Snow brings the crazy out in some people
It seems people of southern California still have a love affair with snow. It’s always been this way. Growing up in Claremont, I remember people driving up Baldy Road to not only play in the cold white stuff but also to fill up truck beds with snow to take back down the mountain.
Fast-forward to 2016 and it’s safe to say nothing has really changed. Or has it?
After spending time visiting the Baldy and Big Bear areas after this recent snowfall, I can honestly say we have become even crazier for a taste of winter. Maybe it’s global warming, or because it’s been the first significant snow in the mountains since 2010. Whatever the case, it’s amazing how the masses brave the cold just for a chance to build a snowman.
On the Saturday over the MLK weekend, I’ve never witnessed a longer line of cars going up the mountain towards Big Bear. It seemed the roads were clogged above 3000 feet and higher. The traffic was only made worse by the large number of people who pulled over to the side of the road to play. Clearly, snow in southern California has become a rare sight.
Given these winter roads are a tight two lanes, sharing the road with someone sledding—or building snow figures as vehicles stream by—is not only dangerous, it brings traffic to a grinding halt. There were times when these two-lane roads turned into four-lane parking lots.
Even with these crowds, people were having fun. It was like going to Disneyland without the cost. Although there was the usual number of fast drivers, if someone was stuck, people were ready to help. Strangers would chase runaway sleds for kids, while family picnics would appear anywhere. It was not uncommon to see a snowman, shedding in the back of a pickup, headed down the hill.
With all the waiting and discomfort crowds can bring, people were dealing with it in a variety of unique, positive ways. Then there was the “turnout” effect. Twice, I stopped at an empty turnout to photograph the scenery. Within five minutes, the turnout was packed with cars and people doing the same thing. I’ve rarely seen so many unusual selfies taken in one spot.
Even after a heavy snow of over two feet, it was quite impressive how the roads to Baldy and Big Bear were cleared quickly. Within 24 hours or less, even vehicles with two-wheel drive could safely get up the mountains. Given these roads are the life blood of these communities, they really have it down to a science. Not to say chains or a four-wheel drive wouldn’t be handy, especially on smaller roads or parking lots. But drivers can count on the main roads being cleared of snow quickly.
Finally, these mountains roads can empty as fast as they fill up. Driving off hours, or during regular weekdays, eliminates most traffic issues. Lodging is more available and the ski lifts are far less crowded. Day trips are easier to handle, given drive times are greatly reduced.
Whatever the case may be, the mountains remain a popular destination for a huge number of people. Access has never been better, but patience and timing are critical and will greatly impact your outdoor experience.