A day in the snow, L.A. style


Everything is easier in L.A. Even the snow.

New Yorkers spent Saturday shoveling sidewalks and swapping horror stories about the thousand canceled flights that made purgatories of local airports.

Bostonians shuffled through drifts to stock up on water and candles in case an incoming ice storm fulfills predictions of downed power lines.

In New Hampshire, where some 30,000 people have not had electricity for two weeks, residents prepared for another snowfall and the prospect of a white and dark Christmas.


But in the Los Angeles area’s mountains, the snow brought joy and a photo op to anyone with half a tank of gas and an hour or more to kill.

Scores of families packed their cars with toboggans and insulated bottles filled with hot chocolate, and left their sun-baked, cactus-dappled neighborhoods for the white-capped hills on the northern horizon.

Cars, trucks and a large number of suddenly appropriate SUVs coursed up Angeles Crest Highway in search of any patch of snow.

By midmorning, the cavalcade of snow lovers had transformed the roadway’s shoulders, rest stops and scenic overlooks into the type of L.A. winter tableau normally found in snow globes: fathers pulling snow-suited toddlers on sleds, red-mittened children tossing snowballs, tree branches frosted in icicles.

For many families, going to the snow is a ritual: a fun, low-cost way to amaze little children and amuse older ones.

“Don’t we live in a great place?” said Sean Lee of Pasadena as his two daughters and two nieces frolicked in a drift near the highway. “You drive 40 minutes and you can see snow.”


As the girls’ shrieks and giggles echoed down the valley below, Lee’s wife, Cristina, said, “We come here as often as it snows.”

Driving into the snowy mountains was like standing outside the tiger pen at the zoo: all the thrill with none of the danger. The roads were clear. The sun was warm. No chains or shovels were required.

Building a snow fort at a highway turnout, La Crescenta resident Steve Dermody said his 6-year-old son, Daniel, started begging to make the drive up the mountain when he heard the first reports of snow.

“He’s been asking all week, ‘Can we go today?’ I told him that he had school and I had work, but if he could wait ‘til Saturday there would still be some,” Dermody said.

By noon, there was a waiting line for a parking space at a rest stop near Mt. Wilson. Parents ate sandwiches on their tailgates while their children rolled slush into snowmen. The sun was strong and the thermometer read 47 degrees, but many people seemed to relish the chance to wear knee-high boots and parkas.

Miles Sorkin, 5, of Pasadena was impressively turned out in a yellow fleece cap and bright blue boots as he tunneled through drifts.

“It’s such a novelty for him. It’s snowed less and less over the past couple years -- global warming -- but we come when we can,” said his father, Brian.

Another L.A. snow day tradition calls for bringing snow home. Some drivers piled snow on the hoods of their cars. Jose Aguillon of Torrance and his son and nephew mounded snow in the bed of his pickup truck in the shape of a snowman as a surprise for relatives in Pasadena.

“They should be happy,” said his nephew, Juan Grimaldo. “They don’t see snow down where we live.”

For day-trippers, the snow has no downside. There is no drive to plow. No rock salt to spread. No snow-day baby-sitting to arrange. And when everyone is tired, wet or cold, they just get in the car and go home.

Leah Collins, a 2-year-old from Arcadia, experienced her first encounter with snow in a highway turnoff in Angeles National Forest.

“Cold,” she said, daintily patting a shallow stretch of snow by her family’s sport utility vehicle.

“She’s seen it a lot on TV, but it’s not the same as seeing it or touching it,” said her mother, Annie.

“I want to go home now,” Leah announced.

“Let’s go,” her parents said. And they did.