Big Bear Lakes, California
Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are two of the most hallowed resorts in snowboarding lore. Located in the San Bernadino Mountains in Southern California, together these two mountains are a bonafied park oasis just a short drive from the beaches of Los Angeles and San Diego. While it seems strange that such a freestyle mecca would exist in SoCal, don't forget that both Bear and Summit stand over 8,000 feet in elevation, providing winter temperatures that are perfect for snow, while still receiving tons of sunshine, making for spring conditions throughout most of the year. The consistent, perfect weather and the fact that the #BearBuilt park is a legendary and large expanse of jibs and jumps have made Big Bear Lakes the home of a profusion of professional snowboarders for decades. Chris Bradshaw honed his freestyle finesse lapping Chair 9, and Lucas Magoon, Jordan Small, Mike Gray, and many more call the area home. Mack Dawg has filmed there, JP Walker has held events on their grounds, and the official start of winter in Southern California, Hot Dawgz & Hand Rails, goes down every September, welcoming winter with some of the most balls-out contest snowboarding of the season. When it comes to winter weekending (or longer), Big Bear offers 9am-9:30 pm riding with Summit's weekends and holidays nightriding and a mountain town that can handle a crowd, ensuring that no matter if it's busy season, you'll find the lodging, eats, and entertainment that you desire. Bear Mountain and Snow Summit should be on any snowboarder's must-ride list and luckily heading into the San Bernadinos is pretty easy, no matter where you're from.
Chris Bradshaw and Ryan Tarbell eyeing up the bear. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen
You've got options. Los Angeles International Airport is just over two hours from the slopes. Direct flights are available from most major cities. You can also fly into San Diego and make it to Big Bear Lakes in just over three hours. What this means is plenty of options when it comes to getting to Southern California. Making the trek to the San Bernadinos generally requires a rental car, but this helpful once you're in town, as it will make getting around the easiest. From LA, take the 210 east and catch the 330 north to arrive in Big Bear—just avoid rush hour, as California traffic can add hours to the commute. There are shuttle options, but they're best if you have a crew to split the cost. A van from LAX usually costs about $200-300, but can fit upwards of ten people. While getting to the mountain from the beach requires a little pre-planning, for the snowboarding at Bear and Summit, the few hours in the car are more than worthwhile!
Where to Ride
Bear Mountain is made up of three peaks, Bear Peak, Silver Mountain, and Goldmine Mountain. There is a myriad of terrain for all ability levels, from rolling greens to steep blacks, and when Bear gets a storm, it's a little known fact that it's a great place to ride powder. But if you're reading this article and heading to Bear, it's likely you've come in search of the rails and jumps built into one of snowboarding's favorite park laps. Just a few feet to looker's right of the lodge is the Bear Mountain Express, or Chair 9, a high-speed quad that moves thousands of parks rats to the top of Goldmine every weekend for a long, loaded lap of jibs, jumps, and transition. The park crew at Bear is legendary and they're always dreaming up new features. On any given day, there are wallrides, mini jumps, hips, snakeruns and more mixed in with classic kink rails and cheesewedges. It's this terrain that has turned out a plethora of park savvy pros and why so many snowboarders call Beat Mountain home. It's highly likely to witness Chris Bradshaw, Lenny Lenny and Anthony Mazzotti, Lucas Magoon, and more taking laps when the sun's out, which is every day, usually. Neighboring resort, Snow Summit is just down the road from Bear and features windy, wooded runs perfect for those who may not have a penchant for the park, though Summit's got a set up of its own, as well as a solid beginner line. Take the All Mountain Express to the top and head to the right for over a half dozen trails loaded with freestyle features. The East Mountain Express on looker's left in the base area is the lift for Summit's Socal freeriding. Snow Summit has something for everyone and it's open late for nightriding on weekends and holidays throughout the season.
Where to Stay
Big Bear Lake is fairly small, so no matter what side of the town you stay in, you're only a stone's throw from restaurants, nightlife, and of course, the mountain. Bigbear.com is a great place to start when looking for lodging, as the site has a catalogue of hotels, motels, and vacation homes. The Lodge at Big Bear Lake, a Holiday Inn hotel, offers luxury mountain town living at a wallet-friendly price. Stay right downtown at the Robinhood Resort, a rustic option just a short walk from Bear's bustling center. VRBO is a solid option if you're traveling with a group, as there are dozens of condos and cabins that span the length of Big Bear from the lake to the hill. Overall, Big Bear has plenty of lodging, so whatever you're looking for, from swanky digs to dirtbag chic, you will find the perfect place to relax after a long day at the mountain.
Harrison Gordon can give you a hand around Big Bear! PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen
When it comes to grabbing food, Big Bear Lake is a small town with a large selection of restaurants and cafes. In the morning, stop by Tea & Coffee Exchange for a pick-me-up beverage and a crepe. It's not a very fast establishment, but the wait is worth it. If you want to sit down, Teddy Bear Restaurant offers classic American fare, from Benedicts to pancakes and is also a good place for lunch. Grizzly's Bear Belly Deli is on the way to Bear Mountain and serves up sandwiches and sides worthy of a return trip. For dinner, The Peppercorn Grille is a traditional steakhouse, with plenty of seafood and pasta options, too. You can't go wrong with the food, brews, and atmosphere at Big Bear Lake Brewing Company, too. 572 Social Kitchen & Lounge is a new addition to the Big Bear Lake landscape, providing new American options in a hip atmosphere. The fish and chips are delicious, as is pretty much everything on their menu. Wednesdays from 4-7pm is their locals' night, featuring deals on pizza and apps, in addition to half off draft beers. Feeling like some SoCal Mexican? Azteca Grill is the place in Bear for a great burrito and a dog-friendly patio for warmer days. The Himalayan Restaurant is one of our personal favorites. Bring you're a-game appetite because the food is amazing. We recommend going with a large group and enjoying a family-style feast.
Ozzy Henning going huge at the famous Hot Dawgz and Handrails competition held at Bear Moutain. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen
Leroy's, Big Bear's go-to snowboard shop, has been in business since 1949 both renting and selling gear to locals and visitors alike. Located on Big Bear Blvd on the way to the mountain, Leroy's is the perfect place to pick up anything you need, or grab rentals for new-to-riding members of your crew.
That Southern Californian sun shining on Richie Conklin. PHOTO: Chris Wellhausen
Apres begins early at Bear (for some), as the Beach Bar on the sun-soaked deck gets packed with people on weekend afternoons. It faces the hill, making it a perfect spot for cold drinks and people watching. Once you've headed back into town, there are two words you need to know in Big Bear when you're in the mood to party: AV Nightclub. Wait, two more words: Murray's Saloon. These two places are at the heart of this mountain town's nightlife. If you're looking to send it, AV Nightclub is your first stop. In the early season, they host movie premieres and all year they offer DJs and dancing. Murray's is the late-night spot, with killer karaoke (Bear locals have got singing skills), cheap drinks, and a divey feel. Luckily both places are just a short walk from one another, so you can bound back and forth as you see fit. The center of town has a myriad of options depending on your imbibing tastes. Big Bear Lake Brewing Company is a great spot for a post-riding beer and also serves quality food. Whiskey Dave's has pool tables, a classic rock soundtrack, and the bartenders make great drinks. It's a casual spot perfect for hanging with friends, watching big screen TVs, and listening to live music. Just a short way from downtown is Big Bear Bowling Barn, a place we highly recommend checking out if you have a penchant for pins and pints.
Explore Your Surroundings
When at Big Bear, your days are most likely filled with laps at the mountain—and with the lights at Snow Summit, your nights are probably, too. But there's other ways to enjoy the outside, too. The area offers trails for snowshoeing, just swing by Big Bear Discovery Center to find out more about where to go. Big Bear's downtown offers plenty of coffee shops, stores, and places to peruse if the weather isn't nice—but that's a rarity in the San Bernadinos, which is one of the many reasons Bear is such a popular destination. Speaking of sun, Big Bear Lakes is worth checking out in the summertime. The lake ramps up with boating, wakeboarding, and the like and there's tons of camping, hiking, and fishing. Snow Summit has miles of mountain biking and rentals at the mountain if you don't have your own set of two wheels. The Bear Mountain Golf Course is a popular place for locals like Chris Bradshaw in the off season, so bring your clubs or rent a set up there. If you love snowboarding at Bear and Summit, you'll likely have a good time experiencing the area in the summer, passing the time until winter returns.