Great off-the-slope activities in California
By Mimi Slawoff
Mammoth Mountain Gondola (Mammoth Mountain)
You don’t have to be a skier or snowboarder to enjoy winter family fun in California’s mountain resorts. Tubing, snowshoeing, dogsledding and bobsledding are among the flurry of activities for playing in the snow with kids. And just about anyone can strap on a pair of cross-country skis or snowshoes to explore quiet, snowy forests. Remember to pack snacks and warm drinks!
Here are our top ski resort picks in California:
Big Bear Mountain Resorts, Big Bear Lake
There’s a lot more snow play off the slopes than on in this rustic mountain town. Steer your own bobsled at Alpine Slide at Magic Mountain. There’s also a tubing hill with a magic carpet — a conveyor belt-type lift — that brings you to the top. Nearby Big Bear Snow Play has the same amenities. Snowshoes and cross-country skis are the best way to explore the serene backcountry. Action Zipline & Segway Tours offers exciting activities, such as zip lining through the snowy forest and riding two-wheeled, self-balancing, battery-powered electric vehicles through the village and neighborhoods.
Zoom down in sleds at Snow Valley (Snow Valley)
Situated a few miles below Big Bear, this small resort is ideal for young families. Ride a lift and zoom down in sleds in the Snow Play area. Snow boots, gloves and waterproof pants are available in the Sport Shop.
Mountain High, Wrightwood
Race family and friends at the North Pole Tubing Park, which has up to 10 lanes when fully open, two moving carpets and custom tubes.
This world-class resort offers many ways to explore the forest and reach the 11,053-foot summit. The easiest way to the top for 360-degree views is via the Panorama Gondola. Learn about the geologic, volcanic, and natural history of the region at the Eleven53 Interpretive Center. For more action, ride a lift to Woolly’s Tube Park and race down in high-speed snow tubes. For little ones, there’s a large snow play area and merry-go-round tubes. Mammoth Snowmobile Adventures offers exciting tours through pristine backcountry and pine forests. Kids will love riding in a heated snowcat on day and evening tours. Those looking for exercise will find miles of beginner to advance trails designed for cross-country skiing at the Tamarack Cross Country Center. Or strap on a pair of snowshoes and make your own tracks.
Located about 20 minutes from Mammoth, this intimate resort hosts an annual winter festival, featuring a snow sculpture contest and a Family Fun Zone with free games and activities at the base of the mountain Feb 21, 2015. More family fun includes ice skating in the town of Mammoth.
Northstar California Resort
Ice skating rink at Northstar California Resort (Northstar California Resort)
This self-contained village makes it easy to enjoy a variety of activities without leaving the resort. Ride a tow lift for tubing down a 200-yard hill, ice skate in the village and fly into the sky on a bungee trampoline. Live music and complimentary daily s’mores are a cozy way to relax in the village. Indoor fun includes candle making and pottery painting at the Villager Candle Shop, Pottery & More.
Heavenly Mountain Resort
Exciting adventures await at this lively resort that straddles the Nevada and California border. Ride 2.4 miles on the Heavenly Mountain Gondola for panoramic views and lunch at Café Blue on the observation deck. At the top is a five-lane tubing hill more than 500 feet long with a 65-foot vertical drop. Back in the village, enjoy live music and ice skating.
(MORE: Find more family ski vacation ideas for your holiday family getaway.)
Resort at Squaw Creek
Tubing at Squaw Creek (Squaw Creek)
Learn to harness and handle huskies, then sit back for a musher-led ride with Squaw Creek Dogsled Tours. More family fun includes traversing meadows and woods with Borges Sleigh Rides, snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, sledding and ice skating. The Mountain Buddies program engages kids ages 4 – 12 with supervised sledding, snowman-making, ice skating, and more.