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I don’t remember the ride being this busy

by Peter Weinberger | pweinberger@claremont-courier.com

I’ve been traveling up to the Mt. Baldy area since I was five years old, creating numerous memories of skiing at the top of the Notch, hiking up Mt. Baldy — even helping build a snow igloo to spend a quiet, cold night at the peak. In 1969, my father and I covered floods that literally swept Baldy Village right off the map. My wife even said yes to a marriage proposal at Ice House Canyon over 35 years ago. Spending an evening between the tunnels along Mt. Baldy Road when our car broke down was a big deal back in 1965. All good times.

Even today, it doesn’t seem like a lot has changed, except for one thing. When it snows, it’s almost impossible to get up the mountain. Over the past several years I have documented many summer and winter scenes with my drones, many of which have appeared in the COURIER and on YouTube. But with global warming, I’ve also noticed less snow in the San Gabriel mountains, especially at lower elevations. And on higher elevations, there just seems to be less.

The storms that blew through here this holiday season are perfect examples. Baldy Village was barely touched by snow — even with weather services predicting a foot or more. And while on a trip to the Notch at 7,800 feet this week, I noticed that while there were still open runs for skiing, significant melting had already occurred. It’s a whole lot harder to find those magic moments when Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate. Needless to say, predicting weather remains difficult even in 2022.

So what happens after a first snow? A mass of humanity heads up a two-lane mountain road that’s steep and slick, anxious to throw snowballs and play in a winter wonderland. Traffic jams on first snow days are legendary. And it’s all the same wherever you go — Mt. Baldy, Big Bear Lake, Wrightwood — near gridlock traffic for miles.

What’s different now however, is that there are far fewer skiers and snowboarders trying to drive from point A to B, and many more families and friends ready for a day of recreation … sometimes anywhere. Parking on the side of the road literally has become the new way to tailgate. But it makes traffic worse, especially given the number of inexperienced drivers. I tip my hat to skiers with enough patience to make it all the way to the Mt. Baldy ski lifts.

My best advice is to have a working set of chains to use, even with a 4-wheel drive. Those who wait to start later in the morning will be destined to spend hours in the car. If you can, waiting several days after the first snow will help alleviate traffic, especially if it’s on a weekday. It also makes a huge difference in the condition of the roads. Of course, the downside is that there’s less fresh snow, especially at elevations under 6,000 feet.

The good news is we still have an incredible winter wonderland just minutes from Claremont. It’s just critical to be aware of the obstacles when making a trip. Once getting to your snowy destination, you will not be disappointed.

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