When I first moved to the greater Los Angeles area, I thought of it as a place with a singular climate: perfect, endless summer (albeit somewhat more politically correct than the 1966 film).
I discovered, despite friends and colleagues who grew up in the Southland and claimed to have never seen snow until recently, that winter is quite accessible within a "short" drive of LA and comparable in quality to other popular ski resorts across the country.
- Mount Baldy, "the best kept secret in Southern California", is only a 1.5 hour drive from the beach and provides some of the best steep terrain I have seen anywhere, however the lifts are slow and they don't have great snowmaking capabilities so conditions are variable and patchy. Technically 800 acres and 2,100 ft of vertical, though I doubt that the bottom half of the mountain is regularly open due to variable conditions.
- Mount Waterman, one of Southern California's oldest ski resorts and founded in 1939 recently re-opened after a local skiier purchased the resort. Not as much vertical as Mt. Baldy but also approx 1.5 hours from the beach and provides great terrain albeit outdated infrastructure. 150 skiiable acres.
- Mountain High, slightly farther than Baldy or Mt. Waterman, has somewhat of a reputation for "corporate" and "crowded" but is fairly close and good snowmaking so conditions are consistent. 290 skiiable acres.
- Snow Valley, the closest ski resort in the Lake Arrowhead / Big Bear area near Rancho Cucamonga has a beginners reputation but offers more expert-level terrain in Slide Peak, which is often closed due to high winds. 240 skiiable acres.
- Bear Mountain, supposedly bought by the owners of Snow Summit in 2002 as a play to get snowboarders to spend their time at Bear Mountain so skiiers could enjoy Snow Summit, this is part of the combined Big Bear Mountain Resort complex owned by Alterra Mountain Company and known for its terrain parks. 198 skiiable acres.
- Snow Summit My personal favorite for local skiing, Snow Summit makes really good use of their limited terrain with 11 ski lifts and a wide mix of terrain. There are some crowded days but it's always easy to find good conditions without lift lines in certain areas. They have a really robust snowmaking operation so they are always open if the weather is cold enough. 240 skiiable acres.
- June Mountain, known as the "family mountain" since kids under 12 ski free, is also loved by hardcore skiiers since there are hardly lift lines and expert terrain on the upper part of the mountain stays mostly untouched. 500 skiiable acres and 2,600 ft vertical drop.
- Mammoth Mountain, California's crown jewel mountain and the best terrain and conditions across the state, arguably better than any resort in Lake Tahoe but less accessible from any major city--Mammoth is almost equidistant from LA, San Francisco, Reno, and Las Vegas. 3,100 skiiable acres and 3,500 ft vertical drop.