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At Mt. Baldy, Every Day's A Snow Day

February 7, 2010

Erica Bellman
At Mt. Baldy, Every Day's A Snow Day

It's raining in Claremont. This isn't just a winter sprinkle; we're talking soggy syllabi, umbrellas blown inside-out, and frantic messages from your grandma in Ohio who seems convinced that you have drowned in the Great California Monsoon of 2010. Your shoes are so wet, you half-wonder if you showered in them after TNC. "I want my Cali sunshineee," you whine via Facebook status updates, lamenting the months of rain this weather surely foreshadows.

Rain stinks. There is, however, a lighter, fluffier, more exhilarating alternative just 20 minutes from campus. Mount Baldy, shrouded by clouds on dismal days, currently boasts a packed power base of three to five feet, 26 runs covering 800 acres and 2,100 vertical feet, and a bounty of thrills that will make you forget those winter blues. Baldy's rugged terrain of Middle Earth-esque peaks and gnarled trees heavy with snow, in addition to its rustic, vintage vibe, make this mountain worthy of your skis or board.

If you're in search of immaculately groomed runs, cozy gondolas to carry you to the summit, and an assortment of gourmet snacks (*cough* ski snob): Baldy is not the mountain for you. What you need in order to leave the slopes satisfied are a positive attitude and a low-maintenance personality. From the moment you pull into Baldy's parking lot on a weekend morning, your sense of adventure will be tested. Plan to arrive at the mountain no later than 9 a.m. to avoid hiking with your gear to the ticket booth. Pilgrims seeking snow from gritty Los Angeles clog the road and parking lots on weekends, but an earlier arrival should allow you to snag a prime spot. Lift ticket prices vary with age, time of the season, and whether you're skiing for a half or full day. (Tip: head to Baldy on your birthday for a free lift ticket!) The best deal, at $34, would be to ski for a half-day on a non-peak or holiday weekend.

After purchasing your ticket, prepare yourself for a giant leap of faith. The lift ride from Baldy's base to the main lodge is a rickety, nerve-wracking journey over a craggy ravine. So far, though, the lift's safety has yet to falter. Just try not to look down, think happy thoughts, and be proud of yourself for getting out of bed before brunch has even opened. Once the lift drops you off at the main lodge, you can choose from an assortment of other lifts-- all reminiscent of old park benches with lap bars-- that will carry you up either of the two peaks.

Crowd-pleasing runs include Bonanza Bowl and Turkey Shoot, two Intermediate ("blue square") runs with gorgeous mountain vistas, interesting glades to explore, and jumps for thrill-seekers. Some advice: don't follow signs for South Bowl unless you're armed with a compass and enjoy blazing your own trail. Some of the Expert ("black diamonds") trails, like Skyline, Emile's, and Andy's Alley boast snow that you can carve through like butter under the right conditions.

"Being at Baldy after a huge snow, like I did last week, is incredible because the snow is so fresh and the mountain has great steep runs and back bowls where you can take advantage of the deep powder," CMC boarder Charlie Walton '12 claims. Right after a huge storm is the best time to hit Baldy, so be sure to check weather conditions.

Still stuck in the pizza-and-french-fries mode on skis? Haven't quite mastered the snowplow or falling leaf on a board? If you have no idea what these basic terms mean, don't fret. Baldy has much more to offer than miles of challenging trails for the seasoned skier or rider.  Lessons are one option that you might choose; at just $30 for a 60 to 90 minute group lesson, you can be sure you'll have fun, improve, and maybe even meet some new friends.  Private lessons are a bit pricier at $80 a pop, and having a group of fledgling ski bunnies to laugh with as you inevitably take a few spills on the mountain is a definite perk of the former option.

If you're having any doubts, speak to Aaron Campbell '11, a CMC student and part of Baldy's team of snowboard instructors last season. "It is so fun taking people on their first chairlifts and seeing them have the times of their lives when they get to the top," Campbell fondly recalls.

Still not convinced that you should give Baldy a try? You don't have an excuse to be a chionophobe (one who fears snow). Downhill tubing and sledding are two incredibly exciting, unchallenging, wallet-friendly activities. Tubing costs a mere $15 for a two-hour session, and sledding is entirely free of charge. Just grab a plastic saucer or toboggan and join the hoards of giddy urbanites frolicking in the snow on the side of Mt. Baldy Road. You won't leave disappointed.

Whichever activity suits you best, a day spent at Mt. Baldy is well worth your time and effort. If for nothing else than to enjoy the fresh air and do some quality people-watching (ever seen an elderly bearded dude skiing in a full tuxedo?), a Mt. Baldy trip is an excellent way to burst the Claremont "bubble." If you arrive at the mountain dressed in warm gear and equipped with a sense of adventure (or at least humor), you are sure to make unforgettable memories. "[Baldy] is definitely a very quaint ski area with a very rustic feel...very cool," Walton '12 reflects. Next time the winter rains have you soaking and sad, head to the hills for a snow day at Baldy.

Check out the Mt. Baldy website for more information. See you on the slopes, CMC!

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