More options for skiers

Dick Kun doesn't give up easily.

Kun, who operates the Snow Summit ski resort at Big Bear Lake,

made his first overture to acquire Bear Mountain, located about two

miles away, in 1980. Nothing came of it.

He continued to carry the torch, however, and almost got the

object of his affection to the altar two years ago. The parties

agreed to the marriage but there was this little problem with the

dowry. Snow Summit couldn't quite arrange the financing and the

romance cooled again.

But it heated up once more this year and in late October, the

union became official.

Snow Summit acquired Bear Mountain and Kun, who had expected as a

young man to become a social-science teacher, not the operator of one

of the most successful and best-managed medium-sized ski hills in the

country, is anticipating the honeymoon with an enthusiasm that belies

his 61 years.

"I'm really looking forward to seeing how things start to play

out," he said as he waited for the temperature to drop sufficiently

for the manufacture of snow to commence at both resorts.

Summit and Bear are not the biggest or most challenging hills in

the western U.S., but they excel in the area most critical to success

in the mild, arid climate of Southern California. Blessed with an

unlimited supply of water from Big Bear Lake, they make snow of a

volume unequaled in the West, if not the entire U.S.

In a typical winter, they offer the most consistent and reliable

snow conditions in the Southland.

This winter they'll offer something not seen before in Southern

California: A pair of mountains aimed at, but not limited to,

distinctively different segments of the winter-sport market. Snow

Summit will cater to families and skiers. Bear Mountain will appeal

to younger people and snowboarders.

Skis and snowboards will be welcome at either hill, but the

terrain features that excite the typical young snowboarder will be

far more plentiful at Bear than Summit. They won't be lacking

entirely at Summit, however.

Shuttles will run between the two resorts. Lift tickets, priced at

$43 for adults except for certain periods when the charge climbs to

$50, will be interchangeable with a few exceptions.

Summit, at Kun's insistence, has long limited ticket sales to cut

lines at lifts and crowds on slopes. The policy will continue and

will apply to both hills. During the Christmas holiday period and the

three days around the Martin Luther King and Presidents holidays,

tickets will not be interchangeable. Some extremely busy Saturdays

may also be subject to this policy. Otherwise, Kun is afraid Summit,

heretofore the more popular of the two by a considerable margin,

could get overloaded.

Visitors to Bear can expect to see all sorts of devices designed

to hurl snowboarders skyward on all but the steepest runs. Steeps and

snowboarders don't generally mix in Southern California, where the

landings tend to be hard because a snow-pack made by artificial means

tends to be firm. So the long, precipitous Geronimo descent, strictly

by default, will most likely remain a skier's preserve.

Geronimo is an anomaly. It's served by its own triple chairlift.

Unless you want to ski among trees on steep flanks that plunge into a

canyon, Geronimo is the only way down from 8,805-foot Bear Peak, the

tallest among Southern California ski areas.

That's why, in the 17 years I've been skiing in Southern

California on weekends and holidays almost exclusively, I have yet to

spend even a second waiting to board this lift. However, it might

become a bit more popular this year. Skiers accustomed to spending

most of their time on such runs as The Wall, Olympic and Side Chute,

the steepest at Summit, may well get on the trail of Geronimo now

that they'll be able to do so on a single ticket, particularly if

it's a season pass.

ART BENTLEY can be reached at (626) 302-3394.

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