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Hallelujah, let it snow. It’s come early this season but for me, it’s just in time. I’ve been dreaming of this day since June. Like clockwork, I feel the urge for crisp mountain air and fresh snow under my board… always in June.
This year, I experienced this feeling underneath a fiery sun on a warm summer day in Hawaii. Maybe it’s because I was so far away from the mountains that this sensation felt even stronger, like little pins all over my body, poking and prodding me to… Go. Ride. Snow. Cold. I. Must.
It’s my second season of not living in the Bay Area, so it feels so weird not to be able to jump in the car and get to Tahoe in three hours. My obsession with snowboarding began in Tahoe, so I guess I feel nostalgic. It’s still my happy place.
Bear Mountain, here I come
But I don’t discriminate when it comes to fresh pow, and I fully took advantage of L.A.’s wet weather in my first shred sesh of the season! What a delight that L.A. actually had rain in early December, which means the San Bernadino Mountains got lots of thick white snow blanketing the resort.
I had only been to Big Bear in the summers for camping, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect on the drive. I looked up the trail map and as I suspected, it was only a handful of express chairs with a few two-seater chairs in between. The mountain looked like it was mostly blue runs. I also saw there’s a free shuttle that takes you to Snow Summit from Bear.
It took roughly two hours to reach the parking lot from the L.A. area. Almost the entire drive it either rained or snowed. My excitement heightened when I noticed the rain slowly changing shape into small white dots. (I love when this happens!)
The 330 that takes you from San Bernadino into Big Bear Mountain is full of twists and hairpin turns. Other drivers were cautious, going about 10 miles an hour, unlike Tahoe where people drive like maniacs to reach the top. I was glad to be in an AWD car, surpassing all the folks who stopped on the side of the road to fashion their tires with chains.
It was a Monday, so I was elated to see a mostly empty mountain. No lines, no waiting, no worries. My kind of day.
I got there a little before 8:30 a.m., so I waited with the first small crowd for the chair to start scooping us up. I noticed two things—one, I was the only girl, and two, everyone was on a board. Maybe it’s an L.A. thing?
Suffering through the chill at Bear
It was a balmy 20-something degrees, and even though I had layered like my life depended on it, I could still feel it in my bones. This surprised me since it wasn’t even that windy. According to an old timer I chatted with on the chair later in the morning, he said Bear Mountain hardly ever gets all that windy.
Maybe my blood has gone a bit thin from my time in Hawaii. The grey gloom hung over the mountain and despite the sun looking like it wanted to break through, it never did. This made it difficult to see the terrain and kept the temperatures so dang frigid.
The first run was a blue but it felt like a black. It was steep and I could hear the torturous sound underneath me, scraping through fresh dust over ice. As the day progressed though, it snowed on and off, and I watched in my usual amazement at the mountainside morphing into a soft and fluffy winterland.
I spent a few hours at Bear but realized it’s more of a park than an actual resort. I didn’t enjoy veering off to the side to avoid all the jumps and ramps and doohickeys that felt more like an obstacle course than a nice, long run.
I took the shuttle to Snow Summit
I saw signs at the base that indicated a free shuttle comes once every half hour for Snow Summit. Since IKON works at both and I wasn’t really feeling the vibe of the park-like terrain, I took the shuttle despite knowing this would eat into my boarding time.
It was snowing heavily by 11 a.m., exactly when I hopped on, so it took about 17 long minutes to get there.
When I got reached Snow Summit, I was immediately glad. Snow Summit felt more like a true resort, with shops, and restaurants, and even had a legit beginner area for kids. The trails looked like they flowed nicely into each other too, unlike Bear.
The only bad part is it’s all uphill to reach the first chair and my cardio is suckier than I thought. Walking uphill in the snow while holding your board at over 6,000 feet elevation is harder than it seems. It took me back to the time when Greg, Patrick, and I were in Keystone and hiked up a half mile to the top. Thinking about the crazy amount of snow we got that day, coupled with barrelling down the huge bowls makes my heart flutter, as does the video that Greg made.
This isn’t the video, but it’s a great compilation video of Park City from a few seasons ago that always gets me pumped.
There are no bowls at Snow Summit like the ones in Keystone, but they do have them. They’re closer to the side of the mountain near Chair 7. I vowed to tackle the bowls next time.
After a few runs, I decided to check out the greens. Call me a weirdo, but sometimes, I like taking it easy on the flat and smooth groomed terrain of a nice green. But because of the fresh snow, it obviously wasn’t groomed, so I maneuvered my way through lots of bumpy and clumpy snow.
Feeling overly confident on the greens
Sometimes, it’s also fun to see beginners fall and slide down the mountain, their bodies stiff and zombie-like. I know, it’s not nice, but I can’t help but savor how much I've improved in six seasons. I'm no Chloe Kim, not even close. But I'm better than the newbies!
As I neared the center of the run, I scanned the landscape and saw the usual—people laying on the ground, falling, or attempting to get up. I whizzed past the chaos, which is a big reason why I tend to stay away from the greens in general.
I’ve only crashed into someone once, and it wasn’t that bad. But today, I made the worst wrong move, thinking I could easily slide past a guy who looked unsteady. As I got closer to him, I telepathically sent him messages—please don’t fall. Of course, he fell in the exact spot I was heading to. Still believing I could slide past him, I kept going until he moved his board perpendicular to the hill. Asshole. I screamed, “ON YOUR LEFFFFFT!”
You know that “oh shit I’m going to fall and there’s nothing I can do about it” feeling? I braced myself and as soon as our boards collided, it was as if his board launched mine (and my body) into the air.
I went flying, head first. I could feel my body suspended in mid-air. It was such a bizarre feeling, almost like I was moving in slow motion like I was in outer space. But gravity told me I was on earth and I crashed into the snow. My torso landed first, and then my head. I felt my temples throb from banging against the inside of my helmet. Ow.
At first, I didn’t even bother trying to get up. I just laid there. I heard the guy say, “I’m sorry. Are you ok? Are you ok?”
If I had gloves with individual fingers I’da given him the middle one. I was pissed. But instead, I just raised my hand to let him know I wasn’t dead. I was mad for a hot second, but mostly at myself for making such a rookie mistake. It’s a good reminder to keep my confidence in check and stay off the greens.
When I got up and I could feel my temples pulsating. I dusted the snow off and maneuvered my way down.
Despite the crash, I did a few more runs as the snow continued to pile up. I didn’t have a full day to check out all of the runs, so I’d definitely return to see Snow Summit in all its glory. I had a great time and I’m so grateful for a fantastic day one of the season.