Snow blankets SoCal mountains, luring skiers, adding risk to roads

Jake Kentner, 20, backcountry snowboards with friends in some fresh snow near Big Bear Lake.
With the local ski area sold out and the parking lot full, Jake Kentner, 20, backcountry snowboards with friends in some fresh snow near Big Bear Lake.
(Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Southern California mountain resorts came alive this week after storms on Sunday and Monday dropped as much as 2 feet of snow on local slopes. The new powder enticed skiers and snowboarders but added risk and delays on mountain roads, with waits of two hours or more reported Tuesday on the route to Mt. Baldy in the San Gabriel Mountains.

The snow forced closure of Mt. Baldy Road for much of Tuesday morning. After the road opened midday (chains on tires or four-wheel-drive required), the Mt. Baldy Fire Department warned of backups at the chain-control checkpoint.

“Please be aware there is an approximately 2 hour line of traffic to reach the chain control checkpoint,” the department tweeted. “No gasoline services or cellular phone coverage on the mountain.”

During the road’s iciest conditions Monday night some drivers were stranded on the road for more than five hours, Angeles National Forest officials tweeted.

Anyone considering trips to the mountains should check resort hours, road conditions and chain requirements. Chain restrictions are in effect on many popular roads. Go to Caltrans’ website for conditions on individual roadways or call (800) 427-7623.


Meanwhile, resorts reported a surge in visitors on the slopes. Under state COVID-19 restrictions, overnight tourism is forbidden but day trips are allowed, with ski resorts operating at reduced capacities and requiring advance purchases of lift tickets.

On Mt. Baldy Resort’s slopes, officials reported 24 inches of new snow.

Mountain High in Wrightwood reported 15 to 19 inches of snow from the storm, 29 inches in the last seven days. By Tuesday afternoon, the resort’s website said lift tickets were sold out for Wednesday. First available tickets: Wednesday night.

Snow Valley Mountain Resort in Running Springs got 24 inches of snow from the storm at its summit (7,841 feet) and 19 inches of snow at its base (6,800 feet). Its slopes will be open to skiers, boarders and sledders from 8:30 a.m. until 8 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, with a 4 p.m. closing time Thursday, New Year’s Eve. More night sessions are scheduled Jan. 1 and 2, weather permitting.

At Big Bear Mountain Resort (which includes Bear Mountain and Snow Summit) in the San Bernardino Mountains, the storm dropped 14 to 16 inches. As of Tuesday afternoon, resort management reported that full- and half-day lift tickets were sold out through New Year’s Eve, with some night-session tickets available.

At Mt. Waterman, management said the resort had received up to 10 inches of snow on Monday but had not yet opened lifts. Access on the Angeles Crest Highway may be difficult; portions were closed because of the Bobcat fire.