Southern California’s secret ski resort will be open this weekend

Mt. Waterman re-opens on weekends
Mt. Waterman is an L.A. area resort that dates to 1939.
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Mt. Waterman, L.A.’s nearest and coziest ski resort, will be open this weekend, providing a rare opportunity for locals looking for an easy and affordable day in the snow.

This will be the second weekend in a row that the Waterman will be open, as the landmark takes advantage of as much as 3 feet of natural snow that has coated the San Gabriel Mountains.

Anytime Waterman is up and running is notable on the local ski scene, given its history and proximity to Los Angeles. It was open nine days last season and not at all during the most serious drought seasons.

Two of the three chairs will operate 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Adult lift tickets cost $60; trails are beginner through advanced.

Roads are clear, and if sunny skies continue, roads will be dry and tire chains will not be necessary. Forecasts call for a chance of rain Sunday; highs both days are expected to be in the 50s.

Mt. Waterman on Monday, where skiers were treated to a 2-3 foot base.
The lift at Chair 1 on Monday. Mt. Waterman is open again, with a decent base and two lifts running.
(Chris Erskine / Los Angeles Times)

Waterman’s capacity is 500 skiers — and most days it draws fewer than that — and skiers and riders welcome its open trails and friendly vibe. Many locals first learned to ski at the no-frills resort 34 twisty miles above La Cañada Flintridge.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, co-owner Rick Metcalf, who runs the resort with his brother, Brien, and sister, Elizabeth, helped guide riders on and off Chair 1, which runs from the ticket hut and up the face, to the restaurant and easier runs at the top.

Ski snobs sneer at Mt. Baldy, dinging it for its ma-and-pa amenities and modest number of runs, treating its easy access and affordability as some sort of character flaws. Shame on the snobs. Because this year in particular, Baldy is the best ski deal in California.

“I give it to them,” said skier Gary Allegretto of Hollywood Hills, “they kept it running.” Allegretto, who first visited Mt. Waterman 30 years ago, spent the day becoming familiar again with the tree-lined resort.

“It’s old school and charming and accessible, in the most-inclusive way,” said Stephanie Dougherty of San Clemente, who was on the hill Saturday for a day of family skiing. “Because it doesn’t get enough snow every year, it feels like an event when you get to go.”

That sums up much of the reaction to the opening of Waterman, which is in Angeles National Forest. It’s an upside-down hill, in that most services and runs are up at the top, including the beginning and intermediate trails. At full operation, 65% of the runs are advanced, drawing serious skiers and riders to Wallbanger, Jack’s Run and Mixing Bowl off of tree-heavy Chair 1.

Chair 2 serves beginner and intermediate skiers and riders, with groomed trails on long, scenic runs. Chair 3 has not opened yet.

The resort dates to 1939, when the Newcomb family opened the first rope tow. A chair lift was added in 1941, and Chair 2 arrived during the snowy winter of 1968-69.

Lynn Newcomb Jr. ran the hill through the mid-1990s, often shoveling out lifts and selling tickets himself. The resort fell on hard times until the Metcalfs bought it in 2006, for reasons more sentimental than financial. They continue to run it, relying on Mother Nature to provide enough base.

Check the website for conditions before heading up. Snow updates: (818) 790-2002