Big Bear fighting so that drought won’t dry up tourism
Things to do when you’re in Big Bear
On the lake: Fishing, jet skiing, kayaking and stand-up paddling keep lake-goers busy, but the added adventure of Action Aqua Flight is creating a buzz. A rider’s feet are connected to a board that shoots upward with help from water pumping from a nearby watercraft, propelling the person to the sky.
On the mountain: While the downhill mountain biking is a new addition, cross-country mountain biking has been offered at Snow Summit for years. Hiking trails are accessible from the ski lifts.
In the trees: Action Tree-Rope Climbing straps adventurists into a harness, and they pull themselves up 40-foot trees. Also new this year is a Big Bear Jeep Experience, allowing people to get behind the wheel of off-road vehicles that can go deep into the trees and over rocky mountain terrain.
Around town: A new concert venue at The Cave downtown has 400 seats and has performers from Berlin to a tribute Beatles vs. a tribute Rolling Stones bands. Also try an Action Segway Tour that gives a historical look around town but also lets people go off-road in snow during winter months.
Dick Kun, longtime owner of Big Bear resorts, announced last year that Big Bear Mountain Resorts is for sale. International banking firm Houlihan Lokey was hired to market the sale. According to Big Bear Mountain Resorts spokesman Chris Riddle, the sale is in negotiations and potential buyers could not be discussed.
Those invested in the community hope new owners will be a good fit.
“Like everyone else, we’ll wait to see who the suitor is,” Big Bear businessman David Stone said. “I would love whoever the suitor is to love and care about the mountain as much as Dick Kun does.”
Things to do in Big Bear
On the lake: Fishing, jet skiing, kayaking and stand-up paddling keep lake-goers busy, but the added adventure of Action Aqua Flight is creating a buzz for those who want to try something new. A rider’s feet are person is connected to a board that shoots upward with help from out water pumping in from a nearby water craft, propelling the person to the sky.
On the mountain: While the downhill mountain biking is a new addition, cross-country mountain biking has been offered at Snow Summit for years. There’s also hiking trails accessible from the lifts.
In the trees: Action Tree-Rope Climbing lets adventurists get high into the branches. Participants harness up and pull themselves up 40-foot trees. Tree climbing is big in places like New Hampshire and places like Berkeley, but new to Southern California. Also new this year is a Big Bear Jeep Experience, allowing people to get behind the wheel of offroading vehicles that can go deep into the trees and over rocky mountain terrain.
Around town: A new concert venue at The Cave downtown has 400 seats and has performers from Berlin to a tribute Beatles vs. the Stones tribute bands. Also try an Action Segway Tour that which gives a historical look around town but also lets people off-road in snow during winter months.
Ryan Rayos packed up his bike and helmet on a recent day and drove up the winding roads to Big Bear, where he spent the day flying down the face of Snow Summit – a ski slope transformed into a mountain biking playground.
Downhill mountain biking returned to Snow Summit last year, the first time in about a decade, and the Los Alamitos teacher hit the dirt runs 17 times through summer at Big Bear. This year, he plans on spending even more time – and money – hitting the mountain jumps.
That’s exactly what mountain operators and local businesses are banking on: changing people’s Big Bear perspective from one of snow only to a year-round, anytime destination.
In recent years, developers and tour operators have poured millions of dollars into improving this small mountain town, creating a buzz for visitors looking for quick getaways.
And the town needs it, after suffering through one of the worst snow seasons on record.
NO SNOW EQUALS SLOW BUSINESS
A preliminary report released by the National Ski Areas Association showed that visits to snow resorts in the Pacific Southwest region – which includes California and Nevada – were down to 5.2 million visits last season from 7.1 million visits in 2012-13, a 28 percent drop.
At Big Bear resorts, like other Southern California ski areas, the drought took a toll. The resorts, which usually get 75 to 100 inches of snow each season, only saw about 20 inches last season.
“It was certainly a tough year,” said Chris Riddle, spokesman for Big Bear Mountain Resorts, which includes Snow Summit and Bear Mountain.
Fortunately for the town, summer visitation has been on an upswing, helping to offset lost business in winter. Big Bear has had a 50 percent increase over the last five years for summer visitation, according to the city’s transient occupancy tax data.
Resort operators were quick to hop onto the summer visitor trend. On the mountain, opening up downhill mountain biking is an opportunity to “grow into a new market area we haven’t been tapping into,” Riddle said. Two years ago, the operators hired a bike park design firm, Gravity Logics out of Whistler, British Columbia, to lay out advanced and intermediate trails.
The goal is to keep building over the next few years. Approvals are being finalized for a 3-mile beginner mountain biking trail resort operators hope will open by July 4.
“This will round out our offerings, for the people who don’t want to go pedal to the metal,” he said.
On Friday, downhill mountain biking opened daily. Last year, there were about 60,000 summer lift tickets sold for hikers and bikers.
While the business is nowhere near winter figures, Riddle said, “It’s a new and growing market, so it’s exciting for us to be exploring and expanding that.”