Con l’abbondanza di discese e snowpark nei due impianti sciistici del lago di Big Bear, Bear Mountain e Snow Summit, è facile capire perché sciatori e snowboarder si precipitano qui alla prima nevicata. Ma questa interessante destinazione alpina nelle San Bernardino Mountains, facile fuga per gli amanti della neve della California meridionale, è anche ricca di altri modi per uscire e divertirsi, oltre alle discese. “Questo posto diventa veramente magico quando cade la neve e ci sono tantissime cose da fare oltre allo sci alpino, all’interno e all’esterno”, dice Dan McKernan del Big Bear Visitors Bureau.
Le sue cinque attività preferite da fare sul lago di Big Bear durante la stagione invernale? Fare un giro adrenalinico su una serie di teleferiche sopra le piste da sci di San Bernardino oppure provare la Soaring Eagle, un giro per due in stile parco dei divertimenti che inizia alla base dell’Alpine Slide alla Magic Mountain e vi farà sentire come se steste volando sopra il lago di Big Bear (aperta tuttol’anno). Se preferite una velocità adrenalinica con i piedi per terra, rotolate su camere d’aria giù da una collina o lanciatevi con il bob giù da una discesa alpina.
Questo periodo dell’anno è ottimo per osservare le aquile di mare testa bianca; potete aiutare gli sforzi di conservazione locali passando un pomeriggio a mettere su carta i vostri avvistamenti oppure visitate semplicemente il Big Bear Alpine Zoo per vedere alcuni magnifici uccelli da vicino, cosa che non potreste fare con gli esemplari selvatici.
Gli escursionisti si perdono nella natura mentre ciaspolano lungo i chilometri e chilometri di sentieri dedicati a quell’attività contemplativa. Comunque decidiate di passare la giornata, concludetela con un piatto squisito di sostanzioso cibo di montagna al Big Bear Lake Village. Continuate a leggere per pianificare al meglio un viaggio invernale in questa città montana della California meridionale.
According to locals, people are often surprised when they come to Big Bear Lake and see bald eagles flying around. But the majestic birds of prey are a fairly common sight here during winter; the San Bernardino Mountains actually has the largest wintering population of bald eagles in Southern California. To learn more about them, visit the Big Bear Discovery Center, in San Bernardino, or the Big Bear Alpine Zoo at Moonridge, which houses two rescued bald eagles, Alaska and Valentine. The zoo doubles as a rehabilitation facility that offers injured, orphaned, and human-imprinted wild animals a safe haven temporarily or permanently, on a per-case basis.
If you really like the idea of seeing eagles, consider joining the San Bernardino Winter Bald Eagle Count, an annual volunteer-supported effort that’s been held at Big Bear Lake and other San Bernardino locations since 1978. Volunteers are stationed at select vantage points in proximity to five lakes, for one-hour stints, over a period of four months, from December to March. No registration is needed; orientation is the morning of the day you’d like to participate. Then just show up at the designated location at the start time with a pair of binoculars and a way to keep track of time. You’ll be able to help out by recording bird sightings and any observations about the birds’ behavior, and be richer from the experience; see a bald eagle dive for fish in a snowy wonderland, and you’ll never forget it.
Insider tip: If participating in the Winter Bald Eagle Count, remember you’ll be standing still, outdoors, in winter weather. Be sure to dress appropriately.
For an over-the-top outdoor experience, take flight on a zip line near Big Bear Lake. You’ll fly as high as 85 feet above the forest floor—the sweeping views of the snowy scenery are unbeatable as you slice through the brisk mountain air. The year-round safari-style ride offered by Action Zipline Tours lets you clip in, then zoom along nine separate lines ranging from 120 to 860 feet. The longer you spend speeding down a line, the faster you go, so that by the time you clip in to the longest line, you’ll (safely) reach speeds of up to 45 miles per hour! The zip lines operated by Action Zipline Tours are the only zip lines built according to San Bernardino County Building and Safety codes and certified by the state of California, so you can get in on the fun knowing that safety is the top priority.
By the end of your three-hour adventure, you’ll be a zipping pro. You’ll also get an extra boost of adrenaline crossing an above-it-all suspension bridge, testing your agility and balance while strapped into a safety harness. All gear and instruction is provided as well as an off-road ride in the Action Zipline Tours safari vehicle to the site, which is located two miles into the forest. Weather conditions have to be right for zip lining, so be sure to call ahead for reservations, and visit their website to get details on what to wear and height, weight, and age requirements.
Another option: the Soaring Eagle, an amusement-style two-at-a-time ride that starts at the base of the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. After settling into your gondola-like seats, you’ll be towed upward and backward 500 feet to reach a height of 100 feet before being catapulted forward on an arc that will make you feel like you are soaring over Big Bear Lake.
Put yourself in the midst of snow-covered nature with a tranquil snowshoe trek in Big Bear Lake. Pack a picnic lunch (think hearty sandwiches and hot chocolate in a thermos) and trek on snowshoes over Big Bear’s network of beautiful trails—the easy Town Trail at the Snow Summit Ski Resort at Big Bear is a local favorite. (Try Goldsmith’s Ski and Board Rentals, Potter’s Mountain Sports or Blauer Rentals for gear rentals, maps, and trail recommendations.)
Other local spots include Rim Nordic, which has groomed trails for both snowshoeing and cross-country skiing as well as rental equipment. From Lake Arrowhead, east toward Fawnskin, on the banks of Big Bear Lake, Blue Diamonds mark routes that are part of the Forest Service road system. This means they are closed to vehicles during the winter season, and thus make for a great snowshoe experience if you prefer wider paths free of underbrush and trees. The San Gorgonio Wilderness lends itself well to snowshoe trekking, and for ease of access, it’s hard to beat the well-marked trails on the north side of Highway 38. The staff at the Big Bear Discovery Center will be able to offer additional tips on places to go; while there, check out the exhibits, weekly programs offered, and calendar of events held at their outdoor amphitheater.
If you’re new to the sport or you would just like to explore with an experienced guide, consider joining a trek with Action Tours Big Bear. Three-hour snowshoeing tours, best for ages 10 and older, are customized to match your interests and abilities. All gear is provided.
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.
Mountain cuisine of the highest order is served up at Himalayan Restaurant, one of the most inviting and popular restaurants in Big Bear Lake. Tables fill up fast in the longtime standby, and little wonder: dishes from the Nepalese and Indian Himalayan regions such as palak aaloo (silky pureed spinach leaves and bite-size potatoes sautéed with onions, ginger, garlic, and homemade spices) and lamb makhni (tandoor-cooked lamb prepared with tomato-saffron and a curry cream sauce) are outstanding and come in rapid fire out of the small kitchen. It's a homey, relaxed setting—ski parkas and snow boots are welcome—and the staff is friendly and will happily guide you through the menu and suggest dishes. If you or members of your group are vegetarian or vegan, this is the perfect alternative to the burger and pizza places in Big Bear Village, as many of the dishes are vegan- and vegetarian-friendly.
Be sure to order a selection of naans (garlic, onion, cheese, and more), which receive especially enthusiastic reviews, and don’t miss the mo-mo, Tibetan flour dumplings stuffed with meat of vegetables and served with homemade achar dipping sauce and chutney. The house lemonade is also not to be missed—made with ginger for an extra flavor twist, it’s perfect for imbibing on the outdoor patio in the summer. Indian beers and mango lassis (yogurt shakes) are also offered, which round out the authentic Himalayan vibe. And do strike up a conversation with your server; some of the staff has summited Everest.