Saturday, June 22, 2024

A Mountain Getaway is Easier Than You Think

Everyone needs fresh air these days.

Not everyone has small children, but what my family experienced over an offset weekend is exactly what the doctor ordered for most, even if it does leave you breathless with tired bodies and exploding bags after arriving home.

Snow Valley is Southern California’s #1 Beginner-Friendly Resort according to Liftopia’s 2019 Best in Snow Awards.

Whether you’re single or trekking north with a spouse and multiple kids in tow for the three hours to San Bernardino’s welcoming peaks, it’s a trip that’s worth it. I know, what trip isn’t these days? Yet sometimes we need that extra nudge to suggest a plan, make a booking, get time off, and go!

We had done a weekend ski trip earlier in the year, but this time we wanted to try and skip the bit of traffic coming home Sunday — also maybe nix some of the lift line crowds as well as fit in some other fun things before we drove back. We chose to straddle a Monday and it was perfect, finding less people and less vehicles.

Snow Valley is the longest continuously operating ski area in Southern California, they shared.

Though a storm after we left showered the Snow Valley Mountain Resort in Running Springs with fresh snow, we still had great runs on the man-made dustings for our adventure. Our young skiers wore big grins and less layers, everyone around us also shedding jackets for light sweatshirts, enjoying the sun at the picnic tables in front of the lodge — and working on their snow riding craft without the pressure of howling, snowy wind.

Jules, 6, and Cole, 3

We couldn’t complain if we wanted to, since the day prior, before checking into the Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa about 20 minutes away from the slopes, we hit SkyPark at Santa’s Village in Skyforest.

We’ll be sure to return for the park’s new SkyRider ride, which will consist of a bicycle suspended below the original monorail structure. The rider will be harnessed to the bike and pedal around 1,000 feet of elevated track through the forest.

This would-be pit stop, given how it shortens the drive, is instead a bright highlight. There’s something for everyone at the park – with its renowned mountain biking (season passes available), an entertaining rock wall for all ages, a playground obstacle course and zip line, as well as numerous eating options, outdoor tables with heaters, shopping, treats, ice skating, a train ride, puppet show, magician, and much more.

Some days you can meet Arrow, the Alaskan Malamute and part real wolf, who’s Santa’s very own best friend.

Another cool thing is once you pay admission, you’re in like Flynn. Ice skate rentals are included, shows are included, rides are included. Year-round entertainment. Safe to boot.

The revamped, suspended Bumble Bee ride track through the trees will be a harnessed pedal bike attraction “coming soon” called the SkyRider. Also, the park’s close, year-round tent and RV camping is truly like a stay on the rim of the world.

After the original Santa’s Village went bankrupt and closed in 1998, the village was purchased in 2014 and reopened as SkyPark at Santa’s Village in 2016 in time for Christmas. All the original buildings built in the 1950s have been refurbished and stand gleaming against the trees — with wide, clean, cement walkways reminiscent of Disneyland standards carrying you from one activity to the next.

We traipsed into our lodging later — they didn’t balk at our hotel cart of many bags, child gear and ski equipment — and found a warm atmosphere with friendly faces. The Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa is used to its share of luminaries over the years but is also as down-to-earth as you could want.

The inviting, comfortable and aesthetic Arrowhead Resort and Spa lobby, within walking distance to Lake Arrowhead Village.

With a lakeside heated pool and two hot tubs, as well as tasty restaurant and bar Bin 189, coffee shop, and at once both a grand and cozy lobby, it felt like walking into another amusement park for us. (The restaurant name stems from wine bins commonly used at wineries and Highway 189 that leads into the resort.)

The view from our room.

Let the kids swim while you breathe. Get refreshed yourself or ease sore muscles. Go get cleaned up in your spotless, comfortable room. (The plastic-wrapped remotes are a  reassuring touch.) Have a date on the patio overlooking Lake Arrowhead if the temperature’s right. Or eat your pizza from town with family at a high-seated lobby table in front of tall glass windows; you might see the bald eagle that often graces a nearby tree. Or you can bring your group into a private dining room surrounded by floor-to-ceiling glass walls containing racks of wine.

The lobby offers spacious, luxurious seating, cut-tree foot rests, fireplaces, and a ballroom with additional seating and cozy nooks beside the large windows. Bin 189 will call you when your food is ready if you’d like to eat in your room. You can meander with your drinks. You can also take an icy bucket of top-notch wine up to further kick off your getaway.

I definitely need more steak and Limoncello tiramisu in my life.

In the morning grab coffee, breakfast items or other grab ‘n go options for the day at the small, walk-up café.

A stuffed animal Arrow made an appearance in many family pictures from the trip.

An invigorating ski day is certainly different with small children. No matter your level, it’s best to give yourself plenty of time to rent gear and perhaps make it to a group or private lesson. Growing up skiing, we haven’t rented in a while; but with the kids quickly growing out of their gear, we opted for renting and decided to try out different skis ourselves.

Ski instructors are quite often angels.

This plateaued, intermediate skier liked her brand new HEAD rental skis that were the perfect size per my rental employee’s recommendation, and definitely lighter than my decade-old sticks that surfaced shortly after the first parabolic skis came out.

Admittedly, renting and assembling takes a long time with anyone more than yourself for whom to fill out a form; as well as a six- and three-year-old who although are good sports, spent much of that time lying on the ground as they waited for us to talk to staff, put on gear or make a decision. We quickly realized we didn’t need jackets and ran them to the car with our shoes and other junk.

One of many magic carpet rides by a statuesque onlooker.

Make sure you put your ticket on your pants.

Make sure you keep your rental paperwork easy-access for the return if possible.


While our youngest flopped around with our kiddos’ patient 20-year veteran instructor Vance Valdez, our daughter immediately followed Valdez to any suggestion. Magic carpet? Yes. Bigger magic carpet? Yes. Lift? Yes. Do this? OK, I’ll try. Do that? Sure.

Atta girl.

When the lesson ended, and lunch was had — including hot cocoa left ’til it was cold and therefore good enough for ridiculously sensitive kid tongues — we were close enough that our little guy could head home with one adult and nap while the others took more runs.

When the world is telling you to cover up, stay away and stay home, it feels otherworldly to get out, move fast, feel the wind, get tired, and laugh.

We zipped through lift lines and stuffed ourselves with beer and fried food. We rubbed aching backs from lugging tiny bodies and heavy gear around. As much work as travel can be, somehow things fall into place and the memories are lit up in neon. We came home having lived. I could get used to that again.

We don’t always get to enjoy the “high” life. So make sure you push yourself to make things happen at a different altitude.

Jules and Vance


Explore a powder lover’s paradise with this all-inclusive après ski inspired ski & stay package in Lake Arrowhead, Calif. Your experience begins with a breathtaking trip to the San Bernardino mountains, home to a national forest of Ponderosa Pines quietly resting above the Southern California clouds at an elevation of 5,174′. Upon arrival at our 4-diamond resort, you’ll be greeted by friendly staff members, and a Lakeside Room complete with two Direct-to-Lift Passes to Snow Valley Mountain, home to Southern California’s only high-speed, six-passenger chairlift. Less than 14 miles from your room, Snow Valley offers a variety of terrain suitable for beginners, intermediate, and advanced snow sports enthusiasts. Your Direct-to-Lift Passes will allow you to skip the ticket window and go straight to the ski lift from the Snow Valley parking lot. After an adrenaline filled day on the slopes, it’s time for an Après Ski experience at Bin 189, where you can enjoy a signature cocktail next to a warm fire or a delicious dinner dish on our lake view deck.

An aerial view of the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa
Courtesy of Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa

Stay now through March 31. Price based on availability, from $245 per night excluding taxes and fees for a standard king room. Learn more here.

  • Overnight Accommodations
  • 2 Direct-to-Lift Passes to Snow Valley Mountain ($148 Value)
  • Access to Private Beach Area at Lake Arrowhead Resort

The $32/day resort fee and taxes are not included. The package is subject to availability, blackout dates apply, and the offer is good on room stays from Dec. 1, 2020 through March 31, 2021. It may not be combined with any other offer or discount and is not applicable to groups. Bin 189 menus subject to change seasonally without notice.

The Lake Arrowhead resort also launched a $99 room sale March 9. Rooms are starting as low as $99 Sunday to Thursday and $199 Friday and Saturday for stays now through May 27.

The resort also provides guests with midweek Snow Valley tickets, all ages for $40.


Snow Valley Stats:

  • Vertical: 1,041′
  • Top elevation: 7,841′
  • Base elevation: 6,800′
  • Skiable area: 240 acres
  • Average annual snowfall: 188″

Snow Valley Runs:

  • 28 total – longest is one mile
  • 14% beginner
  • 46% intermediate
  • 32% advanced
  • 7% expert runs

Plus 12 lifts (1 six-passenger, high-speed chair; 5 double chairs, 5 triple chairs, 2 surface lifts/moving carpets) and 3 terrain parks (The Edge, Rim Progression and Hideout Jib Park).

Additionally there’s a “Snow Play” sledding area open daily.


The average season is late November to mid-April.


Snow Valley is the closest ski area to the valley floor, 30 minutes closer than the Big Bear Lake resorts as reported by The resort is in the San Bernardino National Forest, and the entrance to its large parking lot is at 35100 State Highway 18, Running Springs, CA 92382.


Owned and operated by the Sauey family since 1975.

Aly Lawson
Aly Lawson
Aly has a BA in mass communication, emphasizing journalism and public relations, and a MBA in marketing. She has worked as a reporter and marketer in various industries and overseas. She also won a best community business story award from the Nevada Press Association in 2017. Originally from Washington, this is her second time living in Coronado, where her husband is stationed as a Navy helicopter pilot. They have two small children and the whole family adores Coronado. Have a story for The Coronado Times to cover? Send news tips or story ideas to: [email protected]

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