The best ski resorts near Los Angeles

Hit the slopes at some of California's top ski resorts for all manner of snow sports and fireside lounging

Photograph: Courtesy Mammoth Mountain

When you live in Los Angeles, you get the best of both worlds: proximity to world-class mountains, with none of the actual freezing weather ever hitting the city. Within a two-hour drive, Angelenos can be playing in freshly fallen snow; add a couple hundred more miles to the road trip and there are high-altitude wonderlands to be found, filled with well-groomed greens and challenging double-blacks (or hot toddies in the lodge if that's more your speed). Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway, a luxury hotel stay or are finally attemping the California Double, these are the ski resorts to mark on your map (arranged closest to farthest from L.A. for your planning convenience).

Ski resorts near Los Angeles

Snow Valley

2 hours 30 minutes from L.A.

Snow Valley Mountain Resort, tucked into San Bernadino National Forest (and operating under a special permit from the United States Forest Service), is the oldest continually operating ski resort in Southern California. Back in the 1920s, the site was developed as a lumber mill and roadside resort; by the 1930s, slopes were developed for tobogganing and skiing. Snow Valley featured one of the first overhead cable ski lifts, and today the mountain boasts 240 acres of skiiable terrain, 12 lifts and two terrain parks. If you can only make it up for a half day or evening session, consider a Night Session ticket, which gives you access to the front side of the mountain, including the Edge terrain park. Looking to host a special event on the mountain? Rent out the cozy, private Pine Room, complete with wood-burning fireplace and a fantastic view of the mountain.

Lift ticket pricing: $59-$74 for adults (ages 22-64); $49-$64 for young adult (ages 13-21); $25-$32 for children (ages 7-12); $49-$64 for seniors (ages 65-69).

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Inland Empire

Mountain High

2 hours 30 minutes from L.A.

Hikers and skiiers began using the area currently known as Mountain High, along the CA-2, back in the 1920s, with extra attention being paid in 1929 when construction began on the world's largest ski jump at the time in an attempt to attract a bid for the 1932 Winter Olympics. Mountain High is one of the oldest ski resorts in the country; during its first year of operation in 1937, skiiers were hauled up the mountain with a rope tow and in 1960, the cost of a lift ticket was just $1.50 a day! Today, the resort is split into three different areas, with lift tickets valid at each area and shuttles running between them. The North Resort functions as a ski school, tubing and snow play area for beginners; the East Resort has longer runs and more open terrain for alpine snowsports; and the West Resort (the most popular of the three) is for more advanced skiiers, with much of its terrain dedicated to the Faultline Terrain Park, plus a number of tree trails. The longest run at Mountain High, Goldrush, is 1.6 miles and the longest run in Southern California. 

Lift ticket pricing: $64-$74 for adults (ages 13-69); $30-$35 for children (ages 7-12); free for children 6 and under and seniors 70 and older.

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Angeles National Forest
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Bear Mountain

3 hours from L.A.

Bear Mountain in Big Bear was purchased by neighboring mountain Snow Summit back in 2002; some say this was a calculated move to entice snowboarders to Bear Mountain, leaving Snow Summit to the skiiers (though one lift ticket grants entry to both mountains). In fact, Bear Mountain has been nicknamed "the Park" for its irregular terrain, and established one of the first freestyle parks way back in the early '90s. The mountain offers an additional 24 traditional runs, mostly comprised of intermediate blues and blacks (only 15 percent of the mountain is designated for beginners). Bear Mountain boasts three main peaks, including Bear's Peak, Southern California's highest peak, served by a lift at just over 8,800 feet.

Lift ticket pricing: $58-$100 for adults (ages 23-64); $48-$81 for youth (ages 13-22); $20-$40 for children (ages 5-12) $48-$81 for seniors (ages 65-79).

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Big Bear

Snow Summit

3 hours from L.A.

Snow Summit is one of the larger ski areas in Southern California, and is especially popular with nearby Angelenos. It's a mid-sized resort, with 1,209 feet of elevation gain and 240 acres of skiable terrain. A majority of the runs here are groomer blues, but the small beginner area is a perfectly good place for anyone who's just learning, and a full quarter of the mountain is black diamonds. A lift ticket here will also grant you access to Snow Summit's sister mountain, Bear Mountain.

Lift ticket pricing: $58-$100 for adults (ages 23-64); $48-$81 for youth (ages 13-22); $20-$40 for children (ages 5-12); $48-$81 for senior (ages 65-79).

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Big Bear
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Alta Sierra

3 hours 30 minutes from L.A.

The perfect tiny ski hill for a day on the slopes during a trip to the sequoias, Alta Sierra has two chair lifts, an adorable warming hut and snack bar, and complete equipment rentals. There's not much to ski here, but a day (or half-day) on fresh powder above Lake Isabella is a great snow-sport detour—and did we mention there's a terrain park? 

Lift ticket pricing: $50 for adults (ages 13 and up); $40 for juniors (ages 4-12); $15 for children (ages 3 and under); $40 for seniors (ages 65 and up).

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Mammoth Mountain

6 hours from L.A.

This 11,000-foot mountain has something for everyone, with plenty of bunny hill runs as well as some of the best tree skiing in the Sierras. Advanced skiers will have a few chairs all to themselves that lead exclusively to blacks and double blacks. For a pleasant ride, whether or not you're skiing to the bottom, take the Gondola all the way to the summit—you can find an intermediate route back down, or stay on the Gondola back to the base, which boasts apres-ski treats like a Ben & Jerry's and kitschy tiki bar Lakanuki. Mammoth is the place to be for spring skiing, with T-shirt weather extending even into the summer months, especially after a winter with heavy snowfall. If you're staying nearby, check out Mammoth's free shuttle system, which can transport most snow bunnies to the base in about 15 minutes.

Lift ticket pricing: $69-$155 for adults (ages 23-64); $50-$130 for youth (ages 13-22); $30-$60 for children (ages 5-12); $65-$127 for senior (ages 65-79).

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June Mountain

6 hours from L.A.

Mammoth Mountain's more laid-back little sister, June Mountain is where locals head when things get crowded. There are 35 runs total, almost half of which are well-groomed blues, and only 20 percent of which are blacks, making this a great family-friendly, beginner-to-intermediate mountain. June Meadows Chalet, partway up the mountain, offers lockers, rentals, repairs, and a sports shop, plus a ski school headquarters, indoor and outdoor dining and the renowned Antler Bar, where you can enjoy a sunset cocktail after your last run of the day.

Lift ticket pricing: $79-$109 for adults (ages 23-64); $65-$89 for youth (ages 13-22); free for children (12 and under); $65-$89 for seniors (ages 65-79).

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Heavenly

8 hours from L.A.

Heavenly is a large resort straddling the California-Nevada border on the south shore of Lake Tahoe, boasting four base facilities, 97 runs, 30 ski lifts and three terrain parks, plus the highest elevation of all the Lake Tahoe area resorts at 10,067 feet. It's a luxurious place for powder-seekers, with a LEED-certified Powderbowl Lodge, a complete fleet of low-emission busses and a co-working space directly at the base of the mountain called Mountain Lab, perfect for freelancers who want to split their days between slopes and sales calls. Heavenly is a diverse and family-friendly mountain, with ski school options extending beyond regular classes to adaptive programs for blind and otherwise disabled skiiers of all ages.  

Lift ticket pricing: $107-$145 for adults (ages 19-64); $88-$111 for teen (ages 13-18); $59-$74 for children (ages 5-12); $88-$111 for seniors (ages 65 and up).

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Sierra at Tahoe

8 hours from L.A.

Sierra-at-Tahoe, commonly referred to simply as Sierra, is a family-friendly resort on the south side of Lake Tahoe within the Eldorado National Forest, first established in 1946. Its terrain is evenly split at 25 percent beginner runs, half well-groomed blues, and 25 percent advanced slopes. The resort has 11 lifts and 46 runs in total, as well as a whopping six terrain parks. 

Lift ticket pricing: $97-$101 for adults (ages 23-64); $87-$91 for young adult (ages 13-22); $37-$41 for children (ages 5-12); free for children 4 and under; $67-$71 for senior (ages 65-69); $37-$41 for super seniors (ages 70 and over).

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Boreal Mountain Resort

8 hours from L.A.  

Boreal is one of the most affordable options in Tahoe, with all tickets under $100 even during peak season. The resort offers night skiing, which means that cheap ticket will get you 12 full hours on the slopes (or, if you prefer, evening hours only for just $29). Almost three quarters of the mountain is beginner-to-intermediate, so Boreal is a great place for anyone still learning to try a day on skis or a board without investing too much money. One of the resort's most popular programs is Feel Good Fridays, when, on select Fridays each season, lift tickets cost just $25 with $5 of that price going directly to charity.  

Lift ticket pricing: $79 for adults (ages 18-59); $69 for teen (ages 13-17); $39 for children (ages 5-12); $5 for young children (ages 4 and under); $69 for senior (ages 60-69); $34 for super seniors (ages 70 and over).

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Squaw Valley

8 hours 30 minutes from L.A.

Squaw Valley Resort, on the northern side of lake Tahoe, is one of the largest ski areas in the country. It's comprised of two mountains: Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows. The mountains are a 10-minute drive from each other, but Squaw provides free shuttles between the two all day, and a lift ticket will work at both. The resorts offer joint access to 6,200 acres of terrain across six peaks, 43 lifts and more than 270 trails, and attract approximately 600,000 skiers a year. Squaw isn't far from the infamous Donner Pass, so it gets a heavy dump of snowfall almost every year, often exceeding 40 feet per winter. If carving through all that fresh powder isn't enticing, take the scenic aerial tramway up 2,000 feet to High Camp, at an elevation of 8,200 feet, where visitors can drink, dine, shop and even ice skate.

Lift ticket pricing: $124-$159 for adults (ages 19-64); $109-$134 for young adult (ages 13-18); $75-$98 for children (ages 5-12); $109-$134 for seniors (ages 65 and up).

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By: Michael Juliano

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