3 Days 399 Miles
West Coast Winter Skiing: Discover 2 of California’s Hidden Ski Gems
Ready to go California skiing on such a winter’s day? There are many hidden ski gems in the California mountains, and we are ready to help you discover a few. We have some great locations in the California area, starting with a three-day itinerary that is perfect for a long weekend or winter getaway. So find your ski gear and winter woolies because it’s time to hit the slopes!
This ski-themed road trip will begin in Southern California, so we recommend flying in to Los Angeles International Airport, about a two-hour drive from our first destination. Arrive the night before so you can get an early start to day one of this West Coast winter adventure.
Day 1 – Big Bear Mountain Resort
Get ready for some of the best skiing ever at Big Bear Mountain Resort, about 100 miles from Los Angeles. Arriving in this quaint mountain town, you will feel excited about skiing or snowboarding down some of the stunning slopes always covered in snow, thanks to the snowmakers in action. The SoCal ski resort has 18 trails suitable for all levels, nine lifts and all the scenic views you imagine a California winter wonderland would have. Up in the mountains of San Bernardino, ski your heart out at either Snow Summit or Big Bear Mountain.
If anyone in your group isn’t into skiing, there are sledding, tubing and hiking options in the area. Day and night tubing is available at Big Bear Snow Play, and just a bit farther away you’ll find the oldest tubing park in the area at Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park.
You might be wondering if there are bears around Big Bear Mountain. You are not the first to ask, and yes, there are some black bears around, but sightings are rare, and they hibernate during the winter months. So the chances of seeing one are very slim.
Where to Stay Near Big Bear Mountain
The nearby town of Big Bear Lake has plenty of hotels for you to choose from. The Lagunita Lodge, and Noon Lodge are two of our favorites. Big Bear Lake is also home to some fantastic restaurants. We loved Teddy Bear, Tropicali and Peppercorn Grille, but there are plenty of other choices too.
Day 2 – Badger Pass Ski Area
Today, it’s time to drive up north to Badger Pass Ski Area in Yosemite National Park. This is one of the few places you can catch a ski lift in America within a National Park. Uncrowded slopes with long runs through awe-inspiring terrain make it a ski experience to remember. There are ten ski runs, five chair lifts and slopes suitable for all skill levels. Tune in to live webcams to see current weather conditions and imagine what it would be like to arrive at this place of natural beauty and dramatic landscapes.
When you need a break from skiing or snowboarding, enjoy a hearty meal at one of the many restaurants on the mountain which emphasize locally sourced ingredients on each of the menus. Of course, nothing beats a steaming hot chocolate or mulled wine in front of a roaring fire after hours of inspiring ski runs.
For the non-skiers traveling with you, the Badger Pass Nordic Center and Tubing Hill is a great option. The area has over 90 miles of trails for cross-country skiing along with a fun tubing hill kids will love. Snowshoe and ski rentals are available on-site.
Pro Tip: Subject to change due to weather conditions, Badger Ski Area is usually open from mid-December until mid-March. Remember to book well in advance during Christmas and New Year holiday times when it gets busy.
Where to Stay Near Badger Pass
After a long, action-packed day on the ski fields, return to your accommodation to relax. Tenaya Lodge at Yosemite does it just right when it comes to blissful snowy vacations. With luxury cabins, excellent service and facilities including a spa, heated outdoor swimming pool and game room, you will have the coziest base to return to after a long day of skiing.
Day 3 – Backcountry Ski Tour
On the final day of your California ski tour, prepare to head into the backcountry with Yosemite Mountaineering School & Guide Service. These backcountry ski tours take you to sites like Glacier Point with options for half-day, full-day or overnight adventures. A trip to the popular Glacier Point Ski Hut is about 10.5 miles from the Badger Pass Ski Area and includes stunning views of Yosemite Valley, Half Dome and the Yosemite High Country. Strong skiers could make this trip in one day, but the 8-10 hour round trip journey covering 21 miles does require endurance and determination. If you’re only looking to tour for a few hours, then a custom-designed trip is well worth it!
After a rugged day outdoors, head back to Tenaya Lodge for a well-deserved meal at Jackalopes Bar & Grill. There’s nothing like delicious comfort food—or a salad—to help you regain your energy. Pair a made-to-order burger with a selection of local beers and wines to end your three-day California ski trip.
There are many more hidden ski gems in the California wilderness if you have more time to spare. While these three are some of our favorites, there are many more we are yearning to try this winter!