“No Beginners” Mt. Baldy, LA’s Hidden Gem Resort

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on February 19, 2009 10:49 am

The reality that is Mount Baldy does not seem real.  That there can be this type of terrain 80 minutes from Venice Beach.  That there are mountains this steep and big only 17 miles from rush-hour traffic.  That there exists real, big mountain terrain in Southern California at all.  Despite all this, Mt. Baldy is still a relative secret. 

It’s definitely a mountain to monitor, but when the conditions line up, Baldy can be All Time, and the only mountain in So-Cal that can match your skill level, rather than limit it.  After two feet plus of new snow on top of an already sufficient base, I called up Baldy’s unofficial mayor, Paul from SPX, to get the lo-down.  Paul assured me that my monitoring skills were sufficient, that the following day would indeed be All Time.  Snow packs in the San Gabriel Mountains can be inconsistent, but this winter season has brought unusually big and cold storms.  Baldy will always have the terrain, but will not always have the snow pack to match.

On this day the only line of inconvenience was for lift tickets.  No lines for the lifts, just the steepest, biggest, and longest lines down a mountain to be found south of Mammoth Mountain.  The scene is decidedly un-So-Cal.  There’s no terrain parks, no blasted music noise pollution.  Baldy is not saddled with the theme park feel of other So-Cal resorts. 

No Beginners.  The signs are everywhere at Baldy.   This is not a hold-your-hand resort.  At Baldy you’re expected to know what you’re doing.  There’s plenty of other So-Cal resorts for the inexperienced.  Baldy is for those ready to graduate to the next level.  In bounds hazards (cliffs, rocks) exist all over the mountain.  Local knowledge of Baldy’s terrain is a valuable commodity, although exploration of a new mountain is best enjoyed with a friend of comparable skills.  On this day, it was my comic friend Chris Fairbanks, a Montana native and expert snowboarder.

Met a 25-year Baldy regular, David (pictured left), and he called this day, “The day of the decade.”  After exploring different lines on the mountain, we found ours.  The double-black Holcumac was serving up wide-open, steep, super fast turns.  It was so difficult to believe this terrain exists in our backyard!  The rest of the day was lap after lap down Holcumac, traversing over to Bentley’s Dream on down to Chair 1.  Up Chair 1, over to Chair 4, repeat.  We played that record until the lower back screamed, “No more!”

Oh, yes, and the chairlifts!  All chairlift geeks and historians will be thrilled.  In this case, slower is better.  The bigness and badness of Baldy will physically demand longer breaks off your feet.  The chairlifts at Baldy allow for recharging the leg batteries, while giving the feeling of stepping back in time.  Baldy is a living ski lift museum.

No frills, no spills, and definitely no beginners!  Mt. Baldy, monitor it like a surfer does the waves, and when conditions line up, discover So-Cal’s hidden gem resort.


Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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