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Snow Summit vs. Bear Mountain

Bear Mountain is a ski and snowboarding attraction in the San Bernardino National Forest, located at Big Bear Lake. Snow Summit is a ski resort also located in the San Bernardino Mountains in Southern California. These two resorts, once enthusiastic rivals, are now owned by the same company, Big Bear Mountain Resorts, or BBMR.

Snow Summit is one of the most popular sites for snowboarding and skiing in the area and features roughly 240 acres of ski-accessible terrain. Bear Mountain is said to be a go-to destination for snowboarders, with Snow Summit catering more to those who seek a more traditional skiing experience.

Snow Summit vs. Bear Mountain

Snow Summit vs. Bear Mountain

Snow Summit or Bear Mountain? Both resorts have unique features that will appeal to skiers and snowboarders of different abilities and interests. Below we’ll break down both and you can decide which is right for you.

DetailSnow SummitBear Mountain
Base Elevation7,000 ft/2,133 m7,140 ft/2,176 m
Peak Elevation8,200 ft/2,499 m8,805 ft/2,683 m
Vertical Drop1,200 ft/365 m1,665 ft/507 m
Developed Acres240198
Undeveloped/Natural Terrain Acres550
Trails/Runs33 (18 Rideable Miles)27
Longest Run1.25 mi/2 km1.5 mi/2.4 km
Difficulty BreakdownSnow SummitBear Mountain
First-Time Beginner10%15%
Low Intermediate25%15%

Bear Mountain Pro & Cons

  • Whole host of half-pipes and terrain parks perfect for freestyle skiing and snowboarding.
  • Appeals to a more adventurous crowd that prefers obstacles and features such as jumps, boxes, stairsets, rails, tubes and more.
  • The difficulty of these features varies and is setup from beginner to expert and terrain park areas are typically dominated by snowboarders.
  • Chairs 4, 6 and 8 have black diamond runs. SoCal’s steepest run is Geronimo Run and is rated a double black diamond. Rip run is a black diamond that is steep with many trees to navigate.
  • Largest beginner area in Southern California including a terrain-based learning area and Skill builder Parks.
  • The bunny slope is much longer than Snow Summit but not as wide.

Bear Mountain Trail Map

Snow Summit Pro & Cons

  • Dedicated to more traditional runs and skiers but you’ll find skiers and snowboarders alike.
  • Typically a more more experience with better conditions.
  • There are several black diamond runs and some with double black diamond sections (The Wall & Olympic). The Wall is a freestyle jumping wall and The Side Chute is steep, narrow and involves navigating trees.
  • Features family-friendly activities such as the Grizzly Ridge Tube Park, zipline, 30-foot climbing wall and more.
  • There is night skiing with gigantic lights that illuminate the trails.
  • The bunny slope is wider than snow summit but not as long. Summit Run, then Skyline Creek and Miracle mile all offer beginner level trails

Snow Summit Trail Map

Snow Summit vs Bear Mountain for Beginners

Both resorts have a full suite of amenities including ski and snowboard lessons, an Adventure Academy with designated kids learning areas, and bunny slopes for beginners so there is no wrong choice.

Beginner snowboarders may prefer Bear Mountain as the resort is more geared towards snowboarders and freestyle skiing. Beginner skiers may prefer Snow Summit as the resort has more beginner-friendly terrain trails plus fewer snowboarders, who can be difficult for skiers to navigate around.

Free Shuttle Services

Big Bear Mountain Resort offers alternative transportation to get you around Big Bear Lake and to the resorts quickly.

  • Remote Parking Lots to the Resort: During the winter season, there are parking shuttle to and from Bear Mountain or Snow Summit.
  • Resort to Resort: Visit both mountains in the same day by taking the complimentary 10-minute Intermountain Shuttle service between Snow Summit and Bear Mountain every 30 minutes
  • Hotel/Town to Resort: Mountain Transit offers free Big Bear Trolley service year-round to the resorts and key destinations around town.

Bear Mountain Features In Summer And Winter

Winter season at Bear Mountain means skiing, snow tubing, and snowboarding. There are also base camp activities including wall climbing, an outdoor bar, and you can get a scenic view of the area using the ski lifts.

Bear Mountain is a younger crowd; if you are looking for a more traditional, laid back ski experience, Snow Summit may be for you. In the Summer, Bear Mountain offers a nine-hole golf course and a driving range. Most “basecamp” type summer activities and classes are offered at Snow Summit (See below).

Snow Summit Features In Summer And Winter

Snow Summit in the winter season features snow tubing, skiing and snowboarding. Tubing is also offered in the summer months, but there is an off-season between October and the end of November, as well as a tubing off-season from April to June.

Snow Summit’s summer season options include a climbing wall, a golf course and a driving range. Bike trails are also popular; the Snow Summit Bike Park isn’t just a place to ride–you can take biking lessons, rent equipment, and grab trail maps of the area. The bike trails themselves are impressive and there are plenty of downhill options.

There is also an attraction here called Euro Bungee which is a combination trampoline and bungee jump attraction. Instead of jumping off a high platform, you jump on the trampoline and fly much higher thanks to the bungee cables.

If you want an elevated view of the area without having to jump on a trampoline, the Snow Summit Skychair tour offers incredible views of Big Bear Valley and the San Bernardino National Forest. “​Base camp” activities at Snow Summit include a variety of lessons offered year-round. You can learn to ski, snowboard, and more.

Big Bear Mountain Resorts Location

Snow Summit Ski Resort: 880 Summit Blvd, Big Bear Lake CA 92315
Bear Mountain Ski Resort: 43101 Goldmine Drive, Big Bear Lake, CA 92315

Bear Mountain and Snow Summit are roughly two miles apart.

Hours of operation depend greatly on the season, the attraction you have tickets for, and other variables. Some operations are subject to change or cancellation if there are wildfires or public emergencies. It is a smart idea to call ahead before traveling to the local area.

When planning a winter visit, tire chains may be required on your vehicle. This will depend greatly on road conditions, snowfall, and other variables.

Be advised that there is no overnight parking or camping on Big Bear Mountain Resorts property, and there are restrictions on e-bikes in the area. When using Snow Summit or Bear Mountain bike trails, you may operate a Class One e-bike, but not Class Two or Class Three. Some trails here are completely off-limits to e-bikes of any kind.

Booking Issues At Bear Mountain And Snow Summit

When booking lessons, official policy for the two venues includes the fact that your reservation does not include lift tickets or gear rental. If you need one or both, you must include them in your reservation.

Do you need to rent gear? Reservations made seven days in advance will get you a 20% rental discount. Military discounts are also possible.

Reservation Change And Cancellation Policy

When booked at either venue, to cancel a reservation, use the Bear Mountain Refund Request Form on the Big Bear Mountain Resorts official site. If you need to change (but not cancel) a reservation you must call 844.GO2.BEAR.

Bear Mountain cancellation policy includes full refunds for cancellations made up to three full days before reservation dates. For those who cancel within three days of the reservation, an “Activity Change Voucher” is offered and will be made out for the full value of the reservation. Last minute changes are discouraged; same day cancellations or changes may not be allowed and no last minute refunds are possible.

Lodging At Bear Mountain And Snow Summit

You won’t find Big Bear Mountain Resorts offering you lodging; this is the one amenity the resort does not provide. However there are many third-party options in the area. Everything from traditional hotel rooms to log cabin rentals may be available depending on the time of year, demand, weather conditions and other variables. View the Big Bear Lake Website for a list of local places to stay.

A Brief History Of Big Bear Mountain Resorts

At one time, Snow Summit and another recreation company called Goldmine Mountain co-existed about two miles apart from one another, both competing for skiers and vacationers.

In 1988, Goldmine Mountain was acquired by S.K.I. and from there the two operations would try to outdo one another on the slopes. Some rebranding was needed; goodbye Goldmine Mountain and enter Bear Mountain. But over time, the rivalry wouldn’t last. In 2002 Snow Summit purchased its rival and the two sites operated under Snow Summit for about 12 years.

The company would be sold twice, with Alterra Mountain Company finally taking over operations for the two sites.

In 2019, Big Bear Mountain Resorts initiated a multi-million dollar renovation project which upgraded many areas including the ticket plaza, rental shop, the outdoor bar, and paved pathways in crucial areas.

Other improvements over the years were not cosmetic, but greatly enhanced the use of both resort areas; Snow Summit and Bear Mountain offer reciprocal ticketing. Under this program you may use tickets interchangeably between the two sites where permitted. There is also a shuttle service taking visitors back and forth between the two sites.

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Monique McArthur
Monique McArthur is a mother of two, writer, and creator of delicious recipes. In her spare time she enjoys exploring all that Orange County has to offer, traveling, shopping, running with her dogs and spending time with family.