Commentary: L.A.’s snowy mountains are a glorious, fleeting thing to behold

People gather for a look at snowcapped mountains in the distance, behind skyline buildings
Visitors to Kenneth Hahn Regional Park get a look at snowcapped mountains on Feb. 26, 2023.
(Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

After shivering through days of heavy rain and snow, I was among millions of people in Southern California rewarded over the weekend when the weather cleared to reveal crisp views of mountains that are snowier than we’ve seen in many years.

The gleaming white vistas were stunning not because they’re unexpected — snow-covered mountains are a regular part of winter in L.A. — but because of how deep and widespread the snowfall was. The recent storms dumped as much as 8 feet in the San Gabriel Mountains and brought heavy snow to unusually low elevations, shrouding even the smaller, coastal ranges such as the Santa Ana and the Santa Monica mountains in a beautiful layer of white.

There’s something about L.A.’s mountains after a winter storm, and the way they just pop with such crystal-clear definition after the cleansing rain. It gives me a feeling of joy and renewal. It’s a welcome contrast after years of experiencing drought, heat waves, wildfires and other climate change-driven extremes that threaten these same mountains — even if these storms are just another type of extreme.


I grew up along Colorado’s Front Range, where the Rocky Mountains were an unquestionable feature of the landscape, orienting you to the West, with their 14,000-foot peaks clad in bright white snow for much of the year.

But in Southern California, where I’ve now lived half my life, I’ve had a more detached relationship with the local mountains. Most of the year they’re dull and dry, and can almost fade into the smog, haze and marine layer. But when they emerge from a big winter storm, you remember just how near those 10,000-foot peaks really are.

I live in a flat area of L.A. County near the coast, where you’ve got to find the right spot to get a view of the San Gabriel or Santa Ana mountains that’s unobstructed by buildings. When their sharp, snowy outlines kept popping into my gaze as I drove around on Sunday, I felt invigorated, and reminded that sometimes Southern California’s mountains are so beautiful they just can’t be ignored.