Big Bear Mountain Resort sits within the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California, functioning as a year-round getaway destination where the fun never stops. It’s a premium location for skiers and snowboarders alike to take advantage of, offering more than 700 acres of skiable terrain. There’s always a lot to explore, from their terrain parks to the wide array of dining options. Guests have access to night session ski adventures, shuttles and many comforts modern ski resorts offer.
But if you take a look back into its past, not all these things were available. That’s to be expected, of course, but sometimes it’s hard to envision what it was like before today. Big Bear has seen some incredibly massive changes since it first opened its doors in 1938. They evolved and kept a strong trend of upgrading equipment when needed, elevating the ski experience at the resort when they could.
To fully discover how Big Bear has transformed, you have to go back in time to where it all began. And though we only mean that figuratively it would be pretty awesome to actually be able to do it! It’s time to discover the journey of development at Big Bear and what it took to make it the incredible resort it is today!
A View Into The Past
Ideas need a group of dedicated people behind them to make them a reality. That’s how Big Bear found its footing and why it developed in the first place. As people began to spread out and build during the early 20th century, there were several business-minded folks who looked to the mountains in southern California for more opportunities.
- In 1925, Walter E. Kruckman realized he needed a way to ramp up his transportation business. At the time he owned the General Traffic Agent for the Motor Transit Company. The transit company served Crestline, Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs and the Big Bear Valley. It had a franchise to the mountains which required them to operate a year-round bus service.
- Many times buses were empty during the winter months. This meant business slowed down significantly. Kruckman figured if he could help develop public interest in snow sports, then he’d be able to have more people riding around in the mountains.
- He soon began to promote winter sports via radio, leading to more locals who were interested in participating.
- The early 1930s in Los Angeles (located 2 hours outside of Big Bear) ushered in a new tradition of holding winter sporting events at the resort.
- Downhill skiing was becoming popular so in 1934 a sling lift was constructed and soon after, in 1938, Big Bear opened the now historic Lynn Ski Lift, an early mechanical marvel at the time.
- In 1943, what is now Big Bear (Moonridge Ski area) was officially founded.
- During the 1940s and 50s small rope tows were added. In the 50s Big Bear made the switch from catering to a seasonal resort to a year-round resort.
More Modern Developments
Things began to really move forward once the 1960s hit. From then on, Big Bear quickly underwent change after change in record time. Each step brought them closer to modernizing the resort and making it what it is today.
- In 1963, Dave and Dan Platus purchased the Lynn Lift Area for $75,000. They began making new, radical changes to the resort like installing the first large snowmaking machine in southern California.
- Once the 70s and 80s hit, the popularity of skiing was at an all-time high. Snowfall had been plentiful for several years, helping Big Bear to become a sought-after ski destination.
- In 1980, their snowmaking system and lift services expanded.
- The 80s also brought with it the rise of snowboarding, leading the resort to expand its acreage and include new areas where they could try out new tricks. This helped shape their terrain parks throughout the 90s, eventually bringing about the installations of the only half-pipes in southern California.
- In 2015, Mammoth Mountain pushed a deal through to purchase Big Bear. The resort saw $2 million in upgrades like dining options, amenities, and further snowmaking improvements.
- In 2018, the resort saw another bump in major changes. Lodging, infrastructure & grooming upgrades, as well as a year-round zipline were also installed.
What The Future Holds
There’s no denying that Big Bear has seen some incredible moments in its history. There’s no telling what the next decade will bring but it’s safe to assume that it will be just as innovative as the first 80+ years.
Improvements to things like snow-making machines, lifts, and larger grooming fleets will certainly be a part of their major plans. But there’s still so much more that they’ll have to tackle. Resorts are now making major changes to ensure they keep the integrity of the mountain, utilizing new “green” initiatives to help reduce waste.
Big Bear is going to continue pushing the envelope as they always have. It won’t be surprising to see more efforts popping up now and again, but whatever comes along with be exciting. For now, enjoy the resort as it is and always be on the lookout for what’s to come!