Southern California isn’t a place you’d associate with skiing, especially this winter. The dry and warm winter we’ve been experiencing leaves hitting the slopes far from the mind – so most people are surprised when I tell them that Kendall and I have been taking several day trips to ski just two hours drive from San Diego. Southern California isn’t typically known for much else than beaches, so few know that SoCal actually plays host to serious mountains.
Yes, we’re too far south to receive the huge dumps of snow that the Sierras are famous for in better years, but the shear size of the peaks in Southern California can be quite impressive. As we found out in Palm Springs when riding the tramway, SoCal mountains jut straight up into the sky and do not stop. Ranked by prominence, which measures a mountain’s height relative to the ground surrounding it, SoCal has the #6 and #7 peaks in the continental United States. While you shouldn’t take a vacation to these mountains for skiing purposes, you might be surprised to know that they host no less than five different ski areas.
We’ve been heading up to Snow Valley on a few weekends – the closest of these areas to San Diego. Unlike up the road in the Sierras, these mountains are used to running with very little natural snow, so skiing is possible even in a year like this. As long as temperatures drop enough in the evenings, enough snow can be made to keep the main runs skiable, if not a little slushy towards the end of the day. For this year at least, those runs aren’t too numerous – only 4 of the 11 lifts are currently running. Still, it’s been a great place for Kendall to learn to ski, and there’s even a decent pitch for more advanced skiers to go lay out some faster turns. This, combined with weather that only requires a windbreaker, makes for a good time on the hill. When I found lift tickets on Liftopia.com for around $30 (about a third of Mammoth’s going rate), I was sold.
No, Snow Valley won’t satisfy any dreams of carving massive arcs down a mile-wide bowl or skiing through multiple feet of powder in steep glades, but it’s a worthy destination to get some skiing in close to home for Southern Californians, especially for those who are still trying to pick up skills.