SoCal has been very dry so far, but in mid-December we finally had one of
those small storms where it stayed cold for several days after, and Snow
Summit went from 20% open Dec. 15 to 50% open by Christmas. The past week was
cold too, so by the time I got out there Saturday about 2/3 of the area was
open, with only Chair 6 (the Wall) not open and snow was being blown there
until about 9:30AM.
Saturday was the first warm day in a while so it was good timing in terms of
conditions. The morning was uniformly packed powder, and there was just a
little soft snow in liftlines mid-afternoon and some firming up of the
surfaces late in the day, but nothing even close to frozen granular.
In terms of crowds, the Saturday between Christmas and New Year's is obviously
not an ideal time to be in Big Bear. So I got up early to grab a parking spot
by 7:45 and not be relegated to a shuttle from a remote lot. I was also not
tempted to split the day with Bear Mt., as has been my normal practice since
the merger in 2002. The long Geronimo run on Bear Peak wasn't open yet, and I
can only imagine the flying bodies everywhere on the open intermediate runs
over there, which all have park features. I saw 2 ambulances on their way to
Bear around 4PM.
The early start allowed wide open cruising from 8AM to about 9:30. From then
on I spent most of the time on the less crowded east side of the mountain
(chairs 7 and 10). Since Snow Summit took over Bear Mt. the park features have
been concentrated at Bear while Summit is mostly, and today nearly all,
groomed cruisers. Ego Trip was the only run with park features, and they were
small enough that even I could hit the jumps. November and early December were
very warm, so when the cold weather finally arrived management obviously tried
to get as many runs open as possible for Christmas and defer park building
until later. At Bear these priorities are reversed. Visitors at Summit were
about equal skiers and boarders, while I was told that Bear Mt. is 90+%
Around 10:15 the reality of Christmas week set in as two consecutive chair
rides were delayed for several minutes by people who couldn't load properly,
fell off and needed assistance from the lifties. But it was still a good
opening day of 23,800, about half of that before 11AM.