What to do when your teenagers have a Friday off from school that most other school districts don’t have off? Head to the local mountains, of course, and try a new ski resort without the crowds. Last Friday, our alarm went off at 5:30am, but the kids and their friends didn’t complain because they knew they were headed for a day of fun on the slopes at Snow Valley. It had been a rainy week in Coronado, so we knew that meant a good dump of snow had been gifted to the San Bernardino mountains!
Only 106 miles away, Snow Valley Mountain Resort is the closest skiing to Coronado. Google maps predicted it would take us 2 hours and 45 minutes and they were just about right. Once we were headed up the mountain on Highway 330, we had beautiful views from what is aptly named “Rim of the World Highway.” We left a cloudy day below and emerged into the higher altitudes to see sunny snow-capped mountain peaks and pine trees peeking out from a thick blanket of fog. The view made our early morning journey almost magical.
We pulled into the parking lot and found plenty of parking spaces. We had purchased our lift tickets online ahead of time, so we headed to the much shorter “Will Call” line to pick them up. Adult tickets are $69, teenagers are $59 and children are just $29. I also noticed that they offer 50% to active duty or retired military (plus up to four additional family members for lift tickets and rentals) – a great deal for our Navy community. They also offer “Family Fun Packs” which give significant discounts to families of two adults and two children. You can check out all of their pricing and deals at snow-valley.com.
Next, we headed into the equipment rental center. We arrived at 9:30am and there was already a decent line, so I would suggest arriving earlier (even though that means leaving Coronado by 5:30am). That will maximize your time in the slopes. Rental prices range from $26 for kids and $38 for adults for the full ski or snowboard package and we were extremely happy with the equipment.
Snow Valley is an excellent place to learn to ski. My daughter brought her 16 year old friend who had never skied before and was a bit nervous about learning. We scheduled her a one-hour private lesson ($129) first thing. The beginner ski lift, learning center and bunny slope were all perfect and her ski instructor was excellent. By the end of the hour she was skiing well and able to move up to the regular lift with my daughter. My daughter had learned to ski on much bigger mountains like Mammoth and Mt. Bachelor (Oregon) and she commented that Snow Valley was a much better place to learn. Snow Valley even has a Children’s Learning Center dedicated to teaching ages 4-12 and making it a fun and easy experience for them.
For the other three more experienced skiers, there was plenty of “blue” (intermediate) and “black” (expert) runs to explore as well. As it was early in the snow season, the whole mountain was not open, so they were a bit disappointed that several chair lifts that go to the summit were not yet open (but we need Mother Nature to cooperate for that to happen). Snow Valley is certainly a smaller mountain with fewer runs, but they still had a fun, full day of skiing and said that they would have loved to stay and ski more. Plus, it’s only three hours away from Coronado.
Southern California skiing has it benefits: close proximity and warmer temperatures. After lunch all four teens were skiing in their sweatshirts because it was such a bluebird day in the 50s.
When they were in need of fuel for more skiing, they came down to the main lodge for a hearty, but typical lodge lunch. They ordered chicken nuggets and fries, while I had a delicious chili. The staff were all helpful which made it a really nice and relaxed atmosphere to hang out in. The Lodge has two outdoor decks to eat or drink on with plenty of tables, with a great view overlooking the mountain. This is where skiing in southern California really shines – sitting outdoors in the sun, with your gloves off, enjoying the view, downing some calories and swapping ski stories with you family & friends- ahhh!
As the day was winding down, I remembered that one of the staff members gave me a tip at the beginning of the day to beat the traffic on the way home. He told us to return our rentals and be on the road before 3:30pm unless we wanted to be stuck on the mountain roads for hours trying to get home. We took his advice and we were back in Coronado in three hours on a Friday night! (minus a quick stop for food). They also have “night hours” if you want to stay longer.
On the drive home we admitted that we had been a bit skeptical about Snow Valley and maybe even a little arrogant giving all the skiing we had experienced at bigger mountains. However, we all agreed that Snow Valley was a fun experience and incredibly convenient to get to – especially if you only have a day to ski and want to save money on airfare, lodging, etc.
We look forward to going again soon.