As the warmth of winter, the huge powder dumps of 2017 and the sun of spring beckon families, the California ski resorts at Big Bear, Mammoth and the small local mountains continue to up the family amenities.
Just before the ski season opened this year, our daughter Christina, broke her leg. Although she clearly wouldn’t be swooshing downhill with us, we plowed ahead with plans for two ski trips. After all, California’s ski resorts are not only blessed with great snow conditions, but also many offer family-friendly slopeside lodging and services — with plenty of non-skier activities as well.
Mountain resorts’ efforts in reaching out to families is a big factor in the increase in numbers of parents and children skiing and snowboarding together in recent years. Although last season (2015-2016) saw about 6.2 million skiers and 2.2 million snowboarders making 53 million skier-visits according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), a drop from the overall 10 million plus who enjoyed snow sports 5 years earlier, about 50% of skiers and snowboarders were families with children. Additionally, there has been an increase in adults older than age 45 still carving up the slopes, largely due to the trend of multigenerational travel.
Making the Ski Vacation Easier
It’s no wonder mountain resorts roll out the welcome mat, beckoning families with tantalizing vacation packages and charming villages. Visitors are indulged with ski in/ski out lodging (and many lodging packages include lift tickets), easy-access gondolas, and dependable mountain shuttle service. Such amenities make ski trips with children much more manageable — both on and off the slopes.
In addition, the shapes of skis continue to evolve shorter and wider, which helps to decrease the learning curve. Now there’s no excuse not to join your kids on the slopes!
Those planning a California ski trip will be pleased to know that as fine as winter skiing can be, spring is also a great time to visit, making the season that much longer. And when winter is especially generous with snowfall, as it has been the past few years, fantastic ski conditions can last throughout the spring season.
Spring skiing also means shedding bulky outerwear and steep rates. Some resorts, such as Mammoth Mountain, typically stay open through July. Just don’t forget the sunscreen!
Big Bear Mountain Resorts
Big Bear Lake
630 Bartlett Road
Big Bear Lake, CA 92315
Just two hours from Los Angeles, these contiguous resorts areas along Highway 330 – Highway 18 around Running Springs pack in a lot of fun. Traversing the two resorts is easy since they share lift tickets, season passes and an express shuttle service. The Park at Bear Mountain, a snowboarder’s haven, has four pipes on 198 developed acres with 67 trails. Snow Summit is a good choice for families, traditional skiers and beginner snowboarders. My kids enjoy Summit’s Family Park, a fun terrain with moderate jumps and rolls — just enough to catch air.
Around Mammoth Mountain
1 Minaret Road
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546
Mammoth, reached by US395 north to Highway 203 (Mammoth Lakes Junction), has retained its cozy ambiance despite extensive expansion in town and on the mountain. We stayed in a spacious and cozy two-bedroom condo at White Mountain Lodge, taking advantage of the Village Gondola, which transported us directly to the slopes in six minutes. We bought lift tickets and rented our gear in the Mountain Center just outside the gondola. Guests can also store their sport gear just outside the gondola to eliminate lugging it around. What convenience! With the good mix of family restaurants, shops and markets in the large Village designed by Intrawest, and free shuttle service about town and to the golf and mountain biking trails (in summer), we didn’t need our car. Look for 3,500 skiable acres, lots of grooming, 400″ annual snowfall, a high-speed lift near Canyon Lodge and an 11,000 foot peak. With 27 lifts and 159 named trails, Mammoth handles crowds well, so the daily non-stop flights on Horizon Air from LAX make it especially popular for short breaks.
Highway 158 (June Lake Loop)
Mammoth Lakes, CA 93529
With just six chair lifts and 41 named trails, skiing and snowboarding at June, treated like Mammoth’s little sister, is an intimate experience. Although it lacks some of the updated lifts and flashy pizzazz found at nearby Mammoth, June is a charming resort and has some fun terrain parks. Great lodging options in nearby June Lake Village.
Mountain High Resort
24510 State Highway 2
Wrightwood, CA 92648
It’s cheap and it’s fun, a great learning spot for young teens. Mountain High can be reached via the Golden State Freeway (5) north to the Antelope Valley Freeway (14), to Highway 138 in Palmdale; from here take 138 E to Highway 2 to Wrightwood. As the nearest ski area to Los Angeles County (just a bit over an hour away), Mountain High gets crowded and attracts a lot of snowboarders – but the rates are very competitive. Each base area is complete with ticket windows, restaurants, rentals, lessons and shops. It’s part of the Angeles State Forest and well cared for too.
For more ideas on where to take the family for spring skiing in the best learning environments, check out our annual roundup of the Best Ski and Snow Family Vacations.
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