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Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the western US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.
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Big Bear, Jan. 3, 2019

Sat Jan 05, 2019 12:13 am

Garry Klassen has skied at Snow Summit quite a bit since Big Bear was added to our Mammoth passes 3 years ago, but he lives ~45 minutes closer than I do. This was only the second time Liz and I have gone out there since 2015.

There was a modest 5 inches of snow at Christmas, but it's been mostly cold ever since, so there were rapid terrain expansions over the holidays with snowmaking from Big Bear Lake. Lower Log Chute at Snow Summit and Silver Mt. at Bear Mt. opened at Christmas. Summit's Wall opened Dec. 28, and Summit's chair 10 plus Bear's Geronimo opened Dec. 29. These later 3 sectors never opened during the dismal 2017-18 season.

New Year's Day was the coldest up there: high 27F, low 11F, so there rated to be a widespread dose of new snowmaking when we skied January 3. The schools are still out, so that was much in evidence. Garry drove us up there, arriving by 8:45AM. The upper lot at Summit is all paid on weekends/holidays, and I was happy to pay the $20 to avoid the tedious cattle car shuttle from the remote Brownie parking lot. In the old days the upper lot was free, but on a weekend/holiday you weren't getting into it unless you were there by 8:15AM. And of course back then I had to buy a day ticket while now it's on my season pass.

We started with 3 top to bottom runs on Miracle Mile, Summit Run and Westridge. Then we moved to Wall, Olympic and 4 runs on Chair 10. As I suspected, with the recent run of weather, the manmade groomed snow was about as close as it can get to the natural stuff. This was particularly noticeable on the usually slushy bottom of Westridge and the often hardpacked Olympic. The east side of Snow Summit (chairs 6, 7 and 10) had plenty of elbow room and no lines despite the holiday crowd. Liz on her way to Chair 10:

Note the manmade snow plastered on the tree near the bottom.

We had lunch at 11:30 at View Haus at the top of chair 1 and I was surprised that it did not get that busy by noon as I usually see on a weekend/holiday. We skied Wall, Timber Ridge and Off Chute before catching the 1:00PM shuttle bus to Bear Mt. We skied 12,000 vertical at Snow Summit with the longest lines at chairs 1 & 2 not exceeding 5 minutes.

There's no question it was busy as the shuttle bus passed by the Brownie and Moonridge parking lots and they were packed. The base of Bear Mt. was hopping, though our line to get up the Bear Express was barely 5 minutes. The wide and popular Park Run:

The old chair at right serves Outlaw, which is not open yet though it looked like some snow had been made over there.

We skied Showtime to Silver Mt. and skied both runs Exhibition and Ripcord there.

Bear's topography forces you to the base again to get to Geronimo. You must ride the Access Express, and that is where the holiday crowd was evident.

It's a high speed lift but serves easy terrain so it doesn't run that fast and can stop for loading/unloading mishaps. The line was 12 minutes.

1,100 vertical Geronimo had no line and I skied it 4x.

The lower pitch here sometimes has frozen granular but was all packed powder today.

The top at 8,805 feet is SoCal's highest lift served point. Garry remarked that's still 100 feet lower than Mammoth's Main Lodge. Here's Garry and the view of San Gorgonio.

I noted that the top of San Gorgonio is 500 feet higher than the top of Mammoth. But you need to be a hardcore backcountry camper to ski it.

Weather warmed to a bit over 40F midday so flatter areas near the base softened some. But the sun is low angle and there are lots of trees for shade, so the snow should hold up for a while. There may be ~6 inches or so of natural snow this weekend.

I skied 8,100 vertical at Bear Mt. before we caught the 3:15PM shuttle back to Snow Summit and got on the road by 3:45. We had a about 20 minute slowdown getting past Snow Valley but still got back to Garry's in Alta Loma by 5:20PM. If we had left any later we would have needed to take the 25 mile longer back route through Redlands to avoid the frontside traffic.

Re: Big Bear, Jan. 3, 2019

Sat Jan 05, 2019 8:58 am

thanks for the TR, Tony.

Ah you remember the season when they built that lift? I remember skiing it for the first season ...maybe like 1990 or so (Goldmine)? I remember feeling so accomplished skiing down it -- as it was probably one of the steepest runs in SoCal. ... ski-patrol

Re: Big Bear, Jan. 3, 2019

Sun Jan 06, 2019 9:04 pm

The Geronimo lift chair 8 was built in summer 1985 but was not skied until late February 1987. 1986-1988 was an acutely terrible time frame for SoCal skiing, comparable to 2012-2015. With rudimentary snowmaking and that run on an exposed ridgeline, Geronimo had no chance of opening in the excessively rainy 1986 season. Naturally I wanted to ski a new lift/run so I went to Goldmine 2/28/1987.

My notes:
Sunny until 2PM. Excellent powder & pp surface over thin or no base. Skier traffic > icy subsurface + many rocks by PM. New ch8 good AM, almost unskiable by 3PM. Untracked powder near ch4. Several powder runs on Quicksilver and trees near ch4. Good cruising on ch1&8 in AM. Ch3 icy base + bumps. I skied the full range of snow conditions in one day.

Ski Ltd (former owners of Killington) bought Goldmine in summer 1998, renamed it Bear Mt. and installed a pipe into the lake for more snowmaking. Nonetheless snow quality at Bear Mt. still fell far short of Snow Summit until Summit took over in 2002.

The upper and lower pitches of Geronimo are similar to upper Wall and lower Olympic at Snow Summit. It's sort of like combining those two runs into one longer one. The lower pitch of Geronimo is still vulnerable to frozen granular patches that can make it ski steeper than it really is. But there's a long list of runs at Baldy that are steeper than anything at Big Bear. Geronimo is somewhat comparable to Skyline.

Re: Big Bear, Jan. 3, 2019

Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:04 am

Tony Crocker wrote:But there's a long list of runs at Baldy that are steeper than anything at Big Bear. Geronimo is somewhat comparable to Skyline.

Baldy ruled in good ski years of yore, now Baldy isn't worth skiing, imo. Takes more natural snow than they ever seem to get anymore to make it decent.

Re: Big Bear, Jan. 3, 2019

Mon Jan 07, 2019 2:35 pm

SoCal weather discussion here: viewtopic.php?f=3&t=12677&p=79108#p79108

This year has not been too bad for rain vs. snow in the ski areas yet, but it has continued the "inside slider" pattern where Big Bear gets more snow than the San Gabriel mountains. Baldy is still a long way from being ready for prime time. But be ready for the second half of January, when we will be out of the country. :wink:

Re: Big Bear, Jan. 3, 2019

Wed Jan 09, 2019 8:59 pm

Garry skied Baldy today, guess he knew to get the pass. It was very good, Skyline prolly similar to Snow Summit, I liked Robin's best for the good snow and quick turns.

Re: Big Bear, Jan. 3, 2019

Wed Jan 09, 2019 11:46 pm

Are they running the snowmaking again on Robin's and Skyline?


Thu Jan 10, 2019 11:36 am

Yikes, I dunno, pretty sure all the snow I was spraying around was from Ullr. They have a snowgun just above/behind the bottom of 2 but I can't remember if those ones on skiers right of mid-Skyline are still there.

What's new? Signs, signs. Everywhere there's signs.
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