When my husband and I were deciding to move our family to the West Coast (best coast), one of the things we were looking most forward to was never having to shovel snow again. We lived in a house with 15 steps up to our porch so when the snow came, and boy, did it come, we had to shovel all of those steps, over and over again. Needless to say, we were pretty excited about leaving that behind. Our kids, on the other hand, were less excited to leave the snow. I mean, who doesn't love waking up to school being cancelled for a snow day?! I even loved that! (Well, ok, I loved the FIRST one, not the second, third, fourth, fifth one!) So we made a deal with the kids. We would give them one snow day every winter. Perfect, right? However, our first winter here, things were so busy and hectic that we never made it out to the snow. I promised this winter, it would happen. And it finally did!
One of the great things about living in Los Angeles is that you kind of get it all in terms of nature. We are within a two hour drive of the beach, the desert, giant Sequoia forests, and snow! You could actually be on the beach in the morning and the snow in the afternoon. In fact, Otis's friend Henry who came with us to the mountains, had camped the night before on the beach with his family! I was pretty impressed by that. But back to the mountains!
There are several different ski resorts within a two hour drive of LA. One of the closest of those is Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood. This resort is great if you don't want to deal with mountain driving or worry about having snow chains and makes for an easy day trip. Since we wanted to stay overnight but still stay close, we decided to head on up to Lake Arrowhead/Big Bear Lake, where there are three different resorts to choose from, Snow Summit, Bear Mountain, and Snow Valley, where we ended up going. I learned a few things on our snow trip and thought I would share them with you. Here are my tips for making the most out of your snow day from LA:
* Go With The Deals
I had to get my family out to the snow this winter but also wanted to make sure we didn't spend a fortune! Rates on cabins and hotels increase significantly during the winter months and have been especially busy this winter with all the snow they've been getting. We wanted to stay in a cabin, close to a ski resort, and have enough room for friends to come with us but some of the cheaper places I looked at were still close to $500 a night! So I decided to start checking Living Social and Groupon. And what do you know, I found something! A two night stay in Lake Arrowhead for up to 10 for $249! Perfect and done. It also made deciding which lake, Arrowhead or Big Bear, to go to very easy.
Our cabin was part of the Lake Arrowhead Retreats and was lovely. It was a little smaller than pictured but cozy and comfortable with amazing views of the lake. And it was pet friendly! Perfect for what we needed and wanted and a great deal to boot. We will definitely be going back.
* Go On Off Days
Winter weekends in the mountains are expensive. But in season weekdays are significantly cheaper. And a lot less crowded! We headed up to Arrowhead Lake on a Sunday, as everyone else was heading back down to LA, having the kids skip school for a day and us take a day off of work. We were able to get our house for half the cost because we booked it from Sunday to Tuesday! Not only were we able to get our house cheaper, but we were also able to get lift tickets and rentals for a significant discount too. Weekends at ski resorts are crowded and expensive, especially if you have to rent equipment. But they clear out during the week, making for cheaper rates and less crowded slopes. I am a terrible skier and a novice snowboarder and my kids had never done either. So being on the slopes without throngs of people was ideal. We didn't have to worry about getting in the way of other people and didn't have to worry about getting run over! The adult lift tickets at Snow Valley are $59 a person on weekends and $49 a person during the week. Kids aged 7-12 are $30 on weekends and $25 during the week. Kids 6 and under get free lift tickets. It doesn't seem like a lot but when you add it all up, it makes a big difference.
* Check the Weather and Road Conditions
When we started planning out trip, it never occurred to me that we would need either four-wheel drive or snow chains. Then we started talking to friends that were more experienced with driving up to Arrowhead Lake and Big Bear in the winter and they told us that there are times when they won't let you drive on the roads without them! I, of course, immediately panicked and started searching for snow chains in LA the day before we were leaving, striking out everywhere I looked. We decided to head up without them even though the weather was calling for rain/possible snow. Luckily, the light rain never quite turned into snow and we were able to get through the trip without them (btw, they are readily available at stores and gas stations in the mountain). But the lesson was learned! Weather in the mountains can change on a dime so you have to constantly check the weather and road conditions so you have to be prepared.
Checking the weather conditions also helped us decide which resort to go to. I wanted to purchase our tickets beforehand because if you do it in advance there are discounts. But since the weather was uncertain, we decided to wait until we got there. We planned on Monday being our ski/snowboard day and the weather called for rain that day. Skiing in the rain didn't sound like too much fun for us so we stuck with the closer and less expensive ski resort, Snow Valley. The last thing we wanted to do was drive further and spend more money only to be on the slopes for a couple of hours and then leave. We also weren't sure how long our kids were going to last! I'm glad we stuck with Snow Valley because it did end up lightly raining all day and we all got tired after a few hours. Snow Valley was closer and cheaper but still gave us everything we were looking for. The weather gods helped us make the right choice!
* Visit the Arrowhead Village
One of the best discoveries we made on our trip to Arrowhead Lake was the Arrowhead Village! We decided to head up early on Sunday to have some time to walk around the village before heading to the snow. We arrived to discover a quaint little town village situated right on the lake. It was beautiful. We were meeting friends for brunch and found the perfect place for kids, The Belgian Waffle. A cozy, restaurant with lake views serving up waffles as big as your head, literally! The kids loved it and there were enough options besides waffles for all the adults to be happy too. We walked around after brunch exploring the shops and having snow ball fights on the huge mounds of snow. I imagine the place to be a lot of fun in the summer, with outdoor concerts and festivals, and we will definitely visit then to find out!
* Go Tubing!
We did a lot of sledding during our time on the East Coast. There were a couple of hills in particular that everyone would go to in Philly when there was a snow day. It was a blast! Even though I knew our kids would have fun skiing, I worried about them still really missing sledding. Well, as it turns out, I didn't have to worry! During my research on ski resorts I came across information about a tubing park. A whole park dedicated to snow tubing?? Sign me up! We spent an afternoon at the Snowdrift Snow Tubing Park, located about halfway between Arrowhead Lake and Big Bear Lake. Holy crap, was it fun! The park is full of different size hills, so there is plenty of fun for little kids and big kids. They have the tubes there so you don't need to bring anything except your adventurous spirit. We went down little hills, big hills, in between hills, solo rides, and all hooked together rides. We went up and down hills until we were exhausted. It was a blast! The great thing about the tubing park is that it is totally doable in a day trip. We had several friends that came up for the day with us and felt like they had a full winter experience just from visiting the tubing park. I have a feeling that this place will be a staple on our winter activities for years to come!