Southern California ski areas experienced their best skiing and boarding in two years after last week’s snowstorm unloaded nearly a foot of fresh dry powder not often seen in these parts.
The slopes were jamming this week and over the New Year’s holiday weekend due to hefty snowfall and colder-than-normal temperatures that allowed for plenty of snow-making at ski resorts in the San Bernardino Mountains.
Upper elevations may get a fresh dusting of snow this weekend in time for another influx of skiers and snowboarders. The amount of snow that has fallen already has made ski area officials optimistic about having a better season than last year.
Snow started the afternoon of Dec. 30 and continued into New Year’s Eve, getting the winter sports season off to a solid start and causing traffic delays on mountain roads including the 330 and 18 as large numbers of people set off in search of snow. The mountains also experienced three nights with single-digit low temperatures.
Mountain High Resort near Wrightwood got 4 to 8 inches of new snow last week. Snow Valley, Snow Summit and Bear Mountain resorts got about 11 inches.
“It was, in one word, spectacular,” said Chris Riddle, vice president of marketing for Big Bear Mountain Resorts, which operates Snow Summit and Bear Mountain above Big Bear Lake.
The two ski areas saw an estimated 14,000 skiers and snowboarders Jan. 3, the busiest day over the holidays.
Once snow hit, Snow Valley had daily averages of 5,000 people coming for rare fluffy, dry powder. Mountain High saw about 5,000 that day…
… Snow conditions have pumped up business around ski resorts too. Lynda Spillman, owner of the Grind & Grill Cafe and Red Baron Pizza in Big Bear Lake, said she has been working 14-hour days to keep up with crowds.
Light snowfall could continue through Sunday at elevations as low as 7,200 feet, National Weather Service Meteorologist James Thomas said Wednesday.
Highs of 49 to 56 are forecast above 6,000 feet today, while Sunday may see 44 to 60. No significant storms are expected through next Wednesday.
Resort officials are preparing for another busy weekend after the last storm dumped enough snowflakes to open more chair lifts and runs.
Snowcats are being used to groom slopes each night. Resorts are hiring instructors, cooks, parking attendants and more.
“We always do great when the skies are blue and the roads are clear. People will be flocking up here this weekend,” Riddle said.