Manufactured snow keeps SoCal resorts in the game with skiers, snowboarders

(File photo from Bear Mountain Resorts)

While natural snow has been lacking this winter at places like Bear Mountain, Southern California resorts still have something to offer snowboarders and skiers thanks to the ability to manufacture snow. (File photo from Bear Mountain Resorts)

Editor’s note: A version of this story appeared in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin on Feb. 11.

By Art Bentley

As mid-February approached, the best ski conditions in California remained right here in the land of the endless summer.

To find better, Inland Empire skiers and snowboarders would have had to drive about 400 miles to Brian Head, Utah, which claimed a 38-inch base of what the Beehive State bills as the greatest snow on earth. It may well be, but unlike the resorts here in the Southland, Brian Head and other Utah ski areas depend exclusively on natural forces.

And if the local talent craved a stiffer challenge than the 1,400-foot vertical rise Brian Head offers, Park City and the Cottonwood canyons, home to Snowbird, Alta and Solitude, are some 250 miles farther north. Not that they’re wallowing in snow either. Measurements in Little Cottonwood Canyon showed bases of about 70 inches at the powder meccas of Snowbird and Alta, which are stops on a Salt Lake City municipal bus line. That’s not a lot, not enough to justify a journey of at least 650 miles.

It’s also not enough to permit a rational practitioner to put equipment in peril by venturing off the groomed runs and into the really outstanding steep terrain at both. One doesn’t go lightly to the trouble or expense of traveling to Snowbird or Alta to ski only groomers. One goes primarily to ski off piste in two feet of feather-light, untracked, legendary Utah powder on outrageous steeps.

Nor at first glance would the 8-to-24-inch base depths advertised at Snow Summit and Bear Mountain at Big Bear Lake, the Southern California pacesetters, seem to indicate a lot of cover either. But there’s been more than enough snow since late December to blanket nearly every open run sufficiently, including the steepest at each. One need not worry about hitting rocks or other obstacles.

The reason? Manufactured snow, which represents an overwhelming majority of the flakes on the ski runs in another extraordinarily dry California winter, tends to be appreciably denser than the natural variety and therefore packs into a more solid base. The result is very good pavement for skiing that holds up day after day, regardless of what nature throws at it.

The two other resorts operating in Southern California, Mountain High near Wrightwood and Snow Valley near Running Springs, are advertising bases of 6 to 10 inches. Like Summit and Bear, almost all of their snow is manufactured as well.

By comparison, Mammoth Mountain, which is in the process of acquiring Summit and Bear, reported a snow depth on Feb. 13 of 24 to 48 inches, far from enough for adequate coverage of many of the slopes, especially the steeper ones. Why leave Southern California for that?

The same question applied to the Lake Tahoe resorts, where rain fell recently on lower slopes. Alpine Meadows on the north shore reported 18 to 42 inches. On the south shore, Heavenly confessed to 35 inches.

And while we’re at it, winter has not been especially kind so far to Colorado or New Mexico.

But as long as the water supply holds out, there’ll be decent ski conditions in Southern California. Water is the primary ingredient in the manufacturing process that, when combined under pressure, yields snow. And when the source of water is Big Bear Lake, rather than wells on which many ski areas are forced to depend, the supply is unlimited.

“We can’t do it without water,” said Chris Riddle, marketing vice president for both resorts. “And the lake is a game changer for us. In weather like this, people tend to forget about us. But we’ve known for a long time that we’re going to have dry years in Southern California, and we’ve built a system that lets us have good years whether we have natural snow or not.”

Snow Summit embraces 2-for-1 lift tickets for Valentine’s Day

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

(Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Your dollars for skiing and snowboarding will go twice as far on Valentine’s Day with Snow Summit’s 2-for-1 lift ticket promotion. The tickets are for the night session, so you can bring your sweetie for a romantic time under the stars. Or, make it a group outing and have Mom, Dad, the kids and a few friends come along.

Tickets must be purchased 48 hours in advance — by Thursday afternoon, basically.

For details, call 909-866-5766 or visit bit.ly/RomanticSlopes.

On the slopes: 2015 guide for skiing, snowboarding at Snow Summit

Skiing and snowboarding at Snow Summit offers this bonus: spectacular views of Big Bear Lake. (Snow Summit photo)

Skiing and snowboarding at Snow Summit comes with this bonus: spectacular views of Big Bear Lake. (Snow Summit photo)

This is the fourth in a series of updates from mountain resorts in California and Nevada.

What’s new at Snow Summit: Like its sister resort, Bear Mountain, the season’s biggest new attraction is the Cali4nia Pass, which allows access to the slopes at Summit, Bear and also Mammoth and June mountains.

Best eats: The View Haus, at the top of the hill, dishes up delicious barbecue and, as its name implies, great views of the San Bernardino National Forest. Specialties include the Blazin’ Pulled Pork, with pork shoulder; and the tri-tip sandwich, with meat that’s grilled outdoors and served on bread that’s baked fresh daily.

Après hot spot: Summit’s Slopeside Pub, which serves a variety of brews and hot chocolate.

Hidden gem: Dickey’s Run will reward the more skilled skiers and riders with beautiful views of the Snow Summit pine tree forest and Big Bear Lake. “Exhibition Run (at Bear Mountain) and Dickey’s Run are the favorite spots for locals looking for some good, challenging slopes,” says Dustin Murphy, spokesman for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “The powdery white snow and the steeper inclines are what makes these runs unique.”

Spotted last season: Paula Abdul, Coolio, Emilio Estevez, Justin Timberlake and Dennis Quaid have been at Snow Summit or its sister resort, Bear Mountain, in recent years.

Social connections: @snow_summit on Instagram and Twitter; www.facebook.com/SnowSmt

Information: 909-866-5766; www.snowsummit.com

— Jerry Rice

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

Snow Summit ski resort opens in Big Bear

First Chair Banner for Web (1 of 1)-2

Riders are already making their first turns on the mountain and everyone is talking about the 12 terrain features already available to ride.

DJ Slipmatt is busy keeping the base crowds entertained with music and contest updates.

Speaking of contests, the Message in a Bottle clue is on Twitter and Instagram. First person to find the bottle can bring it to Guest Services for a goody bag.

Be sure to tag all your photos from today with #summitopens. We’re keeping an eye on all those pictures. We’ll be updating the fan photo page with your pictures and the top photographer will get featured as the photo of the day and win a prize!

Just in case you missed it, here are our early season rates:

Discounted Early Season Rates Day Half-Day
Adult (22+) $45 $38
Young Adults (13-21) $38 $31
Child (7-12) $18 $14
Child (6 & Under)** FREE FREE

11.26.14

Conditions for Opening Day look fantastic with summit to base skiing and riding opening at 8:30 am! We will be operating Chair 1 to the summit and Chair 8 will service our beginner area. Skiers and riders will find 12 boxes and rails on the slopes as well as a roller! Our Crew will be adding more features as we make snow!

You can also compete in our first “Message in a Bottle” competition of the season. We’re going to hide a message in a bottle somewhere at Snow Summit. Follow us on Twitter  for the picture hint and use that clue to find the bottle. The winner can take the bottle to Guest Services to collect the prize!

Be sure to tag your pictures from the festivities with #summitopens. We’ll be tracking the tag and will post the winning image as our photo of the day which will also win a prize!

DJ Slipmatt will be providing the music and is stoked to see all the first day Summit guests!

Stay tuned to all of our Social Media Channels for updates throughout the day!

Help wanted: Bear Mountain, Snow Summit resorts host job fair

Big Bear Mountain Resorts is ramping up for opening day, but first comes the annual Bear Mountain and Snow Summit job fair. It happens Saturday at Snow Summit from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

While offering a fun work environment, Big Bear Mountain Resorts offers great privileges to all employees. Among them: free skiing and snowboarding for employees and their immediate eligible families under the age of 18 at both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, discounted rental equipment, free and discounted lessons, discounted food and beverages and discounts in retail shops.

“Our goal is to provide our guests with the best possible service and experience. We’re looking for hardworking and dedicated employees that are personable, out-going and have a passion for snow sports,” said Chris Riddle, director of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “Most of our employees, including myself, have worked here for over 10 years and we know firsthand how incredible a career in the snow sport industry is, as we get some of the coolest perks around.”

Full-time and part-time positions are available in both indoor and outdoor areas, including ski and snowboard instructors, snowmakers, snow sport lessons promoter, sport shop sales, parking, lift operators, food servers, bartenders, dishwashers, cooks and guest services.

For more information, call employee services at 909-866-5766, Ext. 140; email employeeservices@snowsummit.com or fill out an application and bring it to the job fair.

Cali4nia Pass good at Mammoth, Bear Mountain, June Mountain, Snow Summit

 

border="0"
border="0"Introducing the Cali4nia Pass, the best thing to happen to California skiing since stretch pants. The Cali4nia Pass gives you unlimited and unrestricted access to Mammoth Mountain, Bear Mountain, June Mountain and Snow Summit for $689. From a quick getaway to Big Bear to a full family vacation at Mammoth, we’ve got you covered. Every style, every skill level and everyone is invited.Plus, the Cali4nia Pass offers amazing perks like discounted tickets for friends, special early mountain access, and savings on food, lodging, equipment rentals and more.

Mammoth + Bear Mountain + June + Snow Summit = Cali4nia Pass. All the benefits of Mammoth & June plus anytime access to Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

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Mammoth Mountain owner buys Bear Mountain, Snow Summit ski resorts

 

Despite the warm temperatures this winter, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit have been taking advantage of snow-making capabilities to improve conditions on the slopes. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Bear Mountain, a popular place for snowboarders, is one of two resorts being acquired by the owner of Mammoth Mountain. Snow Summit also is part of the deal announced this morning. (Big Bear Mountain Resorts photo)

Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, owner of Mammoth Mountain and June Mountain, has entered into an agreement to acquire Big Bear Mountain Resorts, which operates both Bear Mountain and Snow Summit in Big Bear Lake. The two SoCal ski and snowboard resorts host nearly 800,000 visitors every winter.

The combination of these four iconic California mountain resorts creates diverse and unique offerings of both summer and winter experiences for day trips, weekend getaways and extended vacations, resort officials say. Bear Mountain and Snow Summit offer a full complement of outdoor activities from action sports to first-time family experiences, making it an excellent fit with the world class, big-mountain destination experience offered at Mammoth, they added.

“We couldn’t be more excited to enter into this agreement with Big Bear Mountain Resorts. These two uniquely Southern California resorts have been providing great skiing, riding and biking experiences to visitors from California and beyond. Millions have enjoyed their first mountain resort experience on the slopes of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, and we look forward to expanding upon the legacy that Dick Kun and his people have created over the past six decades,” said Rusty Gregory, chairman and CEO of Mammoth Mountain.

“This acquisition represents the beginning of a renaissance for both Mammoth and Big Bear and is the first step in the next era of skiing and riding in California. In the coming months we will be announcing exciting new development and expansion plans for each of our four resorts designed to attract visitors from down the street, across the country, and around the world,” he added.

Mammoth has announced a new season pass that includes unrestricted access to all four mountains at $689 for adults. The new Cali4nia Pass will go on sale at the Hot Dawgz and Hand Rails event at Bear Mountain on Saturday, and then will be available online at www.snowsummit.com and www.Cali4niaPass.com.

“The Cali4nia Pass will cut through the clutter in the market by providing the most diverse set of resort options available in California by allowing you to ski where you want, when you want and as often as you want,” Gregory said.

This transaction will create one of the nation’s largest ski companies with more than 2 million visitors per year.

Dick Kun, the driving force behind skiing and riding in the Big Bear region and long-time CEO of Big Bear Mountain Resorts, said, “Mammoth has always been the natural long-term fit for the Big Bear family and we are thrilled to enter this agreement. I am deeply grateful to the employees, shareholders, and the Big Bear community for their work and support during the 63 years of our operations.

“Mammoth’s experience and leadership will ensure that Southern Californians will continue to enjoy recreating in the local mountains and will undoubtedly bring in a new era of experiences and opportunities for all of our constituents.”

#Winter2014 recap: Skiing, snowboarding at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit

OK, we know that winter 2014 was a bummer of a snow season, but we’re going to take a look back anyway with dispatches from many of California’s ski and snowboard resorts – starting today with Bear Mountain and Snow Summit.

Season start/finish: Bear Mountain, Nov. 27-March 30; Snow Summit, Dec. 6-March 17.

Snowfall: 20-30 inches at each resort; the season average is 75 to 100 inches.

Comment: Despite a shorter season and lack of natural snowfall, we’re very proud of what we were able to accomplish for the 2013-14 season at Bear Mountain and Snow Summit,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “Each year we strive to provide the very best conditions, and this year was no different. Thanks to our advanced snowmaking system and our dedicated park crew, we were able to offer some of the greatest skiing and snowboarding in California – especially earlier in the season. We were able to successfully keep open the vast majority of our runs, with some of the very best conditions in the state. It was a great achievement for us.”

Looking ahead: Big Bear Mountain Resorts will be reducing the price of all passes for the 2014-15 winter season, with savings up to $110 from last winter’s rates. Dual-mountain pass holders will have unlimited access to 26 lifts, 438 developed acres and more than 55 runs.

Media: Here are video highlights from the slopes at each resort. First, Bear Mountain. >>>

Now it’s Snow Summit’s turn. >>>

Sans fresh pow, Snow Summit shifts from boarding to biking.

After storing skis and snowboards in the attic, at Snow Summit it's time to break out the mountain bikes. (Snow Summit photo)

After storing skis and snowboards in the attic, at Snow Summit it’s time to break out the mountain bikes. (Snow Summit photo)

Snow Summit will open its renowned bike park for the 2014 summer season on Friday, making it the first lift-serviced bike park to open this year in North America.

“We can’t wait to kick off another great summer season at Snow Summit Bike Park,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts. “We’re excited to be the first bike park to open for the season, and we’ll be one of the last to close. It’s going to be a long, fun season here at Snow Summit.”

The resort’s inaugural Summer Kickoff Party will be held on Saturday. The bash will transform the base area at Snow Summit into a Vendor Booth City, featuring dozens of brands like Troy Lee Designs, Five Ten, Smith Optic, Ryders Eyewear, Marin Bikes, Freestyle USA, and Trek. DJ Slip Matt will be spinning from the Red Bull MXT, and guests can enjoy raffles, prizes and product giveaways all day. Drink specials will be available for the 21 and older crowd.

The Snow Summit Trail Crew and Gravity Logic are preparing new features and trail designs, including a re-routing of the Westridge Trail. A new, top-to-bottom beginner trail is set to open by July 4.

Mountain bikers can enjoy dozens of downhill and cross-country trails, as well as new features that will change throughout the season.

Summertime season passes for the bike park are available for $279.

Other summertime activities including hiking, sightseeing, and the Scenic Sky Chair. Guests can take in breathtaking views at 8,200 feet from the Scenic Sky Chair and spend the day enjoying the outdoors, wildlife, and fresh mountain air while hiking Snow Summit’s many trails. Or, guests can take a break from the action and relax with games, delicious barbecue, and panoramic mountain views from the View Haus restaurant located atop Snow Summit.

The Sport Shop also will be open with a great selection of summer gear and accessories.

Information: www.bigbearmountainresorts.com/summer