Most Popular Ski Destinations in California

Sunrise at Convict Lake

Want to skip the reading? Scroll to the bottom for my combined list of favorites!

Mammoth Mountain

If you head about 6 hours North of San Diego, you will find yourself on Highway 395 heading through the Mammoth Lakes Region. This is by far one of my favorite places to visit in California. With its famous hot springs and gorgeous lakes, it’s hard to not find something you’ll love there. You can spend your morning with a cup of coffee in a hot spring and be on a ski lift heading up the mountain within an hour. Mammoth Mountain is a step up from Big Bear being in the Southern Sierra Mountain Range with the mountains slightly bigger. It’s often colder in the winter with the elevation being higher and is subject to way more precipitation. Four-wheel drive is a plus here or at least have some tire chains in the back just in case. As with any mountain town, there are plenty of après-ski spots. Restaurants and lodges within 10 minutes of the mountain and closer. Last year, Nick and I rented a sprinter van and were able to sleep right at the base of the mountain at an overnight parking lot (small fee). This year we stayed at an inn called The Mammoth Creek Inn. Only stay here if you’re a heavy sleeper, otherwise you will hear everyone and everything all night long. We ended up eating at the Mammoth Tavern, grabbing a few beers at Distant Brewing, and had breakfast at Mammoth Coffee Roasting Co before hitting the slopes! There are many lodges at which you can begin your day. Last year we started at the Main Lodge, and this year we started at Canyon lodge. Nick felt that Canyon Lodge was less busy, but I guess it depends on what time you arrive! Parking is limited, so the earlier the better! Other non-ski related activities in Mammoth include visiting the many lakes in the area like Mono Lake or Convict Lake and taking a dip in the hot springs! There are signs everywhere, but a nice one to see is Wild Willey’s! Just keep in mind, these hot springs are at the mercy of those who use them. Please leave them better than you found them and try not to take a dip with any sunscreen or lotions. If you find trash (even if it’s not yours), you will be doing a great service to the environment and others by just picking it up. Karma will be in your favor!

Nick and me on the summit of Mammoth Mountain

Big Bear Mountain Resort

For the snow bunnies desperate for a taste of California slopes, I have some great news for you: West Coast Best Coast! Having grown up in and skied all over the East Coast (both in New England and the Mid-Atlantic region), I can wholeheartedly say that skiing West side is so much better for a myriad of reasons. Have you ever heard someone say the East Coast winters are a “wet cold?” Well, they’re right! I’ve always heard it explained that it’s due to the infamous humidity notoriously described as the East Coast. The West is typically more arid due to the desert climate, and as you migrate North and reach the Southern Sierras and Northern California, the mountains touch the desert in this beautiful coexistence. For Southern California, Big Bear Mountain is a popular destination with very basic slopes perfect for beginners and intermediate shredders alike. It’s a quick and easy drive from San Diego county and San Bernardino County. It’s cute little ski town has several diverse restaurants sure to fill any craving. No ski town is complete without a Himalayan meal, and Himalayan Restaurant is one of my favorites every time I visit the area. Skiing isn’t all Big Bear has to offer, though! If you’re not a skier or snowboarder, there are plenty of spots to rent other snow equipment such as cross-country skis, snowshoes, and sleds!

Where to rent snow shoes and such!

Ski Haus

Goldsmith’s Sports

Big Bear Mountain Ski Rentals

Even if that doesn’t tickle your fancy, Big Bear has some of the cutest A-Frame cabins easily booked through Airbnb. I highly recommend booking at least a month in advance as last minute cabin bookings are very difficult to acquire…and unfortunately, I know this from experience! If you just absolutely hate the cold altogether, and winter getaways aren’t your thing, the town puts on a fun Oktoberfest every fall, usually with a giant beer tent. It’s a wonderful time of year to pitch a tent with your friends/family. It’s also a super safe place for a solo trip which I have done a handful of times with my dog Finnegan. Oh! Did I mention Big Bear is super dog friendly? You’ll find most of the stores allow you to bring your dog. Some even have water bowls outside and a snack jar for your pup! The summers are also fun where you can rent paddleboards, kayaks, peddle boats, and motorboats (license required to operate). Finnegan loves swimming in the lake and chasing the ducks!

Heavenly Ski Resort

Lastly, Heavenly Ski Resort in South Lake Tahoe is another California favorite. While I have not been here to ski, I have been in the summer, and it’s an amazing place to vacation all year round! There are tons of Airbnb’s, inns, cabins, and hotels. Be sure to book ahead a few weeks if not longer as these mountain towns book up very quickly. Last minute trips are difficult to swing simply from lack of lodging! A few summers ago, I stayed at the Alder Inn just minutes from the base of the mountain. It was equipped with Wi-Fi, a hot tub/pool, and within walking distance from restaurants, shops, and a Whole Foods grocery. Without a doubt you will have a blast here. Many people will fly into Sacramento or Reno to get here or road trip, of course!

Skipped the Reading? Here's a list for you!

Most Popular Ski Destinations in California

Mammoth Mountain

Big Bear Mountain Resort

Heavenly Ski Resort

What I pack for my ski trips!

Packing List:

1. Hiking leggings for layering

2. Snow pants: (Click here)

3. Ski Jacket (Click here)

4. Gloves

5. Snow boots or winter boot

6. Base layer

7. Fleece Jacket (My Favorite)

8. Beanie

9. Wool socks (Darn Tough and Smartwool are my favorites!)

10. Face covering for wind

11. Chapstick with SPF

12. Sunscreen

13. Ski goggles (cannot typically rent these)

14. Camelbak or hydration source

15. Bathing suit for hot springs or hot tub

16. Cute outfit for grabbing dinner after skiing

Mammoth Lakes Region HWY 395

Hi! I'm Kelsie Marie-welcome to my blog! I'm a San Diego-based Travel and Lifestyle Blogger, and I'm thrilled to have you here!

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