Pros: Fantastic snowmaking and grooming, 320 day of sunshine a year, varied terrain, top notch parks, easily accessible, great instructors, friendly staff
Cons: crowded in the afternoons on weekends, spring conditions in the afternoons on many days, limited night life, poor parking facilities
Big Bear Mountain Resorts is actually two ski areas: Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. A dual mountain pass provides access to both and a shuttle service is provided between the two ski areas. I have been a season pass holder for a number of years and am proud to call these my home mountains. No, they don't compare to Mammoth or Tahoe Resorts but, if you live in SoCal and would like to ski 30 plus days a year, Big Bear is your best choice. I still ski Mammoth or Utah or Colorado, but I also ski every weekend and holiday in Big Bear. These ski resorts are absolutely worth the drive and, if you work the mountain right, the crowds aren't as bad as advertised.
Let me start with the usual negatives and point out the silver lining:
- These are day destination resorts with limited terrain. True ... but a dual mountain pass enables you to ski both areas. The Bear Mountain only pass, allows night skiing at Summit.
- The "double black" and "black diamonds" aren't. They are more like Mammoth blue runs. However, this same marking keeps the congestion down on those runs so go and enjoy!
- The climate is mild and the afternoons become soft (or slushy in spring). True, sunshine is awful! The mornings usually have great conditions and everyone else is sleeping in, so there are few crowds ... and the resort offers a voucher if you leave before 1:00 P.M. (about $19.00) which is good for the next 12 months, no blackout days. Got more than one voucher saved up? No problem; combine them for a bigger discount. Get first chair, ski hard, get a voucher, come back, and repeat. Better yet, arrive half an hour before first chair and you will actually get a great parking space!
- The base is a zoo! Yes, it is. Don't let if fool you. It's crowded mostly with "looky loos" and often the runs themselves are not as crowded as the base area would lead you to believe. I've hit the runs more than once with a "well, I 'm here now so I might as well ski one attitude" only to ski straight onto lifts all morning.
SoCal residents who love to ski and ski regularly choose Big Bear Mountain Resorts for good reasons.
Fantastic snowmaking, and an almost unlimited supply of water from the lake, means that man creates what mother nature doesn't always provide - a decently long ski season. Both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit traditionally open before Thanksgiving, are usually close to fully open by Christmas Vacation, and remain open into mid April. That's as good as many of the big resorts nationwide.
A fantastic grooming team, prepares the runs each night so that the corduroy is great right from first chair.
The climate means there is little ice; just nice, solid hard pack.
Two high speed quads at the base get you up the mountain quickly in the morning ... again I SAID in the morning.
Two different ski resorts means two different vibes; pick your flavor.
Snow Summit is family oriented, welcomes both skiers and snowboarders, and has a beginner/intermediate terrain park for those progressing in the sport. Summit is friendly and very laid back. The terrain park and beginner areas are often very crowded on weekends and holidays, leaving the intermediate and advanced runs relatively crowd free ... if you avoid Miracle Mile and Log Chute that is!
Bear Mountain appeals more to the 20 something crowd. Although it welcomes both skiers and boarders, most of the resort is dedicated park terrain. The terrain park has some really ADVANCED boarders and the pace is fast! After all, Sean White did get his start here! It's no accident that Bear Mountain placed 33rd in Outside Magazines 2012 top 40 nationwide, resort rankings. It's definitely more of a party atmosphere; but if the snow gets soft, you can grab a beer and be entertained by the action in the park. For skiers, Bear offers the best local advanced terrain at the peak and there aren't many others up there. Geronimo is a nice long run, and decently steep for SoCal. Start at Bear; ski the AM, kick back, have a beer and watch the action in the park, then head over to Summit for night skiing. It makes for a great day!
Am I biased? Unabashedly so! My screen name says it all! I have skied for 43 years and, although my ski bucket list is still HUGE, I have skied a lot of mountains. I have to ski, and would rather ski a full season than just experience a couple of great trips. My motto - do both. It's really not a choice!