Best Ski Towns: Big Bear California with kids

An easy drive from San Bernardino, California, Big Bear is a legit mountain destination for Southern California families, with pine forests, wildlife, and plenty of hiking and biking in summer and skiing in the winter months. We teamed up with Expedia to give you a breakdown of this prime Southern California getaway. A long weekend or day trip is perfect during the winter months for some snow play. Fortunately, if you choose the former, Big Bear offers plenty of hotel options to keep you rested and ready to make the most of it. Here’s what you need to know to explore Big Bear California with kids:

Skiing at Big Bear Mountain Resort:

Lift tickets at Big Bear Mountain Resort are still well under $100 for adults, which makes for a refreshing change from larger resorts dotting California. And that price is with 11 chairs and five carpets! Snow conditions are not quite as steady here as they are in higher elevations, so you do gamble a bit on snowpack, but Big Bear’s beginning terrain is hard to beat, making this mountain ideal for learning, given its easy distance from San Bernardino.

If you like terrain parks, especially for learners, Big Bear is an excellent location. Ditto if you want manageable groomers. Many people have ‘I learned to ski at Big Bear’ stories, and it’s easy to see why. For the best family skiing, stick with Snow Summit, the area with plenty of park features for kids (all lift accessible). There are also nice picnic areas here (it’s Southern California, after all, and the sun is often shining).

Sledding at Big Bear:

Yes, you can hunt down your own sledding hill, but why? Big Bear has three ready-made snow tubing areas: the Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain, just west of Big Bear Village; Big Bear Snow Play, which is located on the east end of Big Bear Blvd., and Grizzly Ridge in the Basecamp area at Snow Summit Ski Resort. At the latter, because you can easily tack it onto a ski day or have little ones tubing while older kids take ski lessons.

Or, head out after dark and try some glow-in-the-dark sledding! Snow Play offers glow tubing, where more than 1,500 multi-colored LED fluorescent lights lead the way up the Magic Carpet to the top of the hill, which is awash in color. Big Bear Snow Play is open daily for daytime snow tubing from 10 a.m.- 4 pm, with glow tubing every Friday, Saturday, and holiday nights from 5-9 pm. Bear in mind: tubing participants must be at least 36” tall.

At each snow tubing location, kids will be pampered: each snow tubing area has covered Magic Carpet with clear tunnels that transport riders with their tubes to the top of the slope, so you can escape the cold and any wet weather. There’s a snack bar with hot cocoa and bathrooms, too.

Winter at the Discovery Center:

A favorite for my family during the summer months, winter at the Discovery Center in Big Bear is a special season, too. Animal tracks are easier to spot in the snow, after all! The trails are often covered in powder, making them ideal for snowshoeing as a family (this sport is almost as easy as walking!) and The Big Bear Discovery Center still offers weekend programs, teaching kids how to recognize different wildlife prints in the snow.

Tip: We rented snowshoes at Goldsmiths Sports. Be sure to get poles, too! You can get trail maps at Goldsmiths too, or at the Discovery Center.

Where to stay: The Lodge at Big Bear Lake

The Lodge at Big Bear Lake is in a prime location right on the edge of downtown (within easy walking distance of shops and dining) and has family-friendly amenities galore, such as a heated pool and plenty of space for your winter gear. The rooms are spacious, though nothing to write home about, but where the Lodge truly shines: its excellent made-to-order breakfasts. There’s a fitness center, and the spa in the outdoor pool deck area feels great after a day on the slopes. Tip: if you don’t want a hotel experience, there are an abundance of home rentals in Big Bear, both associated with the ski resort and separate.

Tip: if you’re not a winter person, return to Big Bear in the summer!

Have you been to Big Bear in the winter? What do you recommend?

About the author

Pit Stops for Kids Amy Whitley is the founding editor of Pit Stops for Kids and content editor of Trekaroo. She writes on staff monthly at a number of travel publications, and contributes to OutdoorsNW magazine as an outdoor adventure traveler.