Snow Day It’s time for wintertime recreation opportunities, so be safe on the slopes

Phillip Brents

Mon January 25, 2016 1:36pm

Julie Hammer

It’s mid-winter and snow – lots of it – has already started to accumulate in California’s coastal and peninsular mountain ranges. In fact, the first big storm of 2016 dumped 13 inches of the snow in the nearby Laguna Mountains.
Predictably, snow-starved urban dwellers headed straight for the mountains to frolic in the powdery white stuff. Green meadows were covered in white; trees were covered in white, as were buildings and automobiles. And people soon found themselves covered in white as they slid down slopes on sleds or engaged in snowball fights. It was a winter wonderland.
Sledding is the most common activity for mountain visitors during months of snowfall. Sleds come in a variety of shapes, sizes and construction material: foam, plastic, wood and even homemade “sleds” of cardboard. It is even possible to slide down a hillside on your backside.
Sporting goods stores (Dick’s Sporting Goods, REI, Toys R Us, and the Home Depot, for instance) sell a variety of custom-made sleds, snow tubes and toboggans for winter recreation. Prices generally range from $18 to $45.
People love winter sports, even if it’s near freezing outside.
“We are lucky in San Diego to have the opportunity to go from surfing at the beach to sledding in the mountains in one day,” explained EastLake resident Peter Kluch, who made the one-hour drive to experience a day in the snow in January. “It was a very bumpy ride down the hill; I think I’ll feel it in the morning.”
With more snow on the way, it figures there will be a lot more snow in the area’s mountains this winter for recreational opportunities.
Safety tips
If you do go out sledding this winter, there are a few safety precautions to keep in mind, especially if you have children along.
• Select the right hill — one that is not too steep and that has a long flat area at the bottom to glide to a stop. Avoid hillsides that end in a street or parking lot, ponds, fences or other hazards. Also made sure hillsides are free of obstacles such as poles, trees or rocks.
• Choose hills that are snowy rather than icy. Slipping on ice is especially hazardous as hitting hard ice-covered terrain can cause serious injuries, including broken bones. Feet planted in loose snow provide better traction.
• Sled during daylight hours or periods of good visibility. Parents may also want to ride in the same sled with young children both for safety and comfort. Encourage friends or relatives to hold onto the sled before releasing it when young children are riding down slopes alone.
• Dress warmly. Frostbite and even hypothermia are potential dangers of staying out in the cold too long. Be sure to wear suitable winter (and waterproof) clothing such as hats, gloves or mittens, wool caps and snow boots.
• Scarves are good to keep the neck and upper body warm but can get caught underneath sleds and thus shouldn‘t be worn during actual sledding activities. Parents may also want children under 12 to wear helmets, especially those designed for winter sports.
•It might be a good idea to bring along some hot food during a mountain day visit, perhaps even some warm soup in a thermos for the kids. Children shouldn’t stay out in the cold for more than an hour at a time. At that point, it’s time to take a break in the comfort of a warm car or camper.
Before embarking on a snow day adventure, check the forecast for temperatures and weather conditions. Mountains can often make their own weather, and at unpredictable times.
The Laguna Mountain Lodge maintains a website with current conditions. Access the site at
Snowboarding has become an increasingly popular activity with teenagers and young adults. While it is possible to snowboard in our local mountains during drops of fresh powder, several winter resorts are located within a two-hour drive of San Diego to better accommodate enthusiasts. They include Bear Mountain/Snow Summit, Snow Valley, Mt. Baldy and Mammoth Mountain.
All provide unique experiences for snowboarders and skiers, ranging from beginners to advanced.
Bear Mountain has 12 lifts, 24 trails, and the only superpipe in Southern California. Bear Peak’s 8,805-foot summit is Southern California’s highest peak served by a lift. The mountain (actually three peaks) offers an ideal proving ground for both beginners and experts alike. Call (909) 585-2519.
Snow Valley is located 100 miles from San Diego at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. Slide Peak stands at 7,841 feet elevation. The resort features a packed powder surface, 12 lifts, 14 trails and offers something for every level of skier and snowboarder. Call (800) 680-7669 for toll free snow report.
Mt. Baldy (summit 8,600 feet) is located 110 miles from San Diego in the San Gabriel Mountains and many consider it one of Southern California’s best-kept secrets for winter recreation activities. There are 17 trails and runs but with generally less-crowded slopes. Call (909) 982-0800.
Mammoth is located father up the eastern Sierras, about a seven-hour drive from San Diego, but is considered Southern California’s best resort and one of the best resorts in the western United States with snow depths from 75 to 115 inches. There are plenty of monthly happenings, sporting events and festivals, including snowmobile adventures. Call (800) 626-6684.
It is important to remember to avoid courses where there are obstacles present. Abdominal, neck and facial injuries often can occur following a nasty spill.