Hitting the Slopes at
Big Bear Lake Story by Ringo Boitano
Photos courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resorts
've said it before and I'll say it again: We are blessed to be living
in Southern California. Sure, we get our share of natural disasters,
but living in a paradise does have its cost. In the Southland there
is such a plethora of daily attractions that it is mind-boggling. Where
else can you go swimming at a wide, sandy beach and then go skiing on
a world-class mountain the very same day - and that's in the month of
January. That world-class ski destination is Big Bear Mountain Resorts,
which includes both Snow Summit Mountain and Bear Mountain ski areas.
For less than a tank of gas from most areas in Southern California,
you can be on the slopes, surrounded by the spectacular alpine beauty
of the San Bernardino National Forest.
A Rugged History
For over a thousand years Big Bear Lake was the home
of the Serrano Indians, who coined the area "Yuhaviat," meaning
"Pine Place." In 1845, Benjamin Davis Wilson rode into Yuhaviat
Valley with a posse to chase away the Serranos, who had been raiding
ranches in Riverside. They discovered a flourishing grizzly bear population;
an area ripe for the profitable hunting of grizzly bear fur - thus the
name change to Big Bear Lake. William Holcomb sparked Big Bear Lake's
modern growth after he discovered gold in 1859. Legend has it that Holcomb
wounded a bear, and in his search for the elusive creature, stumbled
upon a vein of quartz flecked gold. He quickly switched profession from
hunter to miner. Prospectors poured into the area, turning San Bernardino
County into one of the most populated areas in Southern California.
The gold rush only lasted 4 years, but Big Bear was now on the map.
In 1885, the newly created lake at Big Bear drowned more than 9,000
trees, whose rotting stumps created a breeding ground for insects, providing
an abundant food supply for the newly stocked trout. Big Bear Lake became
a magnet for fisherman, and with the addition of a new ski resort in
1953, Big Bear Lake became a complete sportsperson's paradise.
Snow Summit Ski School
Well, its never too late to learn,
smiled the 60-something woman on my left. Yes, fully-geared in proper
ski attire at the beginners school, I was ready to take instruction.
To be honest, I probably could have been happy just standing there in
the pristine powder, surrounded by my own winter wonderland of alpine
forest splendor (no grizzly bears, though) with the jewel of the lake
below at the east end of the valley. But I was more than ready to take
my turn at the school. Snow Summit allow students to learn at their
own pace, with an emphasis on keeping the learning experience enjoyable.
That spoke to me in a personal way. With a strong emphasis on safety,
the instructors made us understand that we were always in control of
our actions. So much care was dedicated to the lessons that even the
thought of injury was forgotten. An hour later I was taking baby runs
down the slope. Soon I was basking in even better views from the beginners'
chairlift. At the end of the day it was obvious why the ski school is
constantly rated one of the finest in North America. I was informed
that there are no disappointments when you book your ski vacation only
to hear a forecast of a lack of snow - for theres always a consistent
quality of snow due to two of the largest and most snowmaking systems
in the world. It doesnt hurt that Big Bear has virtually an unlimited
natural resource for snowmaking with the lake below.
Bear Mountain Ski Resort, located two miles from Snow
Summit, is connected via a free inter-mountain express shuttle service.
One interchangeable lift ticket provides skiers and boarders a combined
438 skiable acres, 26 lifts (including 4 high-speed detachable quads)
and more than 55 runs. Snow Summit is also home to the Family Park,
the resorts slow skiing and riding zone with low-intermediate
terrain. Night skiing is open most Fridays, Saturdays and holiday periods
beginning at 3 p.m.
I couldnt wait to hit the slopes the next morning.
But first it was important that I get an objective overview of Big Bear
Lakes après-ski pleasures, for me an important component to the
complete ski experience. Plus, I had burned off some serous calories
and was ready for my reward.
The Big Bear Lake Village is an inviting and pedestrian
friendly collection of shops, restaurants and nightspots - most in alpine-style
architecture or adorned in grizzly bear motifs - that works for all
ages and budgets. After a mandatory pilgrimage to the iconic lake, a
short stroll led me to Nottinghams Restaurant, located in the heart
of the village. A local institution, I threw caution to the wind and
ordered caramelized brie, crab stuffed Portobello and blackened salmon.
I had earned it. Remember, I deserved it. Later, kicking back upstairs
by a roaring fire at Friar Tucks Tavern , with a micro-brew in handfed,
relaxed and only slightly soreI wondered why I never became a
regular skier. After all, Southern Californias premier ski resort
was less than a tank full of gas away.
My Irish roots understand terrible beauty. So do my
human roots. The concept has such a ring of truth to it, doesn't it?
Great article, Ringo. I hope to get to Ireland eventually, and thanks
for blazing the trail!
Sandeee Bleu, Seattle, WA
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No wonder I've been hearing all these wonderful stories
about Ireland. I used to think that it was just for Irish Americans
seeking their ancestral roots but your article seems to call out to
the non-Irish like me. Fascinating and intriguing.
Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA
Thanks for this great post wow... it's very wonderful.
Key Logger, New York
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Lets not forget that the Marriot Harbor Beach is within
walking distance to the world famous Elbo Room - Fort Lauderdale's oldest
Jeff, Fort Lauderdale, FL
* * * *
Thanks for taking the time
for the message and reminder. Indeed, I had a quick drink at the Elbo
Room. My trip to Ft. Lauderdale would not have been complete without
a visit to this historic institution.I have been reading about it for
years, and was not disappointed. It felt like a real local's hangout.
thoroughly enjoyed your article about Dick and Liz. I remember seeing
that article back in the heyday of Life Magazine.
To remember the "behind-the-scenes" stories
like that makes you genuine fan of the 60's. The famous couple's turbulent
relationship was just a precursor of today's headline-grabbing media
stars like Britney Spears and her colleagues. Life was simpler then.
The paparazzis still had some sense of decency. You "coulda"
been a good paparazzi. I say "coulda" because you kept this
to yourself all these many years.
Looking forward to other media trivia you can remember.
Peter Paul, South Pasadena, CA
Enjoyed your article on Antarctica --- cool photos,
too. One thing, you mentioned that Ushuaia in Argentina is considered
the most southern city in the world. I read that Chile lays claim to
that distinction, with Punta Arenas, the southernmost city in the world.
Mick, Greenbay, WI
* * * *
Now that football season is
over --- Ive often wondered what you Packer fans did in the off
season ---- its great that you took the time to visit TravelingBoy.
Great question, unlike my older brother, I adore all lamb products,
and Patagonian Lamb --- cooked in a restricted area at the restaurant
in an opened wood-fueled fire pit --- is amazing. The chef actually
uses an ax to carve it. Frankly, I found it superior to Norwegian fjord
lamb, Irish Burren lamb and even those much esteemed creatures down
in New Zealand. The crab in Ushuaia is the other thing to eat. Wait
a sec, you asked about Punta Arenas vs. Ushuaia as the furthermost city
in the world. Well, they both have little disclaimers re populations
--- you know, whats a city, which one is a town, ect so
better let Chile and Argentina brass it out. They seem to be able to
argue about any subject.