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HOLIDAYS : Programs Give Skiers a Lift : Several Southern California resorts are using advance-ticketing systems to cut delays on the way to the slopes.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For skiers, making one’s way down the mountain is heaven. Making’s one’s way to the mountain is, well, often an uphill battle.

That long, cold, lonely wait in line to purchase a lift ticket is the final hurdle, yet maybe the most difficult. There you stand, skis in hand, for as long as 30 minutes--so close, yet so far from the slopes. And watching all those lucky skiers already frolicking in the snow doesn’t make the wait any easier.

“Your first experience at a ski area, hassling the parking and then going and standing in a long line . . . nobody wants that,” said Phil Edholm, general manager of Ski Sunrise near Wrightwood.

That much is clear at Snow Summit, where skiers tend to make their feelings known. “Part of my job is to answer customer-complaint letters,” marketing assistant Bonnie Tregaskis said. “And one thing I know that people don’t like is waiting in line. I’d be upset too.”

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This season, getting from Point A to Point Ski figures to be a lot faster at several Southern California resorts, thanks to new advance-ticketing systems that enable customers to purchase lift tickets before ever pulling their skis out of the garage.

Ticketmaster and RealTime, a Manhattan Beach marketing network, have launched programs in which lift-ticket arrangements can be made over the telephone or by visiting a local sporting goods store.

Ticketmaster’s system will be in force exclusively at Bear Mountain. RealTime is affiliated with Mt. Baldy, Mt. Waterman, Ski Sunrise and Snow Summit. And Snow Valley plans to expand its advance-ticketing program that originated last season.

Such programs, ski-industry sources say, may soon make the lift-ticket window a thing of the past.

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“Automated advance-ticket technology is definitely the wave of the future in the ski industry,” said Margi La Porte, sales manager at Snow Valley. “Nowadays, you want to offer guests a convenience as much as you want to offer them ways to save money. Five or 10 years down the road, we’re going to see everybody on this kind of system.”

Snow Valley’s “Park-and-Ski” package began as a pilot program in which skiers were able to purchase lift tickets in advance at nine Southern California sporting goods stores. This season, availability will be expanded to more than 100 stores--including Big 5, Oshman’s and Newport Ski Co.--from San Diego to Ventura.

“People loved it,” La Porte said. “We expect it to be 10 times more effective this year.”

RealTime’s system is similar in that lift tickets are available for purchase at 21 sporting goods stores, including Sport Chalet, Chick’s Sporting Goods and Newport Ski Co. The system involves the use of ATM-like kiosks from which lift tickets are obtained via credit card with the touch of a few buttons.

RealTime also includes an electronic catalogue system by which ski equipment and apparel can be purchased from manufacturers, and a television information system that provides up-to-the-minute ski-related news and snow reports at local and national ski resorts.

RealTime’s system also will be in force at several Lake Tahoe-area resorts, as well as in areas in Utah, Colorado and the Northeast.

“We have been developing this system for two ski seasons,” said Dick Sells, RealTime president. “There is all kinds of research going on in the ski industry in this area.”

Ticketmaster’s Permanent Ticket is a reusable plastic card--similar to an ATM card--that is worn like a lift ticket on the slopes and activated by making a telephone reservation with a credit card. The card includes a personal identification number and an electronic bar code that is scanned with a hand-held computer by chair lift operators.

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Advance-ticket arrangements may differ in names and stipulations, but the premises are the same: Park the car, head for the slopes.

“The idea is to get the lift tickets into people’s hands faster,” La Porte of Snow Valley said.

But it doesn’t take computer technology to accomplish that at Mountain High in Wrightwood. All it takes is a stop along the way.

Wrightwood Ski and Sports, an accessory shop located only two miles from the resort’s lift-ticket windows, has long been one of the best-kept secrets among resort regulars, said promotions director Tracy Henry. At the shop, skiers not only can purchase lift tickets but also obtain ski rentals for Mountain High. Few skiers are aware of the convenience, Henry said.

“Every year, it’s something new and unique with each ski area,” Henry said. “We just didn’t feel any (advance-ticketing system) was necessary.”

Mountains Lowdown

Bear Mountain

Location: Big Bear Lake.

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Information and snow: (909) 585-2519.

Terrain: 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, 25% expert.

Elevation: 8,805 feet.

Vertical drop: 1,665 feet.

Longest run: 2 miles.

Number of runs: 27.

Number of lifts: One detachable quad, one quad chair, two surface, three triple, four double.

Lift prices: $38 adults, $21 children 12 and younger, $21 seniors 65 and older. Young-adult special (ages 13 to 23) $28, midweek and non-holiday only. Military special $31, midweek and non-holiday.

Food and refreshments: Chalet cafeteria and bar, pizza bar, three on-deck barbecues, two slope-side barbecues, upscale deli.

Lodging: (800) 232-7686.

Packages: Frequent-ski program available. Learn-to-ski package $29 midweek, $39 weekends and holidays. Snowboard school, handicapped ski school, junior ski center (ages 4 to 12). Ski lessons $22.

Miscellaneous: Equipment rentals $16 adults, $14 juniors. Repair shop. Lockers.

Directions: San Bernardino Freeway to Interstate 215 to California 30 to California 18. Two miles south of Big Bear.

Features: Four mountain peaks with the highest elevation of any Southern California resort rank Bear Mountain among the best local resorts. Bear Mountain’s two-mile run remains the longest in Southern California. Skiers and snowboarders share 32 runs, but the resort also includes an area exclusively for snowboarding and two runs exclusively for alpine skiing.

Mt. Baldy

Location: Mt. Baldy Road.

Information: (909) 982-0800.

Snow: (909) 981-3344.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, 40% expert.

Elevation: 8,600 feet.

Vertical drop: 2,100 feet.

Longest run: 1 1/2 miles.

Number of runs: 26.

Number of lifts: Four double.

Lift prices: $35 adults, $21 children 12 and younger, $475 season pass (adults only), family season pass (limit four members) $1,150.

Food and refreshments: Cafeteria, barbecue bar.

Lodging: Various accommodations nearby.

Packages: Learn-to-ski package includes two-hour lesson, lift ticket and rental for $35 midweek, $45 weekends. Discount coupons good for $10 off available at Southern California ski shops. Weekend and holiday “Kiddie Ski School” (under 12) $15, $20 with equipment rental. “Ski-by-the-hour” rate available.

Miscellaneous: Equipment rental $15. Ski lessons $15.

Directions: San Bernardino Freeway to Mountain Avenue, north to ski area.

Features: Increased snow-making capability will provide coverage all the way to the bottom of the main chair lift for the first time. Snow-making remains exceptional on six runs near the summit and in beginner area.

Mt. Waterman

Location: California 2, Angeles National Forest.

Information: (818) 440-1041.

Snow: (818) 790-2002.

Terrain: 20% beginner, 40% intermediate, 40% expert.

Elevation: 8,035 feet.

Vertical drop: 1,085 feet.

Longest run: 1 mile.

Number of runs: 23.

Number of lifts: Three double.

Lift prices: $30 adults, $15 children 12 and younger. One child admitted free with paying adult. Discount for seniors 65 and older to be arranged. Prices good every day.

Food and refreshments: Fast-food chili, hamburgers, hot dogs and stew.

Lodging: None available.

Packages: Learn-to-ski package includes lesson, lift ticket and rental for $25.

Miscellaneous: Equipment rental $15.

Directions: Foothill Freeway to California 2 in La Canada Flintridge, northeast 34 miles on Angeles Crest Highway.

Features: With no snow-making equipment, Mt. Waterman relies on Mother Nature--who can be very unreliable. “A few years ago, we had the greatest snow we’ve ever had up here,” Director Mary Anderson said. “Last season, we were open for only 35 days.” Crowds generally are light. Accessibility is Mt. Waterman’s attraction: Its slopes are only 50 miles from Van Nuys.

Mountain High East and West

Location: California 2, near Wrightwood.

Information: (619) 249-5477.

Terrain: 25% beginner, 50% intermediate, 25% expert.

Elevation: 8,400 feet.

Vertical drop: 1,600 feet.

Longest run: 1 1/2 miles.

Number of runs: 42.

Number of lifts: Six double, three triple, one quad, one detachable quad.

Lift prices: $38.75 adults, $15 children 12 and younger, $29.95 seniors 65 and older, $27 military. Children 10 and younger ski free with paying adult (one child per adult).

Food and refreshments: Four restaurants, two bars.

Lodging: 11 cabins available. Call (619) 249-5477.

Packages: Learn-to-ski package includes rentals and lift ticket, $25 for adults midweek, $20 for children 9 to 12. Weekends: adults $38, children $25. All-day children’s program (ages 4 to 8) for $50 includes lunch. Snowboard park on west mountain. Student discount to be arranged.

Miscellaneous: Equipment rental $18. Snowboards and snowboard boots $36. Night skiing 3 to 10 p.m., $26 for adults, $13 for children.

Directions: Interstate 15 to California 138 to California 2. Eight miles west to ski area.

Features: Extensive snow-making on 220 skiable acres makes Mountain High among Southern California’s most popular ski areas. A high-speed detachable quad lift that opened in 1989 takes skiers to the summit in six minutes.

Ski Sunrise

Location: California 2, near Wrightwood.

Information and snow: (619) 249-6150.

Terrain: 15% beginner, 55% intermediate, 30% expert.

Elevation: 7,600 feet.

Vertical drop: 800 feet.

Longest run: 1 mile.

Number of runs: 24.

Number of lifts: One quad, two pomas, one rope.

Lift prices: $28 adults on weekends and holidays, $22 midweek; $15 children 7 to 12 and seniors weekends and holidays, $12 midweek. Children 6 and younger ski free.

Food and refreshments: Snack bar, cafeteria, barbecue, beer and wine bar.

Lodging: Various accommodations nearby in Wrightwood. Call ski area for referrals.

Packages: Learn-to-ski package includes lesson, lift ticket and rental: adults $35, juniors 9 to 12 $30. One-hour lesson $25 for ages 3 to 6.

Miscellaneous: Equipment rentals: adults $14, children $12. Ski shop.

Directions: Antelope Valley Freeway to California 138 to California 2 to Table Mountain Road.

Features: New this season is improved grooming and snow-making equipment, as well as snowboarding on entire mountain.

Snow Summit

Location: East of Big Bear Lake .

Information: (909) 866-5766.

Snow: (909) 866-4621.

Terrain: 10% beginner, 65% intermediate, 25% expert.

Elevation: 8,200 feet.

Vertical drop: 1,200 feet.

Longest run: 1 1/4 miles.

Number of runs: 35.

Number of lifts: Five double, three triple, two quad, one high-speed detachable quad, one tow.

Lift prices: $41 adults, $21 children 12 and younger, $32 juniors 13 to 22, $27 seniors 60 and older (midweek). No senior rate on weekends or holidays. Children 6 and younger ski free.

Food and refreshments: Three restaurant-bars, snack bar, mountaintop fast-food restaurant, outdoor barbecues.

Lodging: (909) 866-7000.

Packages: Children 16 and younger $15 with one paying adult. Back-to-back day special (excluding holidays), adults $76, children 12 and younger $37. Learn-to-ski package, adults $30 midweek, $35 weekends and holidays; children $20 midweek, $23 weekends and holidays. Add $10 for adult rentals, $8 for children. “Gotta Ski Team” membership provides discounts on lift tickets, lessons, food and ski-shop services for $49 ($59 after Dec. 16).

Miscellaneous: Equipment rentals, adults $16, children 7 to 12 $14, snowboard and boots $28. Night skiing (3 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and holidays) $24 adults, $13 children. Credit card reservation line (909) 866-5841.

Directions: San Bernardino Freeway to California 30 to California 330 east to Big Bear.

Features: Improvements this season include a high-speed detachable quad that takes skiers to the summit in seven minutes. Also, new half-pipe area with tow lift. Snow-making capabilities on 100% of mountain. Snowboarders are permitted on most of mountain, as well as in designated snowboarder area.

Snow Valley

Location: California 18, Running Springs.

Information: (909) 867-2751.

Snow: (800) 680-7669.

Terrain: 35% beginner, 35% intermediate, 30% expert.

Elevation: 7,941 feet.

Vertical drop: 1,141 feet.

Longest run: 1 1/4 miles.

Number of runs: 35.

Number of lifts: Five triple, eight double, one tow.

Lift prices: Adults $39, children 7 to 12 and seniors 65 and older, $22, children 6 and younger and seniors 70 and older ski free. Prices good every day. Late day (12:30 p.m. to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday), adults $28, child or senior $16. Night skiing (3:30 to 9 p.m., Wednesday through Sunday), adults $24, child and senior $13.

Food and refreshments: Restaurant-bar with sun deck, snack bars.

Lodging: None.

Packages: Learn-to-ski package, including lift ticket, lesson and rentals, $35 on-site, $19 at selected sports shops.

Miscellaneous: Equipment rental, adults $15, children and seniors $11. Ski lessons, $18 for 90-minute group session. Ski shop and ski-school lounge.

Directions: San Bernardino Freeway to Interstate 215 to California 30 to California 18. Four miles east of Running Springs.

Features: Snow Valley will open the back side of its main peak this season, expanding its skiable acres from 170 to 200. Man-made snow covers about 75% of area.

About the Prices

Prices listed are the most recent available. All prices are subject to change.


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