Snow days in L.A.? You bet! SoCal’s mountains get lots of snow and are within day-tripping distance of L.A. You can reach the fluffy white stuff in a couple of hours, have plenty of time for making snow angels and snowmen, sledding and tubing and be back home by bedtime. Swap your flip-flops for snow boots and bring along mittens and a change of clothes for these fun outdoor winter activities in L.A.’s backyard.
Meet Yeti at Mountain High
There’s more to this collection of resorts in the San Gabriel Mountains than snowboarding and skiing. Debuting this year are two snow parks named after Mountain High’s mascot, Yeti. Located in the east and north resorts, the parks feature three separate areas for DIY snow play, tubing hills and introductory skiing and snowboarding lessons.
At the tubing area, where tubes are provided, guests 36 inches and taller can race down more than 15 lanes of snow. The innovative jump-in, jump-out lesson area lets newbies learn the basics of skiing and snowboarding. It’s a great way to sample the sports before committing to lessons, and each participant gets a discount “Bounce Back” coupon for a lesson package at the resort.
While at the snow parks, keep an eye out for Yeti and his pals as they roam from zone to zone singing songs and interacting with visitors. Snow park tickets are sold in two-hour blocks and cost $30 for tubing, $25 for snow play and $25 for skiing/snowboarding introductions. A package ticket lets you spend two hours in each area for $59. mthigh.com.
Slide Day and Night at Big Bear Lake
Big Bear Lake, in the San Bernardino Mountains, has two large snow-play areas that offer wildly different experiences.
Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain (alpineslidebigbear.com) and Big Bear Snow Play (bigbearsnowplay.com) both have tubing hills with conveyor-belt magic carpets that conveniently scoot you to the top of the hill. But when the sun goes down on Snow Play’s snowy lanes, the hill brightens with Glow Tubing. From 5-9 p.m. weekends and holidays, high-powered LED lights transform the landscape with an array of dazzling rainbow colors.
Across town, Alpine Slide boasts a new Soaring Eagle Zipline, a family-friendly, dual-seated thrill ride that starts at the base and lifts riders (42 inches and taller) backward on a cable to the 70-foot launch tower. From there, riders zip down a 100-foot vertical drop at speeds up to 26 mph. Back on the ground, grab a tube and race down snowy lanes open day and night or ride a chairlift to the top of the bobsled tracks. Bobsleds are easy (and a blast!) to steer, and you can control your speed with a handbrake.
Adult admission to each park is $35, and kids 36-42 inches tall are admitted for $20 with a paying adult.
Another way to enjoy the winter landscape is on a snowshoe walk through the pine-scented forest. Rent a pair in the village or book a three-hour tour (ages 10 and up) with Action Tours (actiontourscalifornia.com) for $87.
Sled with Ease in Snow Valley
Just down the hill from Big Bear, Snow Valley (snow-valley.com) in Running Springs boasts SoCal’s only sledding lift, which operates from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Fridays through Sundays and holidays and lets visitors ride the chairlift to the top of the hill and sled down. On other days, you’ll need to pull your sled up the hill. Sleds are provided on lift- and non-lift days, and you can find boots, gloves, waterproof pants and other snow gear in the onsite sports shop. Snow Play rates are $15-$37 per full day and $11-$16 per late day.
Plan a DIY Snow Day in Charlton Flats or Frazier Park
Adventurous families looking for a quick snow day can pack a picnic (don’t forget a thermos of hot cocoa) and drive to one of our favorite nearby mountain spots.
Situated at 5,200-feet elevation in the Angeles National Forest, Charlton Flats’ picnic area typically gets a good amount of snow. Picnic sites with picnic tables are scattered throughout the area, and many have grills. Toilet facilities are available as well, but you’ll need to bring your own drinking water. Charlton Flats is open from 6 a.m.-10 p.m., but may close at any time due to snow or ice. For information, call 661-269-2808.
Near Frazier Park in the Los Padres National Forest, there are three wonderful places for snow play. And because this popular forest is easily accessible from the 5 Freeway, you can play all day and be home in time for dinner. Park your vehicle, bring your own sleds and saucers and walk up to any of the three campgrounds: McGill Campground (about two to three miles from the Mt. Pinos summit), Mt. Pinos Campground (about one mile from the summit) or Chula Vista Campground (at the summit). You’ll see snow well before you reach these areas, but it’s worth going the extra mile or two for really cool sledding hills. For information, call the Mt. Pinos Ranger District Office at 661-245-3731.
Note that Adventure Passes are required for parking in campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads in SoCal’s national forests. The cost is $5 for a day pass and $30 for an annual pass. For information, call the USDA Forest Service at 707-562-8737.
Mimi Slawoff is a travel writer, mom of three and frequent L.A. Parent contributor.