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Snow or not, Big Bear ski slopes opening this week

Snowmaking machines spray powder near a chair lift
Snowmaking machines blast the slopes at Big Bear Mountain Resort on Friday.
(Lee Stockwell / Big Bear Mountain Resort)

Two of Southern California’s ski areas will open this week despite the lack of one key ingredient: snow.

Big Bear Mountain Resort, which includes Bear Mountain and Snow Summit, will open to pass holders Thursday and to the general public Friday.

Because of COVID-19 restrictions last season, guests were required to book their tickets in advance before arriving at the slopes. This season, skiers and snowboarders can purchase tickets at the base areas, resort officials said.

Justin Kanton, Big Bear Mountain Resort’s advertising and marketing director, said “no major operation changes” are planned this season.

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Despite vaccine mandates in many parts of California, resort visitors will not be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination, but guests will need to wear masks when they are inside any facilities at the slopes.

Palisades Tahoe will join Mammoth Mountain in starting its season early, opening Friday for skiing and snowboarding.

This week’s opening follows an especially dry fall in Southern California, with low rainfall throughout the region.

Phil Gonsalves, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego, said there typically is not a lot of snowfall in Southern California this time of year. This season is no different.

“It does not seem any of the resort areas have gotten any snow this season,” Gonsalves said. “The last time they reported getting snow was back in March, which was at the end of last season.”

Big Bear Mountain Resort uses man-made snow and relies on cold temperatures for it to stick to the ground amid an overall lack of natural powder.

Current conditions aren’t exactly optimal for snow, and while it’s not unusual, it is getting late in the season to not see any precipitation at the resort levels, Gonsalves said.

Temperatures will remain in the high 50s at Big Bear heading into the weekend but drop into the low 30s overnight. By Saturday, the high at a 6,900-foot elevation will reach 55, according to the National Weather Service.

Although early-season snow in the Sierra helped some ski resorts, including Mammoth Mountain, open early, others have been stymied by a lack of powder.

This month, the Sugar Bowl Resort in North Lake Tahoe pushed back the start to its season because of warmer weather.

“We held on to hope as long as we could, but with a forecast calling for more mild and dry weather in the week ahead, we must delay the start of our winter season,” the Sugar Bowl Resort said in a statement.

But officials said the snowmaking team is ready “to flip the switch on our fleet of high-powered snow guns across the resort whenever conditions allow.”


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