Mammoth, Big Bear, Lake Tahoe: Unique things to do this winter

Mammoth, Big Bear, Lake Tahoe: Unique things to do this winter

Six inches of early November snow ushered in Mammoth Mountain’s ski season six days earlier than expected. Big Bear Mountain Resort welcomed skiers and snowboarders on Saturday, as did Heavenly Mountain Resort in South Lake Tahoe.

Snow season is here — but at California’s winter resorts, there’s more to do than simply ski and snowboard.

In this edition of Escapes, you’ll find three unique experiences to add to your cold-weather bucket list. They’ll take you from a luxury picnic atop one of the finest viewpoints in Mammoth to the treetops of San Bernardino National Forest to the shores around California’s deepest lake.

What are your travel plans this winter? Have you discovered any destinations recently? As always, my inbox is open. Please send me your travel stories, recommendations and feedback anytime.

Snowshoe along the shores of Lake Tahoe

“And it’s like snow at the beach, weird but f— beautiful …”

So begins the chorus of the fourth track on Taylor Swift’s recently released album “Midnights.”

Whether you’re a devoted Swift fan or you simply enjoy odd but lovely vistas, I recommend bringing this song to life by embarking on a snowshoe adventure around Lake Tahoe this winter.

Snowshoeing is, in my opinion, the best of both worlds. It feels a little more special than hiking but isn’t as hard to learn as skiing or snowboarding. It’s active (get ready to break a sweat!) but not quite as strenuous or nerve-racking as shooting down a black diamond trail. Plus, exploring the mountains on snowshoes means you get more time to look around, notice wildlife and appreciate your snowy surroundings.

The Lake Tahoe area is crisscrossed with snowshoe trails for all skill levels. Baldwin Beach and Rabe Meadow on the lake’s southern shores are two excellent (and scenic) spots for beginners.

Equipment can be rented at Snowshoe Thompson’s Ski and Snowboard Rentals, Tahoe Dave’s Skis & Boards and other outfitters in the area.

Love stargazing? For a cosmic spin on snowshoeing, book a full-moon tour with the Tahoe Adventure Company. Tours cost $85 per person and include equipment, hot beverages, snacks and permit fees.

Fly through the trees near Big Bear

A smiling person suspended by a zipline against a snowy forest background.

Ziplining may sound like a summer activity, but Action Tours offers the experience year-round.

(Action Tours)

Skiing is one way to shoot quickly down a snowy mountain. But in Big Bear Lake, you might also choose to zipline.

Typically considered a warmer-weather activity, ziplining is offered year-round in the Southern California mountain town.

Action Tours operates a nine-run zipline and suspension bridge in the San Bernardino National Forest — even when the trees are covered in snow. It’s not for the faint of heart; guests can reach speeds of 35 to 45 miles per hour on the ziplines.

As you zip through the trees, it’s possible to glimpse San Gorgonio Mountain, the tallest peak in Southern California.

The zipline tour takes about three hours and costs $139 per person. It’s for those age 8 and older.

Ride a snowcat up the mountain at Mammoth Lakes

A mountaintop view with a picnic in the foreground and a snowcat in the background.

Mammoth Mountain’s heated-snowcat tours, which include food and drinks, are expected to begin Dec. 15.

(Mammoth Mountain)

Ever wonder what it’s like to ride in a snowcat? You know, those huge vehicles with tracks designed to roll — seemingly effortlessly — across snow?

This winter, you can find out by treating yourself to a luxury snowcat tour into the mountains around Mammoth Lakes.

The heated snowcats are quite a step up from taking a gondola or hiking up to a scenic viewpoint. Tours include food and drinks, laid out in a spread for guests to enjoy at Minaret Vista while taking in the sight of Mammoth Mountain, the Minarets and other highlights of the Eastern Sierra.

Snowcat tours are expected to begin on Dec. 15, depending on the weather and conditions. Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling (800) 626-6684.

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Try this DIY taste of Tahoe

Want a taste of après-ski culture without driving all the way to one of California’s winter resorts? While researching this edition of Escapes, I came across this description of a Lake Tahoe AleWorX’s (Stateline) Hot Apple Pie cocktail.

Hat-tip to the Tahoe Daily Tribune for sharing the ingredients (though, unfortunately, not the actual recipe). But, since you’re bound to have most of the elements on hand — including apple cider, cinnamon and whipped cream — it seems like the perfect thing to try to re-create for after your Thanksgiving meal.

Travel tip

Surf on a beach glows blue at night.

The bioluminescence phenomenon captured by Patrick Coyne at Crescent Bay Beach in Laguna Beach in 2021.

(Patrick Coyne)

In April 2020, during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, there was a moment of magic.

A major bioluminescence event swept the Southern California shores, going viral on social media and sending onlookers to the nearest beach in the hopes of catching a glimpse of the dazzling phenomenon caused by a particular type of phytoplankton.

Since then, plenty of locals and travelers alike have tried their luck at finding occurrences of bioluminescence along the coastline.

“It takes a little effort to find bioluminescence, and that’s part of the lore and why people like it,” photographer Patrick Coyne told Times contributor Dakota Kim. “You think it’s going to glow and then it doesn’t, so when you get to see it, it’s a reward.”

Want to increase your chances of spotting the next bioluminescence event? Coyne generously shared his insights and tips with Kim. Read his advice here.

One last thing

A group of women stand together in a circle on the beach in Santa Monica.

Surf therapy group Surf Sister Sessions meets on the beach in Santa Monica in September 2022.

(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Have you ever found travel — or activities undertaken during a trip, such as hiking or snorkeling — to be intensely therapeutic?

If so, you’re not alone. Therapists are increasingly combining their talk therapy practices with physical activity, my colleague Julia Carmel reports.

For example, take Surf Sister Sessions, a surf therapy program led by a licensed therapist and a surf therapy facilitator. The program, run by Groundswell Community Project, is held up and down the California coast.

“The main thing that I’ve noticed is that when they’re on land, in the very beginning, they’re one way, but then when they go into water they’re laughing and smiling,” a Groundswell surf facilitator told Carmel about the transformative nature of the experience. Read more here.

🎸Road song

Since we started with the Taylor Swift theme, we might as well end with it, right?

Play the track “Paris” off “Midnights” on your next drive through downtown L.A. (and treat yourself to some macarons from Bottega Louie while you’re at it).

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