For a lot of people, the winter scene around Southern California’s Big Bear Lake may be the first snow they have ever seen—and the first chance they’ve had to go tubing and sledding. You’ll see every shape and size and age person, from little kids to grandparents, whooping and hollering as they bounce down the region’s snow-park hills on inner tubes or swoosh down in sleds. Chairlifts and Magic Carpet lifts—which resemble a moving sidewalk, only these go up hills—make it easy to ride back up to the top and do it all over again.
At Big Bear Snow Play, zoom down a hill that used to be the Rebel Ridge ski area, and is now the site of the longest snow-tubing runs in Southern California. They also have ample snow-making machines, so as long as it’s cold enough, there will always be plenty of snow and the lanes remain open after dark on Friday and Saturday nights. For after-dark fun on weeknights, try the Grizzly Ridge Tube Park, at Snow Summit ski resort, which has lighted runs and tubes labeled as “high-speed”—if that’s a good thing! (Children must be at least 42” tall to ride a snow tube by themselves.) As the first resort located west of the Mississippi to host the Winter X Games, Snow Summit has plenty of winter-sports cred.
At the Alpine Slide at Bear Lake’s Magic Mountain, whoosh bobsled-style down a winding flume; it’s the only place in Southern California that offers visitors a chance to navigate their own true bobsled, with Teflon runners and ball-bearing wheels, down a quarter-mile, high-banked cement track. There’s a tubing hill too, open for daytime and nighttime sessions.
With its inviting destinations and uncrowded wilderness, this region feels like an insider’s secret amid the bustling excitement of Southern California.
Mount San Gorgonio—nicknamed “Old Grayback”—is the tallest peak in Southern California, at 11,502 feet/3,506 meters.
Surprising alpine scenery around Lake Arrowhead and Big Bear beckons, with pine-scented trails in summer and winter sports when the snow flies. If you’re into action, get the adrenaline rush of seeing the world’s best NASCAR racers compete at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana. For a dreamier escape, float in a hot-air balloon above rolling Temecula Valley wine country.
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