Big Bear Skiing

Skiers and snowboarders on the slopes at Bear Mountain, left and Snow Summit, right, Monday January 27, 2014 at Bear Mountain Resorts in Big Bear Lake. (Staff photo by LaFonzo Carter/The Sun)

By Jim Steinberg, San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 01/29/14, 7:41 PM PST |

BIG BEAR LAKE >> Sean and Cynda Johnson hadn’t had a break from work since their honeymoon two years ago.

So the Laguna Beach couple decided to take a three-day winter getaway here.

What did they in do in this ski resort area, known for its prime skiing this time of year?

“We went horseback riding,” Sean Johnson said on a recent afternoon as he and his wife sat sunning themselves on a concrete planter in a nearly empty shopping district.

“Snow would have been nice, but at that point what was important was to get away and relax,” he said.

As a harsh winter storm blanketed the South on Wednesday, residents and workers in this West Coast mountain micro-economy at the outer edge of the Los Angeles metro area worried that the driest winter in recent memory has sent their economy into a downward spiral.

And weather specialists don’t have strong words of hope for them despite a small chance of snow coming today in Southern California mountains.

“There is a very slim chance of catching up to the average snowfall,” said Noah Isla, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in San Diego. “There needs to be a whole series of storms.”

Isla rattled off some sobering numbers.

At Big Bear Lake, 4.4 inches of snow has fallen this season — November through January — and all of that came in December. That’s compared to a historical average of 29.4 inches for the same period, Isla said.

Historically, between 1959 and 2012, the average winter season — from November to March — snowfall in Big Bear Lake has been 70 inches, Isla said.

And as winter marches on, state officials aren’t offering much solace.

The state’s drought, now going into its third year, has left the vital snowpack in the Sierra mostly barren of snow, leaving the state’s reservoirs low and hopes for more of the white stuff dwindling, according to the Department of Water Resources.

Measurements on Jan. 3 found water content in the state’s snowpack at about 20 percent of average for that date, according to the department. And that snowpack provides about a third of the water used by the state’s farms and cities.

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