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Après Skier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
This is Baldy!!!

I awoke the morning of March 15, 2020 in a foul mood. Covid19 had quashed my winter plans. Not only would I not be going to Verbier, my 2-week Tahoe Trip, my Mammoth trip, and pretty much everything I had been looking forward to for months was now cancelled. I was tempted to stay at home and bicker with my husband but somehow my skis ended up in the car and in exactly 84 minutes I was at the Mt Baldy ticket window.

Mt Baldy Ski Resort sits on the highest peak in Los Angeles County. The resort is approximately 1-hour from Downtown LA and, although the resort is small, the terrain is varied and when the snow is good there is a wonderful variety of interesting terrain to explore with trees galore. The area is popular with hikers and hosts events year-round. I visited after several days of snow and all I have to say is wow! The day I visited there was low visibility and ice all over the place but it was so dreamy! The entire experience was surreal. From warm Westwood to a veritable winter wonderland in less than 1.5 hours. Beautiful, friendly, uncrowded, with surprisingly exciting terrain. The Top of the Notch mountain restaurant has a fun and friendly atmosphere and is nice place for warming up next to the fire, drinks, a nosh, and people watching.

Mt Baldy
Location: Southern California 1-hour northeast of Downtown LA
Vertical: 2100 ft
Top Elevation: 8600 ft
Food: Standard North American ski resort fare served at The Top of the Notch restaurant with local craft beers on tap. The food was better than I expected and the french fries were served crispy and piping hot.
Lodging: Nothing on-site. Rustic cabins with restaurant and nightly live music at Mt Baldy Lodge located 5-miles away from the ski resort.

The Good:
-Very beautiful!
-Friendly resort, good vibes!
-Exciting natural terrain. Trees, trees, trees.
-Some nicely groomed runs for moments when the ungroomed is unappealing.
-Close to home for SoCal locals.

The Not-so-Good:
-Small resort with slow lifts.
-Baldy relies heavily on natural snow and this being SoCal...
-Laissez faire lifties provide minimal assistance with the fixed-grip, center pole chairs so it’s a harrowing and sometimes painful experience getting onto the lift.
-Sharp, steep hairpins on the access road. My current car has front-wheel-drive but My next car will most likely be an AWD Prius with winter tires (50+ MPG, Toyota reliability, and awesome in the snow!!!).
-Too close to home to warrant and overnight stay so I needed to be extra careful not to overindulge at the Top of the Notch.

Insider Tip:

If the don’t have your t-shirt size in the shop at Top of the Notch, they might have it in the little cafe at the bottom next to the ticket window.

The Verdict:
This local Mom & Pop shop is a hidden treasure and may very well be SoCal’s finest skiing. Mt Baldy merits at minimum a few annual visits from every SoCal local.

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santacruz skier

Angel Diva
Really great trip report but on that day, March 15, I had already cancelled my ski trip to Heavenly (mar 14) and Crested Butte (mar 24) ... thinking my ski season may be over.

Guess no one was paying attention to the freeway signs judging by pic of the lodge!!!
 

Après Skier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Hiya @CarverJill & @santacruz skier,

This may very well have been their final day before closure. I received an email from Mt Baldy the next day announcing enhanced social distancing strategies: the lodge seating area would be closed, the kitchen would only serve grab-and-go, tickets would be limited to purchase exclusively online and would have timed arrival... a few hours later I received another email informing how the resort would close until further notice.

After a mostly dry winter Baldy had finally received snow and they were implementing measures to keep the resort open while limiting exposure. I suspect my thought process was similar to many: I considered skiing to be an ideal social distancing activity, I mean, how could possibly I catch a bug whilst covered from head-to-toe with a gaiter covering my face? News reports of COVID-19 outbreaks in Vail and Ishgl had not yet been released. In hindsight, looking at this lodge photo it is easy to see why all the resorts eventually closed.

I considered omitting COVID-19 from my trip report because it does not reflect upon quality of the resort. In the end I decided to keep it in because it reflects the zeitgeist of the skiing community as we come to terms with a complete up-ending of our season.

I just hope a small resort like Mt Baldy can weather this storm and I look forward to supporting them when they re-open because it really is a magical place.

Here’s a photo I took while hiking at Mt Baldy in October 2018. Hard to believe how beneath the fluffy clouds lies a sprawling megalopolis home to over 15-million people.

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VickiK

Angel Diva
I skied Mt. Baldy a couple of times. It's really old school and has some surprising terrain on a small scale.

In the summer they host concerts at the lodge on full moon nights. You can ride the chairlift up or hike up. The hike is on my bucket list. COVID-19 might impact their schedule this year.

@Après Skier did you buy a t-shirt? Maybe post a photo--I'm just curious. Glad you had a great time, thanks for the trip report. :smile:
 

WaterGirl

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@Après Skier I agree at that time the new snow was a much needed boost, and I too considered skiing that week. Thank you for the trip report. I watched daily on their website as they made a huge effort to stay open by distancing ticket sales, however when the lock down order went out over the weekend, they decided not to reopen.

I would love to meet up at Baldy with any other SoCal Divas in the future :smile:
 

SierraLuLu

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I thought about going after the other resorts closed, as they waffled about staying open for a while (however I had just come back from a trip and wanted to social distance as much as possible - of course now we do not go anywhere except to the grocery store and on walks).

I visited them for the first time in late December when California was quite dreamy. We had cheap passes we got at SkiDazzle (4 for $100) and wanted to take our friend out who had just learned to snowboard. As their rental shop was out of snowboards (we didn’t know this until we reached the top of the first lift - if you must rent at Baldy always order in advance) he ended up learning to ski!

I found the snow quality superior to Big Bear and the terrain more varied. I’ve heard they’re quite renowned for their tree skiing and was excited to visit a few days after a snow storm, but what looked like soft powder from the trees was crunchy and impossible to turn in. Oh well, the groomers were very good. So was the view, and Mr. Sierra and I found a few hidden powder stashes.

The problem was getting back down to our car. There was a trail down from the lodge but it was listed as “experts only.” Mr. Sierra and I wanted to ski down while our friend took the lift. To get there we had to ask the lift operator for permission. He reiterated that it was experts only and that it was icy. At the word icy, I decided to take the lift and Mr. Sierra went down alone. When I finally saw him come down at the bottom he told a story of how the trails were badly marked and he almost ended up out of bounds and had to hike back. It was terrifying for him because it was a vast, steep area with subpar snow quality (being more exposed to thaw and freeze cycles than the snow up top) and he didn’t know how to get down safely. In addition, the lift operators were often rude and unhelpful. It’s safe to say I’m more eager to go back than Mr. Sierra is.

At the end of the day it’s a locals mountain and unlike other Southern California resorts assumes a more advanced, ready and knowledgeable crowd. It’s not user friendly and not particularly first-timer friendly and there’s huge variability in when it opens, what days it’s open and how long it stays open. But I’ve heard on a good powder day (rarer in Los Angeles metro than in the Sierras) the terrain is unbeatable.
 

Après Skier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@SierraLuLu It appears you had the quintessential Baldy experience: part improvised, part charming, part messy, and always unexpected. It is true Snow Summit olffers a much more consistent experience with their impressive show making but, warts and all, I am just f with Baltaire despite its many shortcomings, there is something to be very real charming and authentic about Baldy.
 

VickiK

Angel Diva
I took a snowboard lesson at Baldy, a long ago, and decided to stick with skiing. Another time at Baldy, I was with a bold and crazy friend who wanted to ski down to the parking lot instead of riding the chair. I remember we had to be careful not to overshoot the little bridge that spanned a creek, otherwise we'd be in out-of-bounds wilderness. Don't know if the bridge is still there, it was again a long time ago.
 

Après Skier

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
...warts and all, I am just f with Baltaire despite its many shortcomings, there is something to be very real charming and authentic about Baldy.

Oopsies... after a 13-hour shift in the ER “hot zone” I literally passed out from exhaustion while writing this message. What I meant to say was “It is true Snow Summit offers a much more consistent experience with their impressive show making ability but, warts and all, I am just smitten with Baldy despite its many shortcomings, there is something to be very charming and authentic about Baldy."

P.S. Stay home if you can and count your blessings while sheltering in place. Please consider a donation to your local hospital if you are in good financial circumstances. This virus is no joke.
 

SierraLuLu

Ski Diva Extraordinaire
@Après Skier that sounds terrible and I hope you make a quick recovery.

What you said made me chuckle. I did find Baldy more charming than Snow Summit - better trails, less newbies, a more local, although who knows if it’ll be open on any given day in a regular year, or what trails, or what the snow will be like.

Of course I’d be happy to be on any mountain right now, if only it were safe to do so. All in time I suppose.
 

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