldy (actual name Mt. San Antonio) is a huge bowl with a backcountry hut which is a treasured backcountry destination. It's on my list.
I've driven by Mtn. High in summer, never skied there. There is backcountry skiing with an enthusiastic following on Mt. Baden-Powell in the San Gabriels and Mt. Pinos in the range along the coast. A few years ago Couloir stated that 75% of the backcountry skiers in the US live within a 100 mile radius of LA.
Subject: Calif. Ramblin', Part 2 - Powder at Mammoth & June
From: Denis Bogan <denis_bogan@YAHOO.COM>
Reply-To: Vermont Skiing Discussion and Snow Reports <SKIVT-L@LIST.UVM.EDU>
Date: Sun, 4 Feb 2001 19:07:31 -0800
I had a NASA meeting in Pasadena on Jan. 29 & 30. The travel arranger
stated that she could save the gov't $2000 if I was willing to fly to LA
on Fri. Hmm, methinks, they ski in So. Calif don't they? Thus I found
myself in a United cattle car very fortunately sitting between 2 pleasant
fellows neither of whom weighed 300 lbs., both skiers from LA. Even as we
flew LA was havin a major "Pineapple Express" rainstorm. We quickly
established a couple of things,
1. The close by hills can be very good but get huge crowds. This would
not be helped by a Sat. with clearing before dawn following a big dump.
2. The access roads to the local hills are steep in the last few miles
and are as likely to have chain restrictions as Mammoth. I'd be well
advised to get a 4WD for the weekend.
3. The local hill with the great backcountry access is Baldy (will file
that one away).
4. Driving north out of LA the last sizable towns are Palmdale and
Lancaster. Both have tons of cheap motels. It is normally a 1 hr. drive,
expect 2+ on Fri. evening rush hour in the rain. For someone still on
eastern time it would be real easy to get started at 5 AM and be at
Mammoth by 9-10. Route is 405N, 5N, 14N, 395N.
5. They howled with laughter at my mapquest printout saying 7 hrs. 55
min. from LAX to Mammoth Lakes. "Not at 80 MPH my friend."
So the decision was made; it would be Mammoth.
Mammoth's base is at 8000 ft. and summit at 11000. I never have any
problem with altitude if I hydrate like crazy and lay off alchol. So I
left a full Camelbak on the nightstand and took a few swallow every time I
rolled over. Excitement ensured light sleeping. In the AM I put another
full Camelbak on the passenger seat and continued hydrating while driving
through the desert. Many pit stops were made and I didn't get there til
The desert is bleak and magnificent. After Lancaster is the town of
Mohave (as in the desert) and it is wide open and flat from there to
Bishop, 30 miles from Mammoth Lakes. The road runs up the eastern side of
the Sierras and I have long known of its reputation as accessing a huge
amount of the world's best backcountry skiing. I almost went off the road
many times staring at the couloirs, bowls. and vast fields of white so
close they looked like I could reach out the window and touch them. North
of Bishop, especially, your jaw will drop. At one point you are less than
30 miles from Mt. Whitney, highest point in the lower 48, on one side and
30+ miles from Death Valley, lowest and hottest point on the other side.
It doesn't look like it, but mountain summits that begin rising at the
side of the road are over 10000 ft. higher than the valley floor where you
are driving. It is the greatest vertical relief over just a few miles in
the lower 48, and surpassed by few places anywhere. Once you reach Bishop
you climb rapidly 3000 ft. in 30 miles and the environment becomes very
At several points I was tempted to stop the car and start climbing some
nameless world class descent, not a good idea within 12 hours of a major
storm cycle and nobody within miles to locate your beacon. I did not stop
for the world's greatest jerky, having gotten annoyed by the 2 dozen
billboards spread over 200 miles.
Knowing that the town would be full, I got a place to stay before going to
the mtn. As a bail out position there is plenty of lodging in Bishop but
I had driven enough for one day. Mammoth's skier visits have increased
about 40% since before Intrawest took over. They haven't spent any money
on the baselodge which was inadequate before and seriously so now. It is
as convoluted as a maze and no matter how many times I go there I can't
find my way around without asking for help. In contrast, the mountain is
one of the best anywhere. On this morning it had 24" of new 4% powder,
with more still falling lightly. About half the population of LA was
there as well. The corniced top ridge with it's dozens of scary steep
chutes was inaccessible due to whiteout. I would love to ski them in 2
ft. of fresh powder but I seem to be more prone than most to vertigo in
whiteout and would not have gone there alone, even if the top lifts were
open. I did a fair amount of exploring on about 8 lifts but found the
steepest slopes and the least cut up powder on the Broadway lift right in
front of the lodge. It runs to the top of an old subsidiary cone of the
volcano with a steep face and just enough trees to keep your reference.
Most of the skiers take the blue runs that loop around and avoid the face.
As I came in at day's end with a big grin a smiling Mammoth employee
asked me if anything could have made my day's experience better. I said,
well I've had a great day but waist deep untracked powder in the trees
would be nice. He said, that's easy, just go to June, nobody goes there,
any trees you see will have untracked. June Mtn. is 10 miles as the crow
flies, 40 min. on the road, owned by Mammoth and they would honor my 2 day
Mammoth ticket. The guy had raccoon eyes and a skier's look and had taken
note of my tele boots before replying. I gave him a big thanks and took
Sun. morning dawned cloudless and cobalt blue. The June Mtn. parking lot
had about 50 cars. No shuttle bus wait today, thank you. The base
station consists of rest rooms and a ticket booth. You ride up 1200 ft.
on an old slow double chair (pole in the middle no safety bar) getting a
good view. The steep slopes below had half a dozen sets of tracks.
Clearly there were rocks and stumps but they looked easily avoidable. The
mid June chalet has a cafeteria, bar, big stone fireplace and walls lined
with pictures and trophys dating back to the 1930s. I asked a patroler
eating breakfast why there was a rope across the entrance to the face that
I had just ridden over. He said let me ask the area director and turned
to the guy next to him. June is like that; a lot like Mad River in feel.
Answer - there just wasn't enough cover yet although some folks had
poached it. He thought I'd do better going up, so I did. He recommended
chairs 4 & 7. I found 4 first. To get there you have to take another
chair over a long flat plateau. Chair 4 serves blue cruisers with swaths
of trees between them. I looked back at 30 empty chairs behind me and in
front of me. I looked at the swath of trees to my right. A light breeze
stirred and the conifers dropped a fairy dust of powder. The wall of
trees was dense at the edge of the lift line, but it always is due to the
greater availablity of light and growing space at the edge. Look deeper
and you will find it. I stared hard and suddenly the hallways of
glistening white began to appear. I looked around again, one snowboarder
well behind. I tried not to wet my pants.
50 feet after unloading I was in the trees. Bounce, stay light, don't
hang onto a turn, stay close to the fall line so as not to run out of
speed. The snow flowed sensuously over my thighs, 3 turns, 5, then a hard
slamming fall for no good reason. I was trapped, both skis under a big
log, head 3 feet downhill of my feet, mouth and nose full of cold snow. A
moment of panic. (How can anybody caught in an avalanche remain cool
enough to not get a mouthfull of snow?) Nothing hurt so I laid there long
enough to calm down and assess the situation. I had water, power bars,
and a transmitting beacon. If after a reasonable time I still couldn't
get out I could probably yell loud enough to attract attention eventually.
I was barely out of sight from the open slopes. Why in hell did I stop
carrying a whistle when I bought a beacon? That was dumb. I was 15 min.
getting unstuck and on my feet, another 10 calming down, cooling off and
having a little food & water. Reassessment time; you're alone - yeah but
this swath is only 200 yards wide all the way down and that's yelling
range; There could be more logs - yeah but this was a million to one shot
no ripple on the snow and a wide spot with no dead branches on the nearby
trees. I decided to continue and took run after perfect run in those
trees. After one or two of them it all came together. Believe and the
next hallway will appear when you get there. Connect the spaces, rise and
sink - flooow. The liftie immediately figured out what I was up to and
gave me a big SEG every time I came back. I explored only two of these
tree swaths; there was no need to range further. I never got to lift 7.
At 2, facing a long drive back to LA and beginning to get that dead legs
feeling I had lunch and a reeb. The bartender told me that June is
natural snow only and opened for the season on Jan. 15. Mammoth is a
fabulous mountain but if you are there when it's crowded with new powder
Thanks, Denis....a wonderful article and spell binding account of a "die for" ski day.
snow is in the forecast for so-cal resorts. maybe even today.