Weekend White Sheet: Blizzardy Big Bear '06

Weekend White Sheet: Blizzardy Big Bear ’06

white-knuckler’s dream come true

aka How I Very Nearly Died In My Car 188 Times Over Two Days

Some good friends of mine invited me up to Big Bear for a weekend of skiing. I said, Hell yes. As the predetermined weekend approached I began to check the forecast and grew, shall we say, concerned. Saturday morning. Zero hour. It’s a downpour here and a seriously nasty blizzard up there. Ben’s Weather advises ’Travel to this area is highly discouraged.’

I pack my shit and take off.

I’ve been to Big Bear a few times, last time being in 2002. Let me be perfectly frank and earnest, Losanjealenos: When it does finally get the snow you’d like, Big Bear is a complete and total pain in the ass to reach. Imagine taking the 15 to Vegas on a Friday night. Now add a shitload of ice. And mountain roads with sheer dropoffs. Why not add fog, hail, poor visibility and torrential snow for good measure.

Still, everybody and their mother loads up. Not just the boarders and skiers. People who have no intention of reaching the resorts load up. Hundreds of cars haul sleds and toboggans a few miles up the mountain, park haphazardly on both sides of the road and engage in snowball wars while you’re steaming in your car, stopped dead in your tracks with hundreds upon hundreds of cars waiting in front of you. You steam and sulk. Your knuckles are not yet white. You haven’t endangered yourself (yet), but you probably will. You consider pulling the plug and turning around, but you never do. Most of all, you wonder when you’ll get to wash your hands free of greasy road-and-tire shit after ’installing’ mandatory chains.

Before I continue, I should say that I enjoyed the hell out of this weekend; I’m simply being pragmatic. I have a very light front-wheel-drive coupe, arguably the worst car for inclement weather. I knew good-and-goddam-well what I was getting into and I charged into it, head-first. As I approach my mid-thirties I’m almost proud of my continued foolishness. Enough with this. Table time:

Big Bear and Beyond
Drive Time / Practicalities
Hours of time needed to get from Fairfax Village (Hollywood adj) to Ontario Airport in massive rainstorm 1 1/4
Hours of time needed to get from Ontario Airport to Big Bear Village during certifiable blizzard conditions 3 1/2
Total trip time to resort from Hollywood 4 3/4 hours
Hours of time needed to get from Summit Ski Resort to Ontario Airport during scaled-down blizzard 2 3/4
Hours of time needed to get from Ontario Airport to Fairfax Village on Sunday evening 1 1/6
Total trip time from resort to Hollywood ~ 4 hours
Probability you will actually use the $10 lift ticket voucher you receive for your next trip Ø
Personal Weekend Notes (On and Off the Road)
Number of times quoted incredibly horrible copywriting from “Animals Gone BAD” TV show to anyone who would listen 34
Number of times sang or referred to ’chili in a bread bowl’ 34 (For the record, http://www.chiliinabreadbowl.com is NOT AVAILABLE)
Number of pages of Gabriel Garcia Marquez read before passing out 18
Number of ex-girlfriends who dropped into my mind to pay a visit while reading Marquez 4
Number of inches of snow on car, Sunday morning 14?
Number of times little dude sang Kanye West Ray Charles snippet in men’s room at Summit today Enough to get it stuck in my head
Number of times became tearfully thankful for dotcom polar fleece vest on mountain (who’d’ve guessed?) 34
Number of times Brian Eno’s Another Green World album listened to in order to calm the fuck down and not fear death on icy road 6 (roundtrip)
Number of times told self to breathe 14
Number of times faceless positive-energy nondeity invoked for fear of imminent death 1
Number of times repeated G. Lee /N .Peart lyric “He’s old enough to know what’s right but young enough not to choose it” to self or third party on phone 34
Number of times cool was preserved behind the wheel 188
Number of hours spent fretting if this trip was a good idea 96 (began well before the actual trip itself)
Number of times promised self to de-cork small-batch, off-market ’03 California Zin if made it down mountain and home alive 5
Wine actually poured to self this evening after making it down mountain and home alive Jadot Beaujolais (When not faced with mortality, tides quickly turn. Again recognize strong tendency to lie to self about anything and everything)
Total trip time 34 hours (including packing)
Total number of hours actually on the slope shredding/wading 12″ powder 5
Trip-to-slope ratio ~ 7/1
Number of minutes writing, tallying, photoshopping and uploading this crap Please don’t ask.

Sure, you could leave at 3am and arrive at Mammoth Village in the same amount of time that it took me to get to Big Bear. In fact, I’ve done it. (Aside: You really haven’t lived until you’ve seen the hulking shadow of Mount Whitney agelessly staring at you and your car at 6 in the morning)

Mammoth. You trade 140 more runs for 140x more people. Sometimes. Both places have their merits, but Big Bear has been and always will be considerably more nightmarish to get in and out of, inclement weather aside, strictly for the single-file-traffic-line factor. After a long day of skiing that drive home can be downright brutal. Add a blizzard and, provided you live to tell the tale, you suddenly find yourself hand-crafting a long-winded HTML chart for your website following booze and a well-earned soak.

Next stop: Tahoe. Who’s in.