Skiing and Snowboarding in Southern California

  • 01 of 11

    8 Places to Ski, Snowboard and Snowshoe Near Los Angeles

    Snow Summit Ski Resort at Big Bear
    ••• Snow Summit Ski Resort at Big Bear. Photo courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resorts

    Most people think of beaches and Hollywood when they think of LA, but the city is surrounded by  mountains.  So it's not really surprising that there  is also a thriving winter skiing, snowboarding and snowshoeing culture with multiple ski resorts in easy driving distance of Los Angeles. With the closest ski runs under an hour and a half from the coast, once winter comes, you can hone your moves on a surfboard or kiteboard at the beach and a snowboard in the mountains, all on the same day if you're so inclined.

    If you're looking for a destination for a week-long ski or snowboarding vacation, I'd go farther afield to bigger locations with more trails and reliable snow, like Mammoth, Lake Tahoe or Alta, Utah. But if you just want to stay in good ski condition or try out skiing or snowboarding for a day or two to see if you like it, there are a number of ski areas near Los Angeles that will do the trick.

    Winter sport areas range from highly developed resorts with many lifts, groomed runs,...MORE snowmaking machines, nightlife and plenty of lodging to simple ski areas with minimal amenities and undeveloped backcountry ski areas.  

    In addition to alpine downhill skiing, which has been popular in the Southern California mountains since the early 20th century, snowboarding has its early roots here, and Nordic cross-country skiing and snowshoeing are increasing in popularity. In recent years, more dedicated tubing and other snow play areas have also been developed for more family fun options.

    On the next pages are photos and details of the top ski and snowboard areas near Los Angeles and the pros and cons of each.

    Note: The travel times listed are without traffic, and if it's ski season, there will be plenty of traffic on the weekends, so take that with a grain of salt.

    First up >>>>Big Bear

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  • 02 of 11

    Skiing at Big Bear

    Big Bear Ski Area at Sunset
    ••• Big Bear Ski Area across Big Bear Lake at Sunset. Photo by Dennis Bentson, courtesy of Bear Mountain Resorts

    Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains is the most popular ski and snowboarding destination near Los Angeles. It is not the closest ski area, but with two ski resorts, abundant dining, plenty of locally owned inns, lodges, chalets and vacation rentals and lots of other things to do on the mountain, it has the most to offer, especially for families. Some things that are often within a ski resort are separate at Big Bear, like snowshoeingsnow tubing and ziplining, which can be found nearby, but are independently owned and operated.

    The two ski and snowboarding resorts at Big Bear are Snow Summit and Bear Mountain, both part of Bear Mountain Resorts, which was bought by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in 2014. If you made a reservation at the resorts prior to September 2014, be sure to re-confirm, since reservations have not carried over. With the acquisition came the creation of the Cali4nia Pass, which gives unrestricted access to all four California mountain resorts including...MORE Mammoth, June Mountain, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.

    Since the resorts are so different from each other, I have included separate descriptions on the next pages.

    Continue to 3 of 11 below.
  • 03 of 11

    Snow Summit at Big Bear

    Snow Summit Ski Resort at Big Bear Lake
    ••• Snow Summit Ski Resort at Big Bear Lake. Photo courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resorts

    Snow Summit
    880 Summit Blvd,
    Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
    909 866-5766
    888 SUMMIT 1
    www.snowsummit.com

    Distance from LA: 104 miles, 2:10

    Snow Summit is the closest ski resort to Big Bear Lake Village. It is more popular with skiers than snowboarders, with more long runs and fewer terrain features than its nearby neighbor, Bear Mountain. Its Family Park on the west side of the resort is popular with beginners and kids. Most beginning skiers find the slopes here better than the beginner area at Bear Mountain, which is flatter.

    With snow-making on 100% of the 24 ski runs, Snow Summit has more open days than the ski areas without snow-making facilities. Snow Summit gets more crowded than Bear Mountain, but with an uphill capacity of 18,550 per hour, even when it's crowded, people are moving.

    One of the other fun features of Snow Summit is nighttime skiing on weekends and holidays. The rental shop and ticket office open at 7:30 on open weekends so you can be ready for the first 8 am lift runs allowing...MORE for maximum time on the mountain. Lift tickets for Snow Summit are also good for Bear Mountain, and there's a free shuttle between the two. There is a significant discount on lift tickets ordered online at least 48 hours in advance.

    There are multiple eating and drinking establishments at Snow Summit including two mountaintop restaurants with amazing views.

    There are not a lot of the kind of huge rental condos you'll find at Mammoth or Lake Tahoe, but lots of small hotels, lodges and vacation rentals.

    Bonus:  Free lift ticket on your birthday. Ski, Stay and Save Packages are available.

    Mountain Stats:
    Skiable area: 240 acres
    Top elevation: 8,200 ft
    Base Elevation: 7,000 ft
    Vertical descent: 1200 ft
    Skiable Miles: 18
    Longest Run:  Westridge 1.25 miles
    Number of Lifts: 14
    Uphill Capacity: 18,550 Per Hour
    Number of runs: 27
    Skill Rating: Beginner 10%, Low Intermediate 25%, 40% Intermediate, 25% Advanced
    Activities Available: Skiing, Snowboarding, snowshoeing and  snow tubing and ziplining nearby
    Skills Parks:  Snow Summit’s terrain parks are located on the Westridge run, ZZYZX, and Ego Trip, while the Family Park sits to the west catering to beginner park riders and kids.
    Average Snowfall: 100 inches
    Snowmaking: on all 240 acres
    Equipment Rental: Yes
    Lessons:  Yes
    Night Skiing: Yes
    Dining:  Multiple restaurants and bars at the base plus the ski in/ski out Slopeside Pub, View Haus at the top of the mountain, Summit Haus at the top of Chair 2.
    Lodging: abundant in the area

    Continue to 4 of 11 below.
  • 04 of 11

    Bear Mountain Ski Resort at Big Bear

    Bear Mountain Resort
    ••• Skiing at Bear Mountain Resort. Photo courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resorts

    Bear Mountain
    43101 Goldmine Dr
    Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
    (909) 866-5766
    888 SUMMIT 1
    www.BearMountain.com

    The second resort at Big Bear Lake is Bear Mountain. Both Snow Summit and Bear Mountain are owned by Bear Mountain Resorts (now owned by Mammoth Ski Area), so one lift pass gives you access to both resorts via a free shuttle to transport you the 10 minutes between the two. You can also get an annual pass with access to all 4 Mammoth-owned resorts.

    Bear Mountain is the most popular destination for snowboarders due to its multiple and ever-expanding terrain parks. Since snowboarding skews young, you'll find young adults and teens dominate "the Scene," the name for the multiple bars, snack bars, restaurants  and shops at the Bear Mountain base area. There are no mountaintop restaurants at Bear Mountain, so if you're looking for lunch on high, you'll have to go over to Snow Summit. There's also no night skiing, so some people head over to Snow Summit for a few night...MORE runs after a day on Bear Mountain.

    Most of the snowboarding action is on the lower part of the mountain in the terrain parks, and there can be huge crowds. If you stay on the top of the mountain, you can avoid most of the lines. Most of the beginner area is reserved for those taking lessons.

    Bear Mountain does have the longest single run at Big Bear, which is the 1.5-mile Geronimo Trail.

    Bonus:  Free lift ticket on your birthday. Ski, Stay and Save Packages are available.

    Mountain Stats:
    Distance from LA: 106 miles, 2:10 hrs
    Skiable area:  198 acres Developed area, 550 acres accessible undeveloped terrain.
    Top elevation: 8,805ft
    Base Elevation: 7,140 ft
    Vertical descent: 1700 ft
    Skiable Miles:  17
    Longest Run: Geronimo 1.5 miles
    Number of Lifts: 12
    Uphill Lift Capacity:  16,590 per hour
    Number of runs: 32
    Skill Rating: 15% Beginner, 15% low intermediate, 40% intermediate, 30% advanced
    Activities Available: Downhill skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing and  snow tubing and ziplining nearby
    Skills Parks: 4 different parks for freestyle skiing and snowboarding with all kinds of ramps, jumps, pipes, rails and jibs.
    Average Annual Snowfall: 100 inches
    Snowmaking: 198 acres
    Equipment Rental: Yes
    Lessons:  yes
    Night Skiing: No
    Dining:  a café, multiple restaurants and bars
    Lodging: abundant in the area

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  • 05 of 11

    Mountain High

    Mountain High Ski Resort
    ••• Ridge Run at Mountain High Ski Resort. Photo by Graham King via Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

    Mountain High Resort

    24510 California 2
    Wrightwood, CA 92397
    (888) 754-7878
    www.mthigh.com

    Mountain High, near Wrightwood, is on the north side of the San Gabriel Mountains. It is the closest full-service ski and snowboarding resort to Los Angeles with access to on-site dining and equipment rental and nearby lodging. One of the things locals like about it is that you can drive around the mountain to get there and avoid a lot of windy mountain driving.

    Mountain High is actually three different resorts a mile apart that go by the inspired names of West Resort, East Resort and North Resort. The lift pass is good for all three and there's a free shuttle between them. If there hasn't been a lot of snow, some of the trails may not be open, since they only have snow-making ability on 80% of the runs. In fact, they may have as few as 10 of 59 trails open, especially at the beginning of the season before the snow builds up, so check the trail status before heading to the mountain.

    If you've...MORE already skied some of the best resorts in the world, you may be disappointed in the scale and some of the outdated amenities like the older lifts. However, if there has been good snow and the full facility is open, there are some good technical runs for advanced skiers. Mountain High can also be a great beginner resort, especially if you don't fit the average skier demographic.  They have special programs for seniors, women over 30 and an adaptive program for learners with various disabilities. They also have winter weekend ski day-camps for children and teens.

    Each of the three Mountain High resorts has differences in terrain, atmosphere and operating hours.

    The West Resort is the biggest of the three with 34 trails and eight lifts. It has the most technical trails and unique terrain features for progressive riders and skiers of all skill levels, with 17 advanced trails and Vertigo, an expert-only trail. Most of the on-hill contests, promotions and live performances happen at West Resort, making it popular with the teen crowd. It is also Southern California's only local resort open for night skiing five nights a week during peak season.

    Peaking at 8,200 feet, the East Resort has the longest trails and some of the best views, looking out over the Mojave Desert.  The longest trails are the intermediate Goldrush and the expert Goldrush to Sundance, both about 1.6 miles. There are 16 trails You can enjoy the scenery from the Grand View Bistro at the top of the Mountain High Express quad chair lift.

    North Resort, directly across Angeles Crest Highway (Highway 2) from the West Resort, is a remake of the former Ski Sunrise at Table Mountain.  North is the smallest of the three ski areas, with 10 trails and only one lift, and is kind of an upside down resort. The parking and amenities are toward the top of the mountain, so you ski down, and take the lift back up to the resort. North Resort offers 70 acres of easy terrain, great for families and beginning skiers. Another feature of North is the North Pole Tubing Park, the largest groomed tubing area in Southern California. North Resort is only open Friday through Sunday in peak season.

    Most locals ski Mountain High as a day trip, but there is a motel and rental cabins in Wrightwood and additional hotels in Phelan, about 20 minutes away.

    Mountain High is 30 miles farther than Mt. Baldy or Mt. Waterman, but takes only a few minutes longer to get there from LA, since there's not a lot of windy mountain driving.

    Mountain High is at the intersection of CA Highway 2 and CA Highway 138. If you're just driving up for the scenery and enjoy windy mountain roads, you could take the Angeles Crest Highway (2) all the way over the mountain - assuming it's not closed by snow - but it's not the fastest way to get there. There are multiple freeway routes around the west end of the mountains via the 405 N to 14 E and local roads to 138 E, or around the mountains to the east via the 210 (or 10, or 60) E to 15 N to 138 W.

    Mountain Stats:
    Distance from LA: 86 miles, 1:35 hrs
    Skiable area:  290 acres
    Top elevation:  8,200 East
    Base Elevation:  6,600 East
    Vertical descent: 1,600 East, 1,000 West, 600 North
    Longest Run:  1.6 miles Goldrush
    Number of Lifts:  14
    Uphill Lift Capacity: 16,000 per hour
    Number of runs:  59
    Skill Rating:  Beginner 25%, Intermediate 40%, Advanced 35%
    Activities Available:  Downhill skiing, snowboarding, tubing
    Terrain Parks:  Terrain features throughout the West Resort
    Average Snowfall:  132 in
    Snowmaking:  80%
    Lessons:  Yes
    Night Skiing: Yes
    Dining: Lodge and 2 snack bars at East, café and snack bar at West,  and a lodge at North
    Lodging:  A motel and rental cabins in Wrightwood, additional lodging 20 minutes away in Phelan, CA
    Other Amenities: Free shuttle between the 3 resorts, resort shops
    Summer Activities: Hiking, Disk Golf, dining, shopping

    Continue to 6 of 11 below.
  • 06 of 11

    Snow Valley

    Snow Valley Ski Resort, CA
    ••• Skiing at Snow Valley Ski Resort near Running Springs, CA. Photo courtesy of Snow Valley Ski Resort

    Snow Valley Mountain Resort
    35100 California 18
    Running Springs, CA 92382
    (909) 867-2751
    Snow Line: (800) 680-SNOW
    www.Snow-Valley.com

    Snow Valley Mountain Resort is located just outside of Running Springs, about half way between Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear Lake on Highway 18. Its lower elevation – about 1000 feet lower than Bear Mountain - means that Snow Valley usually doesn't get snow as soon at the resorts at Big Bear. It only has snow-making ability on half the trails, so they may have only a few of their 28 trails running if there hasn't been a lot of snow.

    Snow Valley has a nice combination of technical trails and beginner terrain that makes it popular for families and groups with diverse skills levels. It's known for being more economical, more friendly and less crowded than the Big Bear resorts. One reason it's less crowded is the lack of adjacent lodging. You'll likely have to drive the rest of the way to Big Bear or to Lake Arrowhead or down to San Bernardino to find a...MORE place to sleep after your tiring day on the slopes. The other reason it's less crowded is that since there is no place to stay, there are fewer non-ski recreation activities available.

    Those shortcomings are a blessing if you're looking for a less crowded, reasonably priced resort within 2 hours of LA. In addition to 28 trails for skiing and snowboarding, there is a dedicated Snow Play Area for sledding (sleds provided). They offer nighttime skiing on Friday and Saturday nights in peak season, with a special afternoon-evening lift ticket aimed at teens coming up after school on Fridays.  There is also a Friday after-school program for kids in 1st through 8th grades.

    Refreshments are available at the base area Sun Deck, otherwise, there are additional restaurants in Running Springs.

    Bonus: Get a free lift ticket on your birthday! You can also often find discounts for Snow Valley lift tickets via fast food chains or ski websites.

    Mountain Stats:
    Distance from LA: 91 miles, 1:45 hrs
    Skiable area:  240
    Top elevation:  7,841
    Base Elevation:  6,800
    Vertical descent:  1,041
    Skiable Miles:
    Longest Run:  1.25 miles
    Number of Lifts:  12
    Number of runs:  28
    Skill Rating: 30% Beginner, 35% Intermediate, 30% Advanced, 5% Expert
    Activities Available:  Skiing, Snowboarding, tubing, family snow play area
    Night Skiing: Yes
    Terrain Parks:  Three parks for beginners, intermediate and advanced skiers
    Average Snowfall:  160 in
    Snowmaking:  Yes, 50%
    Equipment Rental: Yes
    Lessons:  Adults and kids
    Dining:  10 minutes away in Running Springs
    Lodging: The nearest lodging is in Running Springs and the west side of Big Bear, with Lake Arrowhead just a little farther in the opposite direction.

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  • 07 of 11

    Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts

    Mt Baldy
    ••• The view from the Top of the Notch restaurant at Mt. Baldy looking toward Los Angeles. Photo by Doc Searl via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Mount Baldy
    8401 Mt Baldy Rd
    Mt Baldy, CA 91759
    909 982-0800
    Snow Phone: 909 981-3344
    www.mtbaldyskilifts.com

    Mount Baldy Ski Area in the Angeles National Forest in the San Gabriel Mountains is the 2nd closest ski area to Los Angeles next to Mt. Waterman. Mt. Baldy is a nick name for Mt. San Antonio, but it's so ingrained, that it's the name of the nearest village as well.

    The ski area is about an hour and 15 minutes from Downtown LA and plus or minus an hour and a half from LA beaches – without traffic. It's the closest skiing to a beach. If you want to do the surf-to-ski challenge, the closest beaches are Seal Beach and Newport Beach in Orange County at 60 miles (1:22 drive time). Santa Monica Beach to Mt. Waterman is only 1.5 miles/5 minutes farther.

    Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts offers downhill skiing and snowboarding on 400 acres, much of it backcountry, accessed via 4 outdated lifts.  I have some friends who consider it the best local skiing when there is snow. About.com's Las Vegas Travel Expe...MORErt, Zeke Quezada, says, "Skiing the face with fresh snow is as good terrain as you can get anywhere." The mountain is a favorite of skiers who "use duct tape to fix their skis and love the local mountain feel of the place." Thirteen of the 26 runs are Advanced or Expert. It's not the best place for beginners, but they do have lessons.

    At Mt. Baldy, there's a ticket booth off the parking lot to buy your lift tickets. You take Chair 1, also known as the Sugar Pine Chair Lift, on a 15-minute ride up to the Notch  – the halfway point between two peaks. There you'll find rental equipment, ski school, ski patrol, restrooms and the Top of the Notch restaurant. There's also a Disc Golf course for off-season fun. If you're just going up to the Notch, you can buy a 1-lift ticket, but all the trails from the notch back down to the parking are double black diamond runs. To get to the beginner and intermediate trails higher up the mountain, you'll need an All-Lifts ticket.

    There's also a snow tubing park that may be fun for little kids but doesn't really have enough incline to get any momentum, and still requires you to take the lift up to the Notch. Allow plenty of time for getting in and out so you get the full use of your session time if you decide to do the tubing. 

    Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts did big Groupon promotions for the Lift plus Lunch and Lift plus Tubing, that got a lot of people to go try out the mountain, but they weren't prepared for the influx of people, and it has pretty much ruined the experience for most people, since they are not set up to accommodate the crowds. A lot of Groupon purchasers also seem unprepared for the fact that it's cold in the snow, especially with the wind chill factor of a 15-minute lift ride.

    One of the problems with the crowds is that, unless you're an expert skier, the only way back down to the parking lot is on the old 2-person lift, and everyone wants off the mountain at the same time. Guests have complained of waits as long as two and a half hours to get down to the parking lot after a busy weekend afternoon.

    Some people find the "vintage" Sugar Pine Chair Lift up to the Notch delightful – in the summer; In the winter, many find the 15-minute ride "scary," "unsafe," and "freezing." The view from the Notch is great, but the food at the Top of the Notch restaurant get's mediocre reviews – some say the bar food is better than in the restaurant.

    If you're an advanced skier who can go mid-week after a good snow and are expert enough to ski your way back to the parking lot, you're golden. Skiers dominate here, but advanced snowboarders can have some fun too.

    Skiing and snowboarding lessons are available. Equipment rental includes the basics.

    Aside from the skiing and snowboarding, Mt. Baldy is a popular mountain climbing and snowshoeing destination on every local peak bagger's bucket list.

    With just a handful of guest beds in Mt. Baldy Village, most visitors go up just for the day.

    Distance from LA: 55 miles/1:20 hrs
    Skiable area:  300 acres of labeled ski area, 400 acres served by chair lifts, 800 acres in permitted area.
    Top elevation:  8600
    Base Elevation:  6500
    Vertical descent:  2080
    Skiable Miles: 
    Longest Run:  2.5 miles
    Number of Lifts:  4
    Number of runs:  26
    Skill Rating: 20% Beginners, 40% Intermediate, 20% Advanced, 20% Expert
    Activities Available:  Downhill Skiing, Snowboarding, Tubing
    Terrain Parks:  1
    Average Snowfall:  150 in
    Snowmaking:  Yes
    Equipment Rental:  Yes
    Lessons:  Adults and Kids
    Night Skiing: No
    Dining:  a café, multiple restaurants and bars
    Lodging: There are a few guest beds to be had at the Buckhorn Lodge and Mt. Baldy Lodge in Mt. Baldy village, otherwise the nearest hotels are in Claremont and Upland at the bottom of the mountain.
    Amenities:  Top of the Notch Restaurant
    Summer activities: scenic ski lift, hiking, mountain biking, 18-hole disc golf  

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  • 08 of 11

    Mt. Waterman Ski Area

    Snowshoeing Mt. Watermnan
    ••• Snowshoeing Mt. Watermnan. Photo by Michael R. Perry via Flickr CC BY 2.0

    Mt. Waterman
    California 2
    Pearblossom, CA 93553
    (818) 790-2002
    www.mtwaterman.org

    Mount Waterman in the San Gabriel Mountains is a lesser known day ski and snowboarding area near Los Angeles, and the skiers who love it hope it stays that way. It is actually the closest skiing to LA at just 47 miles from City Hall. It was one of the first local areas used for skiing, with the first rope tow installed in 1939. The ski area was closed for a few years between 2001 and 2008 when it re-opened under new management. Mt. Waterman depends entirely on natural snow, so even though it's back in business, there have been years, such as 2011/2012 where there was not enough snow to open for the entire season.

    Mt Waterman has three chair lifts serving 24 runs, most of which are advanced or expert level. It is another upside down resort, with the amenities at the top of Chair 1, which you can catch just a few steps from the small parking lot. Like Mt. Baldy, non-advanced skiers will have to ride Chair 1 back...MORE down to the parking lot, since all the bottom ski runs are expert level. It's a bit of a trek to get from the top of Chair 1 to the bottom of Chair 2 to get farther up the hill to the beginner and intermediate slopes, and even farther to the bottom of Chair 3.

    During the season, Mt. Waterman is open weekends, holidays and Powder Days. Locals await those Powder Days with great anticipation, making sure to have a couple vacation or sick days in the bank to call off work. When the base is deep enough to cover the rocks and there's a fresh layer of powder, skiing Mt. Waterman is as good as anywhere.

    If you're planning on skiing Mt. Waterman you should have your own gear or rent it before you drive up as there is no rental available. If the lifts are running, there are restrooms, phones, ski patrol, food and drinks available at the Warming Hut at the top of Chair 1.

    A few miles further up the Angeles Crest Highway (2), is the abandoned Kafta Ridge resort that used to be owned by the same previous operators as Mt. Waterman, but was never reopened after avalanche and fire damage in 2001.

    Mountain Stats:

    Distance from LA: 49 miles/1:20 hrs
    Skiable area:  150 acres
    Top elevation:  8,000
    Base Elevation:  7,000
    Vertical descent: 1030 ft
    Skiable Miles:
    Longest Run: 
    Number of Lifts:  3
    Number of runs:  27
    Skill Rating: 20% Beginner, Intermediate 20%, Advanced 60%
    Activities Available:  Downhill skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing
    Terrain Parks:  No
    Average Snowfall:  130 in
    Snowmaking:  No
    Equipment Rental: No
    Lessons:  skiing and snowboarding, group lessons for 9 yrs and up, private 4 and up
    Night Skiing: No
    Dining:  Food and drinks at the Warming Bar
    Lodging:  No
    Summer Activities: Lift rides, mountain biking, hiking, 18 hole disk golf

    Continue to 9 of 11 below.
  • 09 of 11

    Rim Nordic Ski Area

    Rim Nordic Ski Area
    ••• Rim Nordic Ski Area. Photo courtesy of Rim Nordic Ski Area

    Rim Nordic Ski Area
    35050 California 18
    Running Springs, CA 92382
    (909) 867-2600
    rimnordic.com

    Cross-country skiing, also known as Nordic skiing, has been slow to develop in Southern California compared to Alpine skiing or snowboarding, which appeal more to adrenaline junkies. But it is growing in popularity, and resources are being developed to meet the demand. Rim Nordic Ski Area, located  in the San Bernardino Mountains just across the street from Snow Valley on Highway 18, is the first and only cross-country ski area in Southern California with machine-groomed trails for Nordic skiing, skating and snowshoeing.

    They offer lessons and rentals for traditional cross country skiing, ski-skating and snowshoeing.  In the off-season, the resort is used for mountain bike racing and trail running events.

    There is no restaurant on site, but there is a small shop that sells snacks, souvenirs and cold-weather gear you might have forgotten. There is a snack bar across the street at Snow Valley or...MORE restaurants in Running Springs. There are a few guest beds in Running Springs, otherwise the nearest lodging is about 20 minutes away at the west side of Big Bear Lake.

    Mountain Stats:
    Distance from LA: 91 miles/ 1:45 min
    Skiable area:  10 miles of groomed cross-country skiing and snowshoeing trails
    Top elevation: 6800
    Base Elevation:  6800
    Vertical descent:  ~
    Skiable Miles: 12.5
    Longest Run:  4 miles
    Number of Lifts:  0
    Number of runs:  6 cc-ski trails, 4 snowshoe-only trails
    Skill Rating: ski trails – 36% beginners, 32% intermediate, 32% advanced
    Activities Available:  Cross-country skiing/ski-skating, snowshoeing
    Skills Parks:  no
    Average Snowfall:  160 in
    Snowmaking:  No
    Lessons:  yes
    Night Skiing: No
    Dining:  No
    Lodging: The nearest lodging is in Running Springs and the west side of Big Bear, with Lake Arrowhead just a little farther in the opposite direction.
    Summer: mountain biking, trail running, hiking

    Continue to 10 of 11 below.
  • 10 of 11

    Mt. Pinos Nordic Skiing

    Mt Pinos Snowshoing
    ••• Snowshoeing at Mt. Pinos in the Los Padres National Forest near Frazier Park, CA. Photo by Marty B via Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

    It's easy to get confused about Mt. Pinos. It is the highest point in the San Emigdio Mountains in the Los Padres National Forest in Ventura County. The county line with Kern County cuts across the top of the mountain, so some think it's also the highest mountain in that county, a few feet higher than the other mountain that holds that title, Sawmill Mountain. Although Mt. Pinos means Pine Mountain, it shouldn't be confused with Pine Mountain in the San Bernardino National Forest south of Wrightwood or the Big Pine Mountain in Santa Barbara County. The nearest small town is Pine Mountain Club, but that's not what you're looking for either.

    Mt. Pinos is a completely BYO-DIY ski and snow-sport area, with cross-country skiing and snowshoeing being the dominant activity. There are some slopes, but no lifts, so it's not a great spot for downhill skiing.  There are no lessons, no equipment rental, no amenities beyond porta-potties. The Mt. Pinos Ski Area is a collaborative effort between...MORE the National Forest Service and the all-volunteer Mt. Pinos Nordic Patrol that operates a base station on weekends in a building right at the parking lot.  Don't look for the Mt. Pinos Nordic Base on the map, though, you'll be way lost. The reference point to look for is the Chula Vista Campground, Mt. Pinos (not to be confused with Chula Vista in San Diego).  It's at the very end of Mt. Pinos Road. Look up the directions, write them down and print them out. There's no cell reception on the mountain for your GPS. If you go right instead of left at the fork at Mill Potrero Highway, you'll end up in the town of Pine Mountain Club instead of up on Mt. Pinos.

    In addition to a trail map of ski and snowshoe trails, you'll need a National Forest Adventure Pass to park, both of which you can get at the Nordic Base on weekends. At other times, you can get them at the ranger station in Frazier Park. You can also get the Adventure Pass at any Big 5 sporting goods store before you head up, or on your way into Mt. Pinos at Mount Pinos Winter Sports, 7025 Cuddy Valley Road, Frazier Park, CA 93225, phone: (661) 245-3760. They're the last building on the right with the stenciled sign as you pass through the tiny community of Lake of the Woods in Frazier Park about 13 miles/25 minutes before you get to the Chula Vista parking area. They also have rental gear from skis and sleds to boots and gloves, but call ahead to see if they have what you need. Other places to grab an Adventure Pass on your way in are:

    Forest Service - Mt. Pinos Ranger District
    34580 Lockwood Valley Rd., Frazier Park 93225
    Daily, Annual & Secondary Passes
    661-245-3731

    Don's Liquor Mart
    616 Monterey Trail, Frazier Park, CA 93255
    Daily & Annual Passes
    661-245-1712

    Midway Market
    600 E. Border St., Frazier Park 93225
    Daily & Annual Passes
    661-245-1790

    According to the Mt. Pinos Nordic Base website, which offers much more useful information than the Los Padres National Park website:

     "Most of the winter sport activities on the Mt. Pinos District are between McGill Campground (elevation 7500 feet) and the summit of Mt. Pinos (elevation 8831 feet). The 2,000-acre area between McGill and the Chula Vista Parking Lot contains most of the marked Nordic ski trails. Although there are no particular trails from Chula Vista parking lot to the summit, this area is open to winter sports. Some areas have restrictions. These include motorized vehicle closures, avalanche area closures, and hazardous roads. Also, note that private property exists throughout the Forest. Please respect the property and privacy of others during your visit."

    If it does snow, getting this road open above the residential area is not the highest priority. If the snow level is really low, some people ski in from where the Kern County Highway Department closes the road. You can check for current Kern County Road Closures before heading up.

    Note: The Nordic Patrol created new maps in 2014-15 after realizing that the maps from the 1990s no longer reflect the current landscape and trails. So if you have an old map or find a map online, it may not be accurate.

    For more information or maps, you can also contact the Chuchupate Ranger Station between 8 am and 4:30 pm Monday through Saturday at 661- 245-3731.

    Los Padres National Forest Website:
    http://www.fs.usda.gov/lpnf

    Mount Pinos Nordic Base
    http://www.nordicbase.org/ 

    Frazier Park Area Chamber of Commerce
    www.mymountainchamber.com

    Mountain Stats:
    Distance from LA: 84 miles/1:40 hrs
    Skiable area:  14 miles of cross-country trails
    Top elevation:  8,847 ft
    Base Elevation:  8,300 ft
    Vertical descent:
    Skiable Miles:  14
    Longest Run: 
    Number of Lifts:  0
    Number of runs:
    Skill Rating:
    Activities Available:  Cross-country skiing, back-country skiing, telemark skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, tobogganing, tubing, snow play, snowmobiling on designated routes
    Skills Parks:  No
    Average Season:
    Average Snowfall:
    Snowmaking:  No
    Lessons:  No
    Equipment rental: No, nearest is Mount Pinos Winter Sports in Lake of the Woods, 7025 Cuddy Valley Road, Frazier Park, CA 93225 and their phone number is (661) 245-3760
    Amenities: portable toilets
    Night Skiing: No
    Dining:  None
    Lodging:  Camping

    Continue to 11 of 11 below.
  • 11 of 11

    Tips for Visiting LA Area Ski Resorts

    Tire Chains
    ••• Tire chains are required in most mountain ski areas during snowy conditions. Photo by Gary Alvis/Getty Images

    Check the ski and weather conditions. The websites for the top ski resorts show the current weather conditions on the mountain and on the slopes. Southern California has been known to go through entire seasons without enough natural snow for some resorts to open. With the yo-yo temperatures we have in winter, the mountain may be slush, even right after a big snow.

    Check which lifts and runs are open. You may have heard great things about a particular resort or ski area, but if you get up there and find out that 1 out of 12 chairlifts is running or 10 of 59 ski runs, the lines are likely to be long and you may not have access to the runs your friends thought were so great.

    Driving Tip: For all ski areas, tire chains may be required for snowy conditions. Roads may be closed. There may also be construction. Check the Caltrans wesbite or call (800) 427-7623 for current road closures, or dial 511 for current freeway and traffic information (also transit).

    Skip the resort rental line: If...MORE you're renting equipment, consider renting it before you leave LA or at rental shops in the nearest town to your ski destination. Rates are likely to be much lower and lines shorter than at the resort itself. Call ahead to check rates and reserve equipment.

    Be Considerate: Everyone is on the mountain to have fun. Everyone is dealing with the same lines and conditions. If you're a beginner, take a lesson and stay in beginner areas so you don't endanger more advanced skiers and snowboarders (or yourself). If you're more advanced than the people in front of you, have a little patience and give them some space to be out of your way.

    Manage Expectations: If you expect LA ski resorts to be on the grand scale of major ski destinations, you'll be disappointed. There are no 5-star accommodations at LA ski resorts. None. By following the above tips and reviewing what each ski area has to offer, you can be prepared and choose a ski area that will give you a fun day or weekend in the snow.

    Car-Free to Big Bear or Running Springs: If you don't want to drive the mountain roads, or don't have a car, you can take a Metrolink train from Union Station to San Bernardino, and catch the Big Bear - Off the Mountain Bus that stops at Snow Valley/Rim Nordic in Running Springs en route to Big Bear. It's not very practical for a day trip, because you have to kill about an hour in SB each way, and you'd only have from 10-3:30 at Big Bear or 9:35 to 3:55 at Snow Valley after leaving LA before 6 am. But if you catch the 3:40 Metrolink on Friday afternoon, you'll be in Big Bear at 7 pm, and the 3:30 bus down on Sunday (there's no later bus) will get you back to Union Station at 8:15 pm Sunday night. It's a long ride, but you can sleep instead of driving.

    Alternately, Greyhound's 4:15 bus from LA gets into San Bernardino 5 minutes before the Big Bear Bus leaves, and can get you back to LA by 7:20 Sunday.

    Information was accurate at the time of publication but is subject to change at any time.