Bear Mountain and Snow Summit

Snow Gun

There are a small number of things premiere ski and snowboard resorts share – corduroy groomed slopes, exceptional terrain and absurdly priced lunches. Beyond that, snow sport resorts vary greatly from one to the next. And in Big Bear Lake, home to Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, this statement rings true.

Despite each resort sharing the same mountain ridgeline as it curls its way east along the southern edge of the Big Bear Valley, both serve up an entirely distinctive product.

Closest to town, Snow Summit’s base area has the look and feel of a miniature Swiss village (Google Map), replete with slope-side dining, watering holes and a sports specialty shop.

Wide-sweeping trails fall close-by, alluding to Summit’s 240 acres and 31 trails for the cruising public.

A great place for intermediate riders and skiers to fine tune carving skills before tackling Snow Summit’s moderately steep section named “The Wall.” (No charge for the heart pounding music piped in over loud-speakers.) Spend the whole day riding, and on Friday and Saturday, traverse under the lights and into the evening with Snow Summit’s “night” program.

Just a few miles east stands Bear Mountain. A bit edgier from its sister resort, Bear has earned a reputation as host to one the best all-mountain, open-freestyle terrain parks in the United States. And rightfully so!

Its vast base area stares straight into the mouth of Southern California’s only Super-pipe. All 580 feet of its length is visible while comfortably seated deck-side at the beach-themed bar. While this is impressive, much of Bear Mountain’s upper peaks – 3 to be exact – are hidden from view. There’s Goldmine Peak (8,440 feet) – farthest to the west and the most popular.

A short ride on the high-speed quad gains you access to Goldmine’s varied terrain, from mogul-ed Rip’s Run to Powder Bowl’s Big Hits. Silver Mountain, in the middle (8,560 feet), always proves fast and firm top to bottom. Bear Peak, the highest at 8,805 feet, boasts Geronimo – Bear Mountain’s notoriously steep and toughest run.

The good news: Big Bear Mountain Resorts’ van shuttles riders back and forth between the two free of charge and non-holiday, one lift ticket will gain you access to both resorts. So next time, maybe mix-it-up: Spend your morning warming up on Summit’s Miracle Mile or Widow-maker run and end it by carving striking arcs down Geronimo’s face as the sun begins a leisurely surrender over Big Bear Lake.

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