Snow Summit, Calif.

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Published February 2001. This article does not reflect any lift upgrades or terrain expansions since then.

Terrain Difficulty






Var. Index

Snow Summit







Snow Summit is the most popular ski area in Southern California, selling nearly 500,000 tickets each season. The astute management has achieved this position despite disadvantages in snowfall, terrain and access relative to its local competition.

Lift Serviced





Snow Conditions




High Mths

Low Mths


Direction of Exposure




GE 90 in.

LT 30 in.

Base Depth





Snow Summit, Calif. 7,100











The Big Bear Lake area lies in the shadow of 11,500-foot Mt. San Gorgonio and thus receives substantially less natural snow than most Southern California mountains. Thus Snow Summit realized long ago that snowmaking would be essential to its success. There has been full snowmaking coverage of all cut runs since 1980, and Snow Summit has a distinct advantage in that Big Bear Lake provides an unlimited water source.

By observation, Snow Summit utilizes its snowmaking resources much more effectively than nearby Bear Mt., which draws water from the same lake. This can be attributed to the 20+ years of experience of snowmaking manager Rick Sluder. Snow Summit has most of its 230 acres open by Christmas about 90% of the time, and management is just as zealous about grooming as they are about making snow. The area has a well-deserved reputation for the most consistent surface conditions in the region, and rock skis are rarely needed, unlike other local areas more dependent upon natural snow.

With Snow Summitís low humidity, new snow is made most nights, but it is often warm during the day. On very warm days, the snow can be sloppy on the lower mountain. It is then best to stay on the upper mountain chairs (east-to-west: 7, 6, 3 and 9). They can also make snow on these upper runs sometimes when it is too warm lower on the mountain.

Excellent sources of information on current conditions are skier-submitted reports on the Southland Ski Server at


Terrain Type:

Cruising: The entire east side of the mountain (Chairs 5,7 and 10) is groomed for excellent cruising on relatively uncongested runs. The two runs down the middle of the area near the high-speed lifts, Summit Run and Miracle Mile, are much busier and only recommended in the early morning or during night skiing.

Moguls: With the intense grooming, moguls are a rarity, even on the few runs marked black. The widest advanced run, the Wall, will have substantial moguls if left ungroomed for a few days.

Steeps: Minimal: The Wall, Olympic and Side Chute are 500 vertical runs, of which about half that vertical would merit a single black diamond at most Western ski areas.

Trees: Snow Summit has developed most of its terrain by cutting runs and making snow. There are a few skiable trees near Chair 3. If natural snow coverage at Big Bear is good, nearby Bear Mt. has several hundred acres of undeveloped tree skiing.

Powder: Powder is obviously a rarity. Furthermore, when Southern California gets a major storm, the San Gabriel mountain areas closer to Los Angeles (Mt. Baldy, Mt. Waterman, Mt. High) get twice as much natural snow as Big Bear.

Terrain Parks: While many of the above run descriptions make Snow Summit seem like a "warm-up" area, the terrain parks are world-class and more extensive than at most destination resorts. The Westridge Park runs the full 1,200 vertical, and 4 other upper mountain runs contain man-made features. New starting in 1999-2000 was the Ego Trip Super Park, which is designed for maximum air time and requires a $5 per season special pass and liability waiver. Ego Trip was the site of a "Parkasaurus" exhibition by professional freeskiers in March 2000. The terrain parks make up about 20% of Snow Summitís runs and are grouped together on the west side of the mountain. In October 2000 the editors of SKIING Magazine rated Snow Summitís terrain parks #1 in North America.


Crowds: Snow Summit limits ticket sales to control its lift lines. Even on sellout days, there is rarely a wait for the east side chairs 5, 6, 7 and 10. The longest line of 10-15 minutes is for the All Mountain Express, which provides easiest access to the Westridge terrain park.

Skier density is excessive on Summit Run, the easiest top-to-bottom run. Next busiest but manageable are Miracle Mile and the Westridge park.

Intermediates: About 80% of the terrain is intermediate in pitch. About a quarter of that now has terrain features, which add optional challenges.

Novices: There are 2 beginner lifts of about 150 vertical at the bottom of the mountain. Due to management professionalism, I would have more confidence in the quality of instruction here than elsewhere in Southern California. The next step up is the 500 vertical Chair 9, which is a designated Family Ski area on the upper northwest corner of Snow Summit.

Children: Snow Summit is the only Southern California ski area with on-site day care. They also took the lead in rolling back ticket prices a couple of years ago. For 1999-2000, adult prices are $34, children 7-12 $10, and under 7 free.

About ĺ of Snow Summit skiers are day-trippers (2+ hours drive from L.A. or Orange County), but the others spend the night in the resort town of Big Bear Lake. The Northwoods Resort and Big Bear Chateau are 2 recommended hotels. For restaurants, try Iron Squirrel, Stillwellís, Mozartís or the Captainís Anchorage.