White Hot December
Big Bear is a short drive away, but a world apart.
Big Bear Valley passes beneath you as you soak in the views of the slope you’ll ski down, mountain trail you’ll traverse or lodge you’ll cozy up in later. Clear days can bring the Mojave Desert in as part of the panorama to the east. With an experienced pilot at the stick, flights can be as short as 15 minutes on a 20-mile trip that takes you over Bear Mountain, Snow Summit, Big Bear Village, the Solar Observatory, and the lake, or long as 45 minutes on a 60-mile trip that takes you over Onyx Summit, the San Gorgonio Wilderness and Lake Arrowhead. You’ll hear history and factoids about the area and the aircraft while you float along in heated comfort. Flights can be catered to suit the needs of those on board, especially couples. Romantic gift baskets are available that include a teddy bear, candle, box
of candy, Champagne flutes, and the option of Champagne, wine, Perrier, or sparkling cider. Prices vary depending on fuel and other variables but they start at $65 per person.
A day in the snow is balanced by a night next to a crackling fire – preferably with a cocktail nearby. Big Bear features a lot of places that offer that possibility, but the best are the town’s bed and breakfasts. There is the former Hollywood financier’s forest getaway, the Gold Mountain Manor, built in the late 1920s, or the Inn at Fawnskin, on the lake’s North Shore. Another lakeside retreat is the Windy Point Inn. The Switzerland Haus is next to Snow Summit, with a European atmosphere and Nordic spa. All of the rooms feature a private bath and most come with a fireplace. Rooms at the Gold Mountain Manor range between $149-$299 per night. Rooms at Fawnskin range $165-$265. Rooms at Windy Point range $145-$265 and rooms at the Switzerland Haus range $145-$249.
Ziplining over the snowy slopes is a new thrill for Big Bear visitors. There are other ziplines in Southern California, but this is the only one that can take you over the landscapes drenched in white. Trained guides fit guests with their own safety equipment and lead them over nine lines starting out at 120 feet in length and working up to 846 feet, zipping you through forests and canyons. Over the three-hour trip, zipline speed increases with each line. By the sixth line, called the Speed Demon, the ride can be up to 45 miles per hour. A photographer is on site to get photos of you in flight. The tour is $95.
Saving the most obvious for last, local skiers and snowboarders know the Bear Mountain and Snow Summit resorts well. Two events this month add a bonus to the usual weekend ski trip. The USASA Rail Jam at Bear Mountain on December 9 is open to snowboarders of all levels, while the Analog Go Huck Yourself event on Snow Summit December 15 is open to skiers and snowboarders, and has prizes, hot beverages and DJs spinning as well as an amateur mini slope and rail contest at night. Both events are free to the public.