Winter in LA’s Backyard

A little diversion from transportation and housing for the weekend…

Chances are, when you think of the outdoors in LA, you don’t think of snow. Awesome beaches, surfing, amusement parks, palm trees and Palm Springs, ocean-front recreation paths, Hollywood lights… snow? You might be aware of the large mountains on the horizon on clear days, but they often feel further away than they really are.

Rainfall (and mountain snowfall) in LA varies greatly from year to year, to the extent that in some years it feels like winter doesn’t even happen. Considering the last four years, you could be forgiven for forgetting about it. This year hasn’t been particularly rainy, but unlike the last four years, it has been cool and rainy enough to make Mt Baldy shine like the postcard view.

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Mt Baldy, like a mirage from the 405

When there is snow, LA is unique among US cities in its proximity to winter and summer. Glendale is 40 miles from 8,000’ peaks with ski lifts and 20 miles from the beach in Santa Monica. Here’s a short introduction to the less iconic side of that duo.

The Angeles Crest Highway (the 2) provides access to the San Gabriel Mountains, though the eastern portion of it is closed in the winter due to the hazards from snow and rock fall. As it traverses the range, it provides amazing views.

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Running a ski area without snowmaking is an increasing quixotic enterprise anywhere, let alone in a place with highly unreliable snowfall like LA County. This year, Mt Waterman was able to open for the first time since 2011. Mt Waterman had been closed for a few years and was nearly devastated by the Station Fire in 2009, but thanks to some dedicated owners, it’s back.

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There used to be another small ski area just east of Mt Waterman on the 2, called Kratka Ridge. It closed 15 years ago, after being badly damaged by a fire and an avalanche. Southern California is a land of extremes.

The San Bernardino Mountains are a little bit easier to get around, being much more populated than the San Gabriels, which only have towns around the edges. The top of Snow Valley offers great views of the San Bernardino Mountains, the Inland Empire, and the other side of the San Gabriels.

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In my opinion, price per pound you can’t beat the views from Mt Baden-Powell, the third highest peak of the San Gabriels. On a clear day, you can easily see downtown and Santa Catalina Island (just check out my banner picture). But if you’re going now, you’d better bring your winter gear!

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