Mountain High

January 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Went to the snow in California for the first time last week at Mountain High in the San Bernadino Mountains. Overall a good day, but doubt I’d do it again there.

Left San Diego at 6AM after a bender in the OC that took till five in the morning. Traffic was clear until we got up in the mountain where the last 6 miles took half an hour. At around 9AM we get to the west resort and are met by a nice parking attendant, a mass of cars rows deep, and drive by a throng of probably 200 people in line for lift tickets. Oh yeah, I forgot, I live in southern California and it’s the holiday season.

For a day up it rounds off to about a hundred bucks for rentals and a pass. We get through the lift ticket and rental line in about an hour. The staff were efficient, friendly, and just chatty enough given the back-up.

I take my sister and Dad up the conveyor belt only to be met by about 25 people sliding into each other down a tiny bunny slope – all on snowboards. We manage a couple of shaky toe and heel turns without running into anyone before I decide to take them up a green before somebody got clocked by a 12 year old flailing wildly down the bunnies.

ImageThe lift (Snowflake) had a line the size of Kansas – a random agglomeration of people in some semblance of a line, a good third who haven’t figured out how to stop yet as they attempt to queue up. I’d say the average wait time for 3/4 of the lifts was 20 minutes. It being SoCal, you’re standing around in all your ski gear baking in the sun with all your zippers down from your armpits to your ankles.

The mountain itself is pretty small – the longest runs are maybe a fifth of the longest in Aspen. 80% of the folks there are on snowboards and the day we went a good half of those looked like fish out of water.

Going up the green lifts (Snowflake, Roadrunner, Coyote) are like looking down on a wasteland during a zombie apocalypse – a ton of folks sitting or lying down, looking down the mountain trying to figure out why they went up and how the hell they’re going down, the rest wobbling around alternating from going way too fast for comfort to a sloppy heel break trying to miss all the sitting people spotted down the mountain.

The top is the bowl of the mountain and the hardest stuff – steep blacks and one long blue that ends in the mess of a green and some easy jumps. This was the longest and least busy lift (Conquest) – we waited no more than 5 minutes to get up.

The south lift (Blue Ridge Express) is mostly blues and a few blacks – a mixture of slightly better folks who can make it down something steeper without crying who are trying to get away from the mess so they can actually learn something, and your locals and pro-boarders doing tricks on the various rails and jumps littered down the runs.

This is probably a more fun mountain when less crowded, but I gotta say that three years of Aspen has spoiled me completely. Short runs, blues that may as well be greens, a boat load of people, and not a shred of powder in sight. On the plus side, on my last run I got down to the greens and tried an easy jump AND landed it – my first! Maybe I’ll try Big Bear before the season’s over …


Sea of snowboards and not a ski in sight.


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