During the winter season in San Diego, snow is about as common as sunshine in Seattle. That is to say, there is a greater chance of aliens crashing into Crystal Pier than Mother Earth bestowing us with a blanket of fresh power at the beach.
Though the year-round 70 degree weather is one of the most common reasons for transplantation to sunny San Diego – How could one say no to bikinis and board shorts in the middle of December? – Sometimes we locals crave a little chill factor to give us a glimpse of the seasons and usher us into the holiday spirit.
From snowboarding the slopes with friends to making snow angels with the kids and majestic gondola rides, discover your local Winter Wonderland escape at these nearby Mountains and Snow Parks.
Skiing & Snowboarding
At 120 miles away, Mountain High is the closest major mountain resort to San Diego. Mountain High boasts three separate resorts with a total of 16 lifts featuring 2 high speed quads, 2 quad chairlifts, 2 triple chairlifts, 5 double chairlifts and 5 handle tows. Mountain High offers two types of lift tickets: the Flex Ticket (starting at $35) is available in any 4 or 8-hour block of time and the Point Ticket (starting at $55), sold in blocks of 200, 500 or 1,000 points, lets you choose the number of runs you wish to take per day. Head over to the North Resort for another kind of fun in the snow. The North Pole Tubing Park is the largest tubing facility in Southern California with up to nine lanes, two moving carpets and custom tubes. Tubing tickets cost $20 for two hours and $35 for the whole day. Mountain High is located approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes from downtown San Diego. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit mthigh.com.
Bear Mountain Resort
Bear Mountain is the Mecca for snowboarders and skiers in So Cal. You’ll find all levels at Bear Mountain, including 150 jumps and 57 jibs. To top it off, the Superpipe at Big Bear Mountain’s “The Park” was named number one in the nation in “Transworld Snowboarding” 2009 Resort Poll. All day lift tickets run for $66, $56 for a half-day, $42 for the night and $30 for a half-night. Even better, your Big Bear lift ticket is good over at its sister mountain, Snow Summit. Big Bear Mountain Resort is located at 880 Summit Blvd. in Big Bear Lake – approximately 3 hrs from downtown San Diego. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit: bearmountain.com.
The sister resort to Bear Mountain, Snow Summit boasts one of the highest ratios of snowboarders to skiers in the world, with about 60% to 70% of visitors riding one plank instead of two. Located 2 hours east of Los Angeles in the San Bernadino Mountains, Snow Summit features 12 lifts and boats five terrain parks ranging from easy to edgy, as well as two halfpipes, the East Why Halfpipe and the ZZYZX Halfpipe for extreme-sports aficionados. If you’re new to the slopes or simply want to brush up on your skills, Snow Summit offers professionally taught skiing and snowboarding lessons for all ages from beginners through experts starting at $69. Lift tickets for Snow Summit currently run at $66 for a day, $56 for a half-day, $42 for a night and $30 for a half-night. Big Bear Mountain Resort is located at 880 Summit Blvd. in Big Bear Lake – approximately 3 hours from downtown San Diego. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit snowsummit.com.
Celebrating its 70th anniversary, Mount Waterman is So Cal’s oldest ski and snowboard lift. Located a short drive from Los Angeles, Mt. Waterman has a variety of wide open beginner and intermediate runs as well as some of the most challenging expert terrains available. If you’re a novice boarder or skier, take a lesson with one of the certified instructors in the newly expanded beginner’s area. If you’re a pro, then Mt. Waterman’s all new grooming equipment and increased ski area is the perfect place for you this winter season. Half-day lift tickets cost $40 and full day tickets cost $50. Mt. Waterman Ski Resort is located off Angeles Crest Hway in La Canada. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit mtwaterman.org.
Located at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, the 130-mile drive is well worth the trip – Snow Valley has received 19 inches of new snow since the recent rainy ransack. With 4 lifts and 19 trails open and a packed powder surface, Snow Valley has something for every level of skier and boarder. Holiday lift ticket prices start at $64 for an all-day trek, $54 for a half-day and $29 if you’re looking for a nighttime ride. Serious about boarding? Adult season passes run for $389. If you’re looking for a different kind of winter adventure, check out the Snow Play area for some thrilling downhill sledding and tubing, or send the youngsters over to the Mini Snowmobile Park. Snow Valley is located 5 miles east of Running Springs on Highway 18. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit snow-valley.com.
Dubbed as “Southern California’s Best Kept Secret,” Mt. Baldy offers all levels of skiing and boarding from the very beginner to the steepest vertical drop in Southern California. Mt. Baldy offers skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snow play and scenic chair rides from 8 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday and 7:30 am to 4:30 pm on weekends and holidays. Ski and board ticket prices are $54 for a half-day during the holidays and peak weekends and $64 for a full day. If boarding or skiing isn’t your thing, check out the Tubing Park. All day tickets run for $30 and $15 for two hours. Mt. Baldy is located approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit mtbaldy.com.
Palm Springs Aerial Tramway
The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is constructed in rugged Chino Canyon on the north edge of Palm Springs. The tramway grants access to all sorts of snow-filled activities. Open Thursday, Friday and Monday from 10am-4pm and weekends and holidays from 9am-4pm, head to the Winter Adventure Center to rent cross-country ski equipment for $21 per day and snowshoe equipment for $18 per day. Looking for something a little more adventurous? Obtain a permit from the Long Valley Ranger Station and enjoy a unique experience camping at the top of the tram. When you’re hungry after a long day of play, head to Peaks Restaurant at the top of the tramway to enjoy some fine contemporary California cuisine and a breathtaking view of the Coachella Valley. Palm Springs Aerial Tramway is located approximately 2 hours from downtown San Diego. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit pstramway.com.
Nestled in the mountains of the San Bernardino National Forest, the Lake Arrowhead resort paradise features numerous outdoor recreational activities and stunning year-round scenery and wildlife. Wintertime activities in Lake Arrowhead include a snowshoe tour hosted by the Ranger Station and Discovery Center and a variety of group-guided winter hikes. To top it off, Lake Arrowhead boasts one of the world's most beautiful outdoor skating rinks. In addition to the outdoor recreational activities, Lake Arrowhead also offers an assortment of lodging, shopping and restaurants, perfect for a fun-filled family or romantic weekend getaway. Lake Arrowhead is located approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes from downtown San Diego. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit lakearrowhead.com.
The Devil’s Punchbowl
If you love the great outdoors, why not opt for a snowy hike? The Devil's Punchbowl is a point where two earthquake faults collide, creating upwards jutting vertical walls as high as 300 feet. The three and half-hour hike takes you along the mostly shaded rim of the Punchbowl, to the dramatic Devil’s Chair which boasts a breathtaking overlook with 360 degree views of spectacular rock formations set alongside the majestic pine-covered Angeles National Forest. Since the recent storms, The Devil’s Punchbowl has been dusted with a layer of crisp, white snow. How to get there: head northbound on Highways I-5 and go east on CA-14 to the Pearblossom exit and CA-138 East. Continue east on CA-138 to the small town of Pearblossom.
Go the Extra Mile
While the drive may be a long one – six and half hours to be exact – your trip to this premium California ski resort will be well worth it. Some come for the 150 trails. Others come for the 3,100 feet of vertical. Lovers of the snow come here for the 400 inches of annual snowfall. Whatever the reason, people come to play big. As the tallest ski resort in California – the peak elevation reaches a whopping 11,053 feet – Mammoth boasts everything from snowboarding and cross-country skiing to snowmobiling and scenic gondola rides. For more details and the fastest and easiest route from San Diego, visit mammothmountain.com.
Discover more ideas for seasonal entertainment in San Diego.