On Wednesday, March 24, Big Bear Mountain Resorts, including Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, survived another forest fire threat. The last time the resorts had a close call was in the fall when a fire threatened the whole town, but was stopped several miles away.
This time, the forest fire actually came onto the slopes of Bear Mountain, burned down a ski patrol shed at the top of one of the peaks, and then burned into the canyons between several runs. Luckily no one was hurt and none of the lifts were damaged, thanks to the valiant efforts of the resort staff who fought the fire with water hoses hooked up to snowmaking lines and by digging out fire lines with snow cats.
Ironically, the fire was set just south of the resort by the US Forest Service as a controlled burn. Thanks to unpredictable winds and low humidity levels, the fire blew out of control and made a beeline for Bear Mountain resort. “It definitely threatened Bear Mountain more than Snow Summit,” says Big Bear Mountain Resorts Public Relations Director Brad Farmer.
At about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, resort officials made the decision to evacuate Bear Mountain and Snow Summit. This was done in an orderly fashion through an early closure. All of the skiers and snowboarders were off the mountain before the flames reached the resort. The fire burned up the backside of the resort and crowned the ridgeline into resortboundaries before it was contained. One small structure was burned, a ski patrol hunt located at the top of Goldmine Peak near the top of the Big Bear Express chair lift. The fire also burned to the top of Silver Mountain and into Goldmine and Deer Canyons, all located within the resort area. No other structures were lost.
By 9:00 p.m. Wednesday night, the US Forest Service and the San Bernardino Fire Department with support Bear Mountain operations staff continued to put out hot spots and mop up to ensure that the fire was 100-percent contained. This effort continued through the night and into Friday.
Snow Summit reopened on Friday, and Bear Mountain reopened for business on Saturday, just in time to kick off SpringFest activities, including the Third Annual Bear Mountain Brew Festival.
The resorts have plenty of snow to remain open through Easter and very likely at least one week longer.