SnoCountry Road Trip: Springtime SoCal On The Ikon Pass
Hints of spring are in the air across the West, so your SnoCountry road trippers grab an Ikon Pass and head to Southern California's Big Bear, Mammoth, and June Mountain, where the weather warms early and everything is sooo SoCal.
All three offer unlimited skiing and riding to Ikon pass holders, so this trip can easily stretch out a bit. Expect spring conditions.
Fly into an L.A. area airport (Ontario is the closest) and head into the San Bernadino Mountains. Separated by two miles, 8,000-foot-high Big Bear and Snow Summit hover over Big Bear Lake with a combined 1,000 acres. Weekdays preferred as crowds pour in on weekends. Lodging aplenty in the town of Big Bear Lake.
Known for its freestyle park zone, The Bear's 14 parks with 200+ features and three half-pipes scatter off Bear Mountain Express four-pack. The rest of the mountain limited to half-dozen blacks, glades in Bow and Deer canyons, and revamped learning area at the base.
For a more traditional layout, hop a shuttle to Snow Summit. Two high-speeds deliver to the ridge at 8,000 feet for a full day of blacks and blues, served by a half-dozen chairs. If you need a jib or C-rail, skiers left off the summit have parks galore, including feature-full, 1.5-mile Westridge. Night skiing, too.
Next, settle in for the five-hour drive to Mammoth Mountain, one of the largest U.S. resorts: 3,500 acres with a 3,100-foot drop, two dozen lifts (three gondolas), and four base areas. Crowds come from afar but mountain spreads 'em out even on busiest days. Shredders gather in renowned terrain park zones.
Trail map sorts well, with greens and parks near the bottom, a plethora of cruiser blues at mid-section, and steep open bowls across the entire summit ridgeline. Trail names Hangman's Hollow, Dropout Chutes, and Paranoid Flats speak for themselves. Airy glades beckon below bowls, and midway McCoy Station offers respite.
The lift system makes sense, limiting traverses, so your legs are bound to burn at day's end. Tons of food, drink, and lodging around base areas and nearby.
We finish up with a day at June Mountain, Mammoth's under-the-radar little sister. A locals' hill, June has a funky layout: Nearly 3,000 vertical on 1,500 acres, with steepest runs at top and bottom. Park at the bottom, but the main lodge is a lift ride away. Return to your car down all blacks, or one lazy roundabout.
Although compact, there's something for everyone. Sufficient green runs give way all blue groomers off Rainbow and over to June Mountain, where a cluster of short-but-sweet double-black diamonds draw experts.
Plenty of lodging down below in the town of June Lake and a short ride to Mammoth Lakes, as well as outdoor activities galore.