Snow season is now upon us and this winter looks promising due to the El Niño event that has taken shape over the past six months. For those of you new to California or just new to the snow, El Niño is a weather pattern that dramatically increases the northern Pacific storm track creating, big surf and lots of snowfall for California.
Where to go
Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are in the San Bernardino Mountain range just outside of Los Angeles and just a short 3-hour drive from San Diego. The terrain has everything you'll want in proximity to home, and the price is always right for a quick midweek getaway. As an added bonus, there is always snow due to the proximity to Big Bear Lake. The resorts use water from the lake to make their own snow every night, so at least you know there will be something to ride even if there is no storm activity. It might not always be the best snow but it will suffice.
If you want to challenge yourself, or are of intermediate to advanced skill, you have to get over to Mammoth Mountain. This resort has been California's best for decades with its high-speed lifts, massive amounts of snow and ample warming huts to get your midday beers and food. The mountain is massive with runs for every skill level and killer terrain parks at both Mammoth and nearby June Mountain. If you're going on a weekend, be prepared to be shocked by the sheer amount of people. Seriously, it can be soul crushing. Plan accordingly and avoid holidays and weekends if you can. If you must go on a big weekend, pack a good attitude and patience.
Unless you are financially crushing it, you will more than likely be staying put in California for your mountain missions. Quite possibly the best way to enjoy the mountains at an affordable price is to buy a "Cali4nia Pass." This pass gets you a whole season of unlimited access to some of California's best ski resorts - Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, June Mountain and Mammoth Mountain - all for $999, with lower prices for children, youth and seniors. The pass gets you unlimited runs on any of the four mountains with, get this, no blackout dates. Passes are available for purchase online at cali4niapass.com.
Another key preparation is to make sure to bring quality equipment and gear. It really makes a world of difference. If you don't own anything, you can rent all the hardgoods up on the mountain, but try to chase down warm, waterproof clothing for your day or weekend trip before you go. If you're a novice, lessons are a great idea, even if it's only for the first day. Always plan ahead and check online resources such as Craigslist, VRBO or vacationrentals.com for house rentals before you book hotel rooms. If you have a big group, larger houses or apartments might be the best way to go, and could help save some money.
Before you start your trip, make sure to check the weather forecast for your drive. Watch the roads and plan your drive with alternate routes in case there are closures due to snowfall. Having an all-wheel drive vehicle is recommended and chains are always important to have in your car "just in case."
This very well could be the best snow season of this century if all the reports and weather patterns hold up. Get out there and experience the other side of California's immense beauty and enjoy.
Things to consider on your drive to the mountains
•?Extra winter gear
•?Extra blankets in trunk
•?Watch the weather reports
•?Bring a friend for the long drive up
As a lifelong San Diegan, Ken Lewis has surfing and ocean life in his DNA. As a 30-year surfer himself, Lewis has worked in the surf and skate industry for most of his career. Send him your thoughts about the surfing world to firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Instagram @hanger18.