Skiing, Inland Empire style; The ski Resorts of the San Gabriel's
The Mountains to the north of Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, Lavern and Fontana, are known as the San Gabriel Mt's, featuring some of the steepest terrain on the west coast. Snow fall varies from year to year, like 2006 which saw 260 inches of snow fall across the steep rims of Mt Cucamonga, Mt Ontario and Krata Ridge, to as little as this years 30 inches.
The Mt. Baldy area directly north of Upland, is known for its San Antonio Falls, lush forest, and snow-capped mountains are a surprise to many easterners who do not associate Southern California with snow.. In fact, many cities in the IE have more snow plowing equipment than many eastern or Midwest snow belt areas.. And because of the short distance from the Pomona Valley and the LA basin, the area is only 20 minutes away from us flatlanders.. To get to Mt. Baldy from the Inland Empire, travel north from the 10 Freeway for about 16 miles on Mountain or Euclid Avenues which turns into Baldy Road.....In the winter time, make sure you carry chains.. In the summer time carry water for the car, because the road is steep and there are no stations till you get into Mt Baldy Village.
Mt Baldy is also known as Mt. San Antonio, and at an elevation of 10,064 feet is the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains.. It was originally named after the 13 century Franciscan priest, St. Anthony of Padua.....In the mid 1850's, the gold miners working in the area began calling the peak "Old Baldy." By the late 1800's, Pomona newspapers called it either "Old Baldy" or Mt. Baldy.. Protests to the U.S. Board on Geographic Names in Washington resulted in the official naming of the mountain "Mt. San Antonio.". Nicknames are hard to shake though especially when the main community on the Mountain is called Mt Baldy Village.. Almost every one I know calls the Mountain, Mt Baldy.
Back in the 1930's and 40's, Mt. Baldy was a popular hangout for movie stars like Edmund Burns, a star of the silent screen.. In the 1940's, the first ski area was developed near Manker Flats, which was named Movie Slope after a motion picture was shot there. Actually over the years several movies have been filmed either at the campgrounds adjacent to Movie Slope and on Movie slope. We and the ski patrol also refer to Movie slope as Avalanche Slope.. There have been some pretty impressive Snow Falls and Avalanches there as a result of heavy snowfall (Up to 8 feet in one storm) and then warmer weather setting in.. In 1952, a larger commercial ski area was opened on the opposite slope, called Badger Flats leading up to Kraka Ridge.
Mt. Baldy Ski Area has fewer lifts than other Southern California Resorts, but is the least crowded and has the largest skiable area... It is the only Southern California resort that credits you for unused time on your lift ticket, by deducting $7 per hour for the time you skied.. Also, the owners have built a small living shed upon the North side of the Mt, in the hopes that there petition to the National Park Service to build a ski area on the north side of the mountain where the snow stays several months longer is one day approved.. The Baldly area is all part of the Cucamonga Wilderness area. When a home burns down or as was in the case of the 69 floods, several damaged, it takes a special act of congress to rebuild the homes....The owners of Mt Baldy Ski Lifts have been waiting for over 60 years for approval. They certainly are patient.
The National Weather Service maintains a weather station in the shed making it the highest placed weather station in the western US.. They sometimes record winds of 120 mph and temps have been known to drop down to 40 below zero as the jet stream screams over head at 15,000 feet.
The snowfall at Mt. Baldy, Wrightwood, and Big Bear areas vary greatly, but tends to average out. Unlike the Big Bear Area resorts... Mt. Baldy doesn't have a lake as a source for snowmaking. When cold weather sets in, the water flow to the Mt. Baldy Ski Area's snowmaking reservoir slows down to a trickle, typically leaving it empty after the winter break. Then, the resort relies on natural snowfall.
On a clear day, you can see to the south all the way to Catalina Island, 25 miles of the California Coast. Looking to the north, you can almost always see the high desert and the Mountains that surround Las Vegas.
Two other ski resorts, on the north face of the San Gabriel's and to the west of Mt. Baldy, are Mountain High and Ski Sunrise which are location in Wrightwood, about 45 minutes and 60 miles from Ontario.. The drive to Wrightwood is much easier as it lacks the slow winding roads and switch backs which are often jammed with traffic at other ski resorts during or after snowfalls.. The driving distance to Wrightwood is about 30 miles longer than Mt. Baldy, but the driving time isn't that bad because the road up is two lanes and tends not to have that much traffic, even during peak times.....On a weekday, after there has been a good snowfall, the two resorts at Wrightwood are a good choice for skiing.. Actually a lot of people who listen to the weather reports will head up to the Mountain and wait for the snow to start falling.. They do this for two reasons....First they beat the chain requirements and second they're out skiing before the hoards of people show up.
Ski Sunrise, is located across the road from Mountain High West, but it smaller and actually receives less snow than Mountain High because of its location. t faces the Desert and a lot of the time, the clouds will simply dissipate, or be devoid of moisture on there way back up to Seattle as we like to joke....Although Ski Sunrise isn't that large, it is the only resort in Southern California to offer two bowls.....The upper bowl is for intermediate skiers and is open all the time.....The lower bowl is for advanced skiers and is only open when snow conditions permit.
Mountain High is the last resort on the north face of the San Gabriel's still considered a part of the IE....Mountain High's motto is 'Unbelievable Skiing with an Unbelievable Drive!'. You use highway 138 from the 15 and make your turn towards Wrightwood....It is the easiest resort anywhere to drive into and the snowfall can be unbelievable and snow has been known to last into august, all through the summer.
Mountain High has two mountain ski areas each with its own parking lot, base area, ski rental shop, and snack bar. Neither base is that large, but it makes it easy to get to the lifts. The base elevation is 6600 feet. The top elevation is 8,200 feet. The vertical drop is 1,600 feet. The skiable area is 220 acres.. Night skiing is offered 7 nights a week and you can see the lights from the Palm Dale area. That's when you know the snow is good.
Mountain High has 2 snowboard parks. The Fault Line East snowboard park is on Wildcard and is serviced by Chair 9 and Char 11.....The Fault Line West snowboard park is on Faltline by Boarderline which is serviced by Chair 4. Another run that popular is Chair 5 which has good skiing as well as snowboarding. The reason they are called Fault line east and west is because the San Andréa's Fault runs right under the mountain. One of these days, Mountain high will be seen sliding down into the Northern Desert or perhaps over time, it will rise even higher, passing Mt Baldy.
Mountain High East has more advanced skiing and a bowl that is not as difficult as it looks from the highway. There are beginner trails at the top of the East mountain accessible by riding Chair 11, The Mountain High Express, a high speed quad that takes you to the top in 6 minutes.. The run is 1,600 vertical feet, and 6,000 feet long the greatest vertical drop in Southern California serviced by a high speed quad.