The Snow Report
You wouldn’t think Southern California gets snow, but San Bernardino National Forest (a 1.5-hour drive from Joshua Tree National Park) gets 100 inches every winter. Bear Mountain takes advantage of the stuff—and adds a bunch of its own—to maintain a small but worthwhile ski resort where advanced athletes feel at home, though 30 percent of its 748 skiable acres are reserved for first-timers and “low intermediates.”
Whatever your skill level, this is a great place to get better. Bear’s got three pipes and three jump-and-jib-filled skill-builder parks. There’s also night riding and, on powder days (more than 10 percent of the season), backcountry terrain opens. Oh, and if you’re gonna spill, do it here: The ski patrol is more than 250 members strong, and you’ll be less than a mile from Bear Valley Community Hospital.
Instructional pricing is more reasonable than at other mountains: Packages for beginners last year included the “Big Deal:” $89 for four hours of help (a $242 value) and touch-up lessons for expert skiers for $29 per hour with a top teacher.
Bear Mountain protects wild animals by providing safe habitat to bobcats, mountain lions, bears, and deer. The conservation program extends beyond that too: Every light source has been made more efficient, and 120 recycling bins collect waste. Though Bear Mountain does engage in snowmaking, it’s cut its water usage by 30 percent, mainly by installing a sensor system on the golf course.
Know, though, that some things don’t exist at Bear: There isn’t a staffed kids’ program. You won’t find ski valets or butlers. And the resort doesn’t offer any overnight accommodations—though you can easily find a rental house or a camping spot nearby. The village of Big Bear Lake, two miles away, is where to book if you want a hotel. The little town also has an excellent restaurant, Peppercorn Grille, plus an alpine coaster, a tube park, and companies that’ll take you zip-lining or for a helicopter tour.
CONTACT: (909) 866-5841, bearmountain.com
SEASON: Mid-November to early May
TICKETS: General: $69, children: $32, ages 62 and older: $59, ages 6 and younger: free