Ok, I didn’t mean to get all Game of Thrones on you with the “Winter is Coming”, but….I mean, it is coming. Thankfully for those us not living in Westeros, Winter is less about crazy blue-eyed walking dead threatening us all and more about…you know…snow! And to those of you who don’t watch Game of Thrones, sorry to nerd out on you for a second. Anyway, moving on…
We love snow here in Southern California, and although we’re mostly known for this…
..and not so much this…
I can assure you that it DOES snow in California (yes, even Southern California), and when it does, we flock to the mountains, strap on our boards or skis, and have a great time! If you’re planning on visiting my fine state this season, you may be wondering just where you can go to get your Winter on. Well, friends…that’s what I’m here for.
So I mentioned earlier that it does snow in Southern California. The good news for our huge LA/San Diego population center is that there are some ski resorts in the local mountains, close enough to take a day trip even! Woo hoo!
Here are some good options for So Cal skiers and snowboarders…
Snow Summit is actually part of the Big Bear Resort (more on that in a minute), but is actually it’s own area. although the two resorts are close to each other. It’s one of the larger ski areas in Southern California and one of the most popular ski destinations within easy driving distance from Los Angeles and San Diego. It’s a great option if you’re visiting Southern California in the Winter and want to spend a day on the slopes.
Bear Mountain, located close to Snow Summit and managed by the same company, is another great option if you’re looking to hit the slopes in Southern California. I would say Bear is better if you’re looking for snow park options (i.e. jumps, rails, that kind of thing), but Snow Summit is better for just regular downhill skiing and snowboarding.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. Every year, Snow Valley offers a great deal on a package of lift tickets. The amount of tickets/prices vary from year to year, but if you’re looking to go as a group or if you’re interested in going up a few times during the season, they always have some good deals. Snow Valley is in the same area as Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, but it’s a little smaller and a little easier to get to. It’s actually the place I go to the most due to it’s proximity to my parents’ mountain cabin as well as their sales on lift tickets (hey, I’m a cheapskate), but it really is a fun little mountain. It’s great for beginners, but if you’re more advanced, they have some fun runs as well. It’s also usually less crowded than the other two options in the area, making it a fun, affordable, relaxing day on the slopes.
Mt. Baldy is another option, albeit less popular than the other resorts in the area, if you’re looking to hit the slopes in Southern California. It’s a little smaller and less maintained than the other resorts, but it’s much closer to Los Angeles, making it ideal for a day trip from the city. Opinions on Mt. Baldy tend to be that it is a much mellower scene than other area mountains, especially Big Bear (which tends to be a lot of younger people wanting to use the snow park, i.e. high energy). My honest opinion, however, is that you’re better off with one of the other resorts in the area. Mountain High (below) isn’t too much farther, and the resorts in the Big Bear area (Snow Summit, Bear, and Snow Valley) are all better options if you’re looking for some local snow).
Ah, Mountain High….the memories. This is where I went skiing and snowboarding the most often during my teen years when I was living in the LA area. It’s proximity to LA and it’s non-windy, icy, mountain road to get there made it an ideal option for us inexperienced teen drivers. It’s also much closer to LA than the resorts in the Big Bear area, so it’s a popular option among locals. It’s a smaller resort, similar to Snow Valley, and although it often gets overshadowed by the Big Bear area resorts, it’s still really a lot of fun. Also good for beginners but fun for everybody, this resort is a great option if you just want to take a day trip from LA.
The Sierra Nevada mountain range has some of the BEST skiing and snowboarding around. There really are too many ski resorts to list in this area because that’s how awesome it is. I’ll try to keep this list to my favorites.
For those in Southern California that want a little more snow and a bigger ski resort, Mammoth is the next closest option, and it’s a good one! It’s a pretty huge resort that consistently has good snow in the Winter, and terrain suitable for all levels. I’ve been to Mammoth a few times and it never disappoints. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles or Las Vegas, making it ideal for a weekend road trip. I’ve never driven there from San Francisco, but I’ve been told it’s about 7 hours. There are also options to fly to Mammoth. Alaska Airlines and United fly to Mammoth from Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego.
I will do a write up about each Tahoe area resort with more detail, but honestly, they are all pretty good in their own way. Here are some of my favorites. I might give you more details on some of them, but mostly I just wanted to list some of the resorts I think are most awesome in this area. And in case you’re wondering, Tahoe is the BEST area to go skiing and snowboarding in California, hands down. The sheer variety of ski resorts coupled with having some of the best snow in the state means this is definitely the area you should choose if the focus of your trip is specifically for snow play. Flights into Reno, Nevada put you conveniently close to the Tahoe area in case you’re thinking about flying in.
Kirkwood offers a varied terrain for all levels and usually has pretty abundant snowfall each year. It also boasts some beautiful views of the surrounding mountains. There is a village nearby (ski in, ski out) that includes accommodations and restaurants for those of you would want to hang out nearby. They also have activities such as dog sledding, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing available to visitors.
Oh, how I love Heavenly! This is a great resort and has an absolutely incredible view, as the resort looks out over the gorgeous Lake Tahoe. In my opinion, best views in the area. The skiing/snowboarding is pretty great, too! It’s pretty huge and has a large variety of runs for all levels. They also have an on-site lodge, parties with a DJ at night, and plenty of lodging nearby, making this an ideal option for your ski trip.
Sqwaw Valley is one of the largest ski areas in the United States (smaller than Heavenly though) and has the distinctive honor of being the host site for the 1960 Winter olympics, so you know the mountain is a good one. This resort is an extremely popular one and in addition to first class snow conditions, it also offers a village with lodging, shopping, dining, and more.
Fun Fact: Sqwaw Valley is associated with the Alpine Meadows ski resort and your lift ticket offers joint access. They have a shuttle service between the two.
You can’t mention ski resorts in Tahoe without mentioning Northstar. Although it’s smaller than Sqwaw Valley and Heavenly, it’s still rated one of the top ski resorts in the United States. The skiing is excellent and the whole resort has a beautiful, alpine-getaway feel to it. You’ll love Northstar!
The Village at Northstar also offers a variety of activities such as movies, yoga, ice skating, dining, a spa, shopping and more. They also have some pretty fancy lodging if you are feeling like being fancy.
I absolutely adore Sugar Bowl. This resort in the Tahoe area is at a higher elevation than a lot of the others and therefore often has some of the best snow. It’s also a little less popular than places like Heavenly and Northstar, but also has some amazingly fun runs for all levels. I’ve been to Sugar Bowl plenty of times and had a great time every time. Fun fact: this resort was started by none other than Walt Disney.
Side note: This is not an exhaustive list of all the Tahoe area resorts, and there are some other great ones!
The Far North
Mt. Shasta Ski Park
I’m going to let you know that I’ve never been to Mt. Shasta Ski Park, but I wanted to look up an option for those of you who are looking for skiing and snowboarding in the far North of California. This seems to be a good option! Let me know what you think if you’ve ever been to this one. 🙂
So, that’s the run-down. What do you think? Have you been to any of these ski resorts? What do you like/not like about each one? Have a favorite I failed to mention? I had to narrow it down, particularly in the Tahoe area, because there are just so many! Would love to hear your thoughts!