Big Bear and Mammoth Lakes get big, mammoth snow dump

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Visitors ride the lift at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. Photo by Shutterstock.

Many Southern Californians have been walking in a winterland the last few days after snow fell at elevations unseen for decades. But for those living in the popular resort areas of Big Bear and Mammoth Lakes, they’ve been doing less walking, and more digging and plowing.

“We had about 38 inches of snow at what we would call town level. But up at the top of the resort, we had 63 inches,” says Kathy Portie, editor of the Big Bear Grizzly. “We have snow berms on the sides of the roads that are up to eight feet in some areas.”

The snow situation at Mammoth Lakes, in the Eastern Sierra Mountains, is even more severe. There’s a blizzard warning until Wednesday morning, and despite already well exceeding the season average, more snow is expected.

“It feels like we've been in the snowpocalypse since the holidays,” jokes Lauren Burke, communications director for the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. “Every single street sign is buried right now; we're seeing condos where the snow is well above the second story of the condo.” 

The work of digging out from all that snow is done by multiple groups, from Caltrans to the Mammoth Mountain Snow Removal. Burke says every piece of equipment in the arsenal of those crews are used to keep roads, sidewalks, and bus stops accessible.

“It's tough when you're in the middle of these major storm cycles ... but once you can play a little bit of catch-up, get dug out, get to the mountain, the skiing and riding … we've had some of the best days we've had in the last 10 years.”

Winter sports enthusiasts hoping to take advantage of that will have to wait, as roads into Big Bear and Mammoth are still being cleared. But soon, out-of-towners will get to ride the slopes that some locals are enjoying all to themselves right now. Nevertheless, it remains a double-edged sword for people who call these mountain towns home.

“There's some frustration, obviously … when we get this much all at once, it does put a stop on things,” laments Portie. “We're used to having small storms … throughout the winter instead of a significant storm like this.”

Burke at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area agrees the severity of the storms can make planning for the resort difficult.

“Honestly, we're looking one or two days ahead at this time of the year, just like okay, what do we have to do to get through the next few days … [but] when we do get those blue sky weeks, it's been so good out there.”