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Mammoth Mountain
Photograph: Courtesy Unsplash/Robson Hatsukami Morgan

The best ski resorts near Los Angeles

Looking to hit the slopes? Make the most of your winter getaway and head to the best ski resorts near Los Angeles

Michael Juliano
Written by
Kate Wertheimer
&
Michael Juliano
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Snow-capped mountains, beginner’s to advanced slopes, ski lifts and a warm hot toddy on a chill winter’s eve are all within reach— it’s just a matter of how far you’re willing to drive. A two- and a half-hour venture can bring you to the slopes of Snow Valley (perfect for a day trip), while an eight-hour road trip can bring you to the plush and varied terrain of Lake Tahoe. There are high-altitude wonderlands to be found, filled with well-groomed greens and challenging double-blacks (or cozy cocktails in the lodge if that’s more your speed). Whether you’re looking for a weekend getaway, a luxury hotel stay or are finally attempting the California Double, these are the ski resorts to mark on your map (arranged closest to farthest from L.A. for your planning convenience).

Please check each resort’s website before a visit (and make sure to secure advance tickets) as public health policies can change from county to county.

Ski resorts near Los Angeles

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  • Inland Empire

2 hrs 30 min 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 three 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.

Lift tickets $74–$95

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  • Angeles National Forest

2 hrs 30 min 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 tickets $59–$119

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  • Things to do
  • Big Bear

3 hrs 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 Peak, Southern California’s highest peak served by a lift, at just over 8,800 feet.

Lift tickets $79–$125

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  • Big Bear

3 hrs 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 tickets $79–$125

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  • Things to do

6 hrs 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 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 tickets starting from $89–$194

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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% 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 tickets $99–$129

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8 hrs 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 the LEED-certified Tamarack 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 tickets $118–$159

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8 hrs 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. However, due to the aftermath of the Caldor Fire, the open terrain is expected to look different this ski season. West Bowl Express trails, for example, will be inaccessible as they work on restoring that side of the mountain. Be sure to check the website for updates and opening date announcements for the 2021/2022 season.

Lift tickets TBD

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  • Things to do

8 hrs 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. 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 tickets $69–$94

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8 hrs 30 min from L.A.

Palisades Tahoe, formerly Squaw Valley Ski Resort, on the northern side of Lake Tahoe, is one of the largest ski areas in the country. It’s comprised of two mountains: Olympic Valley and Alpine Meadows. The mountains are a 10-minute drive from each other, but Palisades provides free shuttles between the two all day, and a lift ticket will work at both. The resorts offer 6,000 skiable acres across the two mountains, 34 lifts and dozens of trails, and attract approximately 600,000 skiers a year. Palisades isn’t far from the infamous Donner Pass, so it gets a heavy dump of snowfall almost every year, often exceeding 400 inches 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 tickets $118–$229

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