SoCal Skiing is the best. Sure, Colorado and Tahoe have some bragging rights, but you can't hit the beach and the ski slopes on the same day in Aspen, can you? Only ski slopes near Los Angeles let families pair snowboarding with surfing in one weekend. Los Angeles living offers easy access to ski resorts that are sunny, budget-friendly, and lead us back home in time for bed. So, if you're dying to get out of the house this winter and the kids are ready for something more adventurous than sledding and tubing, check out this list of area slopes and snow schools. Plan carefully and kids can have skis on their feet two hours after packing the car—because the mountains are even closer than they look.
For more winter fun, check out these fabulous Winter Day Trips from Los Angeles and our complete Winter Activities Guide for Los Angeles Kids.
The National Ski Association has published the Ski Well Be Well guide to set industry standards for all resorts and as a handy reference for how families can stay safe on the slopes.
Heralded as LA's closest ski resort with no mountain driving, Mountain High is a sure bet for family skiing—especially since kids 4 and under ski free with a paid adult. Check out the Children's Sports Center (and our review of it), where "fun is a priority" for kids ages 1-12. The resort offers both half and full-day group lessons as well as private lessons for kids ages 7 and up (lessons for kids ages 3-6 this year are all private). Mountain High is one of the few destinations to offer lessons for toddlers, too. Children ages 1-3 learn safely through Mountain High's simulation training in the Virtual Snow class. Adult lessons are also offered. Before booking any lessons this year, think about your child's skill and comfort level; lessons are more hands-off, and instructors can't help students up, hold hands, or ride with them on the chairs. Got a kiddo with a winter birthday? You can ski free on your birthday at Mountain High.
Only 50 miles from downtown LA, Mt. Baldy is just around the corner and so might make for the simplest ski outing. Prices are usually reasonable, and the Mount Baldy Chamber of Commerce sometimes offers deals. Equipment rentals are not included.
Variable snowfall levels and limited snow-making capabilities mean conditions are less reliable at Mt. Baldy than at some other resorts. But when conditions are right, like this year, locals claim that Mt. Baldy has the steepest vertical drop in Southern California, the shortest lines, and a favorable old-fashioned charm. While convenient and cost-effective, Mt. Baldy might not be the best choice for the littlest first-time skiers, since a steep, gusty ski lift must be braved before touching snow. To take lessons at Mt. Baldy, kids must be at least 40″ tall and able to load and unload the lift on their own. Kids under 16 years old must have a parent present when in the Learning Center.
Trivia buffs might be interested to know that Mt. Baldy is merely a nickname. The mountain's real name is Mt. San Antonio, and it's the highest peak in the San Bernardino Range.
Snowboard show off! Photo courtesy of Big Bear Mountain Resort
A mere 100 or so miles from Los Angeles, Big Bear Mountain Resorts is a hugely popular skiing destination. Choose from two distinct ski areas within two miles of each other: Snow Summit offers "a traditional alpine atmosphere," while Bear Mountain boasts a more youthful, snowboard-friendly environment. Both offer ski and snowboard classes.
If your kids are new to skiing, Snow Summit might be your place. Choose from a variety of lesson options and packages for both kids and adults. This mountain offers a great variety of beginner and intermediate slopes where a family can enjoy a long, quiet, mellow ski without being knocked down by non-stop thrill-seekers. Group lessons are available for kids five and up, and private lessons are available for kids four and up.
Nearby Bear Mountain claims to provide "the largest beginner area and the most innovative and most progressive terrain parks in Southern California." Now there's something to consider! Lesson packages and prices are the same as those at Snow Summit.
Snow Valley has great beginner terrain. Photo courtesy of Snow Valley
Less than 100 miles from downtown LA, Snow Valley is doable as a day trip ski and snowboard destination. The resort's Children's Learning Center treats young skiers and riders to small class sizes that emphasize fun. Classes are offered for half-day sessions in either the morning or afternoon. Due to the pandemic, the Children’s Learning Center ages have changed to ages 5-12. Students ages 5-6 will remain within the Children’s Learning Center Area. Snowboard lessons are available only for children ages 6 and up. Equipment rental is just $10 with class registration. Kids 5 and under ski free with an adult, and families with older kids can save with Family Fun Packs, which are available online.
Learn to Ski or Snowboard packages are also available for skiers and snowboarders ages 13 and up. Packages include rental equipment, a 1.5-hour beginner group lesson, and a lower mountain lift ticket. Skiers and riders ages 13 and up who are ready for a greater challenge can opt for the Lift 'n' Lesson Package.
Remember that weather and road conditions may change daily, especially as you drive to higher elevations. Always check before you go, to make sure roads are passable and to determine if you need chains. Also, most ski resorts increase their rates during peak weekends and holidays; make note of these special times to avoid unexpected rate hikes.
Find more places to ski or snowboard in our Skiing, Snowboarding, and Snow Sports Guide.
Originally published January 6, 2012 and updated seasonally