A Brave Ski Mom Interview with Gretchen, a mother of 2 from Southern California
If you could only ski at one resort this season with your family, which resort would you choose?
My first answer would be Vail. But if I think about where I can easily take my kids locally in Southern California, my answer is Big Bear Mountain Resorts.
We can drive up in about 2 hours and, if necessary, drive back at the end of the day. I prefer to stay overnight in one of the many rentals in the area. There is a great selection of condos, houses, and such in many price points. It is also nice that many people in our area own homes in Big Bear.
Why is Big Bear Mountain Resorts your favorite?
Big Bear Mountain Resorts has two mountains, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. I prefer Bear Mountain but both are small and user-friendly. The reason I prefer Bear is that the base area is more open and visible for young skiers/boarders. The beginner runs feed into an open area where there are picnic tables and lifts to the higher parts of the mountain.
I learned to ski at Bear Mountain (previously named Goldmine) in the 1980’s and I am happy to report that my kids learned there, too. The group ski school program was a great introduction, but the private instructors were superb in focusing on my kids at early ages. (My daughter took private lessons before she was 3.)
I also appreciate that there are some “black diamond” cruiser runs for us moms who like to enjoy the scenery and get up in elevation.
A lift ticket at one mountain is interchangeable with the other. You can take the inter-mountain shuttle between the resorts or use a multi-day lift ticket at both mountains.
What are the best amenities at Big Bear Mountain Resort for family skiing?
Ski school has full-day “camp” programs. These are great for single skiers/boarders.
Since Southern California has such great weather, the eateries all have decks!
Snow Summit has a great Family Park. It is lift accessible to the top, and a little tricky to leave, but great fun for the kids. There are safe obstacles and jumps. The Family Park is also nicely contained so that the kids can circle at their own pace. I can stay with my younger child, knowing my older one will just come down and head right back up.
What needs to be improved at Big Bear Mountain Resorts to make it even better for family skiing?
The resort needs more accessible bathrooms. They are all in the lower levels of the base lodges.
Also the base area lifts are UP HILL from the base. Be prepared to carry your kids’ equipment and then help them get up there.
Are there any “secrets” are you willing to share about Big Bear Mountain Resorts?
If you sign up for ski/board school ask for a small class. They will not cancel the class even if you are the only one signed up! I have heard that many people have private or nearly private lessons mid-week.
Also, private lessons arranged through ski school will take young kids, even under 2 years of age.
What advice would you give other families before they come to Big Bear Mountain Resorts?
Pack snacks. If you get into the family area at Snow Summit or base area at Bear, you may just want to take advantage of the picnic areas. They are very nice and easily accessible. And you won’t have to hike back up to the base area lifts to get out.
What is your favorite place to stay at Bear Mountain?
Of course, we like to stay with friends! Otherwise, I would suggest the Moonridge part of town. A good resource for lodging in the Big Bear Lake area is bigbear.com.
What makes Big Bear Mountain Resorts unique?
It is close to Los Angeles and Big Bear Lake and Big Bear City offer full amenities during both the winter and summer.
What is your favorite memory of Big Bear Mountain Resorts?
I learned to ski here and will always remember that my cousin took me to the top of the mountain after a one-hour lesson and said, “See you at the bottom!” Seems fitting, because that is how I still feel: “See you at the bottom!”
Do you have any tips to share with other parents?
Major tip for all parents: Use a sharpie pen to write your cell phone number on your child’s lift ticket. I was separated from my son and he knew to ask an employee to call me – he had the number right there! I never imagined he would need it, but I was glad I’d written it down.
What is your favorite thing about family skiing?
My kids, first. Skiing, second.
I started skiing at age 12. I wish I grew up with a skiing family so I could have experienced what my kids are experiencing now. I love to ski, but I wonder sometimes, “Why?” Then I ski with my kids, and am reminded that it is fun to go FAST!
I requested that my kids learn to ski before trying snowboarding. My son will graduate to a snowboard this season – he is so proud that he accomplished skiing. I did this so that I could teach them and enjoy skiing with them.
My husband does not ski. So I get to do this all alone. It is a challenge, but fun. I have skied with friends and used ski school to help out. The hardest part is managing the clothes. Here in SoCal it can be 30 degrees when we start the day and 60 degrees at the end, so we are always changing clothes. I ski with a backpack and utilize basket storage so I can get stuff in and out. Another good tip, I think!
The Brave Ski Mom Adds….
While Gretchen misses Colorado’s light, dry powder (she shares that Big Bear’s tagline is “It’s real snow, just man-made”), it is nice to have a “home” resort near your home. And according to their website, Big Bear does get 100 inches of the authentic white stuff per season.
Big Bear Mountain Resorts is in the Big Bear Lake area of the San Bernardino Mountains, just 100 miles from Los Angeles. Want to know how to get there? Check their website, where they provide detailed instructions and traffic tips from various SoCal locales.
As Gretchen indicated, Big Bear is linked to Snow Summit by a shuttle that runs between the resorts every half hour. Big Bear is the larger mountain with a vertical drop of 1,665 feet (Snow Summit has a drop of 1,200 feet) and three pipes (including Southern California’s only superpipe). Snow Summit also has terrain parks, as well as night skiing. Both resorts rate their trails about 40% intermediate, 25-30% advanced and the rest beginner or low-intermediate.
Gretchen is a California Native from Orange County. She attended Scripps College and became a Colorado native in 1992 (for a year) when she worked at Beaver Creek. She still considers Beaver Creek her “home” mountain. Gretchen moved to Pasadena in 1993 and lives with her husband and 2 kids in Sierra Madre. She skis as many days as she can get to the snow.
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