Let me just start out by saying that I used to ski multiple times a year with my family growing up. But, as we got busier, the snow trips slowed. I snowboarded the last time I visited Big Bear, which was about 7 years ago, and all I could remember was how sore I was the next morning! When my friends decided to do a weekend trip to Big Bear this year, I knew I couldn’t wait another year before getting back out in the snow. Coming from Orange County, Big Bear seems like an easy trip. However, without a proper plan, it can end up being more frustrating than it is fun. Read on to learn about how to plan the perfect Big Bear weekend getaway.
1. Do NOT leave in the middle of traffic
Our car-full of people all worked a full day Friday, so we opted to leave around 7:30 PM instead of 5 PM. This ended up being perfect. The total drive took us about two hours and we really didn’t hit any traffic, even coming up the mountain. Be sure to constantly check your GPS. When we started out, we were being routed up the front of the mountain. But, as we got closer, we noticed our arrival time, continuously being pushed back. Turns out there was a chain check implemented part way on our drive. Luckily, we caught this early enough and we still had time to go the back way. In addition, we made sure to take a vehicle with four wheel drive so chains were a non-issue. If you are going to Big Bear and do not have a four wheel drive vehicle, make sure you have the correct size chains, otherwise, you may not be able to get up the mountain.
2. Rent any equipment BEFORE you leave for the mountain
The best thing our group did was rent equipment from Phil’s Ski and Snowboard in Costa Mesa. The reason my boyfriend and I haven’t been on a snow trip in so long is because neither of us had gear. We invested in some jackets, pants, gloves, googles, and long underwear from The House, where you can find name brand gear at a very discounted price. Phil’s is unique for a few reasons. First, you can “reserve” your board and boots ahead of time. Going into the shop during an off time (ie Tuesday AM) allows you the ability to get sized correctly, and place a board on hold. This makes picking the board up on Friday a breeze. We made the mistake of going in Friday evening (along with everyone else getting ready to take off for the weekend). Fortunately, they still had enough inventory. However, we did have to wait quite a while. Phil’s is great because it’s cheaper than renting on the mountain AND you don’t get charged for pick up and drop off days. Therefore, picking my board up at 6 PM on a Friday, and dropping it off before 2 PM on Sunday, meant I only got charged for one day of rentals at $30 for board, boots, and bindings. Our friends who rented on the mountain ended up paying more than double because they didn’t return their boards same day AND ended up wasting about half a day in line for rental gear. Do yourself a favor and just rent ahead of time.
3. Stay walking distance from the slopes if possible
One of my favorite things about this trip was our proximity to the slopes. I’m used to Big Bear trips where we’re up at 6 AM to get ready, be first in line for gear rentals, and get to the slopes early enough for parking. Otherwise, you’re stuck walking up from the bottom of the hill or waiting potentially hours for the cattle car truck to take you up. This time, we stayed so close we could see the slopes and walk to them in about 10 minutes. It was snowing the day we went snowboarding and being so close to home made it nice in case people wanted to layer up or down, or go back earlier or later than others.
4. Bring the right clothing
I’ve been to Big Bear quite a few times, but this trip was the first time it was snowing! Regardless of if you’ll be participating in snow sports or not, it’s important to have the right gear. First things first…layer! I had everything from long underwear, to base layers, to sweatshirts and big snow jackets. I always make sure I have good waterproof gloves and pants, and warm snow boots. Beanies or any kind of warm hat will significantly help you to stay warm as well. While snowboarding, I found the face covers to be absolutely vital while snowing. Otherwise, you end up soaked, freezing, and absolutely miserable.
Waterproofing is the most important part of gear worn during snowboarding or skiing. Don’t skimp on quality just to save a few bucks. You’ll pay for it on the mountain. I tend to fall a LOT during snowboarding, so I’m a huge fan of jackets that run a little longer. They stop snow from getting in my pants (I know, TMI!). Also, be sure to try all your snow gear on PRIOR to leaving for your trip. Snow gear varies a lot in sizing, and you want to make sure it’s loose enough to layer up underneath.
5. Buy lift passes from Costco
Lift passes can add up, especially if you’re going multiple times a season. If you don’t go enough to buy a season pass, but still want to enjoy your time on the slopes without it costing you an arm and a leg, be sure to check out Costco. We were able to find passes in a pack of 4 for $60 per person instead of the normal $100 per person!
6. Bring enough food to last the entire time you are in town
Here’s the one thing we didn’t think of…ordering delivery on the mountain isn’t quite as easy as ordering delivery back home, especially when it’s snowing. Looking back on our experience, we should have realized there aren’t as many UberEats and DoorDash drivers as there are at home. It’s the same reason we brought lots of alcohol and games to play in the cabin. From past experience, we knew we wouldn’t be able to easily find Ubers. Next time we go, we’ll be bringing enough food to eat for the whole weekend. Everything from easy breakfast foods, to pasta or chicken and steak for dinner. Lunch was easy because we ate on the slopes! We ended up resorting to ordering in Dominoes which fortunately, did deliver. We found a plethora of other restaurants that said they delivered. However, when conditions are bad, that doesn’t seem to apply.
Be sure to do a pre-shopping round (hello Costco!), especially if you’re going with a big group. Getting into and out of the driveways in Big Bear when they’re completely covered in snow is a much more difficult feat than it would seem. In addition, when it’s freezing outside, most people aren’t going to want to be making grocery or dinner runs. Plan ahead and load up on food, drinks, and games before you head up the mountain!
7. Get home as early as possible
When your trip is coming to an end, be sure to leave as early as possible. We were leaving on Sunday, which is a popular day for snowboarders and skiers to head off the mountain. Keep in mind Big Bear requires you to dump your trash at a local trash site. They’re small, which can easily get crowded. We ended up leaving around 8 AM, which allowed us to get down the mountain and back home with virtually no traffic. However, every hour later you wait, you risk traffic building up. It also gave us the day to recoup before heading to work on Monday.
Big Bear is the perfect weekend getaway for us Southern California residents. With the right planning, it’s an easy, fun, and exhilarating trip. I’m a fan of snow weekends as opposed to day trips. I love falling asleep in a cabin and being able to wake up and walk to the slopes. Oftentimes, the Airbnbs that are walking distance to the slopes are dated and very expensive. But, trust me, they are SO worth it! Pack right, plan ahead, and get ready for the most perfect snow trip!
“There’s just something beautiful about walking on snow that nobody else has walked on.” – Carol Rifka Brunt