Hundreds hit the slopes on opening day in Big Bear

Snowboarders look to head up the chairlift at Bear Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, Friday, November 28, 2014. California is suffering  one of the worst droughts in its history. (Eric Reed/For the Sun)

Snowboarders look to head up the chairlift at Bear Mountain Resort in Big Bear Lake, Friday, November 28, 2014. California is suffering one of the worst droughts in its history. (Eric Reed/For the Sun)

By Joe Nelson, Staff Writer

Ricky Vega held his 3-year-old daughter, Brooke, steady as she stood atop a snowboard, feet buckled securely in bindings, at the Bear Mountain ski resort on Friday,

Vega positioned his daughter in place, in a safe area at the bottom of the slope, away from the throng of snowboarders zipping down the mountain. He whispered a few words of encouragement in her ear, then gave her a gentle push forward. He darted forward, several feet ahead of his daughter, then turned and held out his arms to receive her.

Clad in pink ski pants, a pink ski jacket and a knitted Curious George ski cap, Brooke was all smiles as she slid about five feet across the slope and into her doting father’s arms.

“My two nephews started doing this when they were 3, and now it’s her turn,” said Vega, 36, of Lakewood. “We’re trying to make it a family tradition.”

Vega was one of hundreds drawn to Bear Mountain on the cloudless and rather warm Black Friday for the resort’s opening day of the season. Neighboring Snow Summit opened for the season on Wednesday.

“It’s awesome. It’s beautiful weather,” said Vega, who along with his twin brother owns a cabin in Big Bear Lake, where he and his family spent the Thanksgiving holiday before taking to the slopes on Friday.

“I’m on vacation. It’s opening day,” Vega said, “and I wanted to get out here before all the snow melted.”

The two opening-day events, at Bear Mountain on Friday and Snow Summit on Wednesday, marked their first under new ownership by Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, which announced its purchase of the sibling ski resorts in September. The sale awaits the closing of escrow, said Rio Tanbara, director of marketing for Bear Mountain.

Read more of Joe Nelson’s story SKI

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