Are you looking for the best place to begin skiing near Los Angeles? If so, look no further than Mountain High. Located just an hour drive outside of Los Angeles, Mt High is the perfect beginner resort for adults and kids alike.
While there are plenty of other ski resorts in California, and even many here in Southern California itself, for a winter weekend away or a quick day trip, this is the place to visit.
January is Learn to Ski Month in Mountain High which offers great discounts and ticket options for beginners to get out on the slopes to get cruising in this great snow sport.
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Best Resort for Beginner Skiing Near Los Angeles
Every year our after winter begins our first stop is to Mountain High for a quick day of skiing and snow play. Even during peak season, the trails are not too busy which is great for kids starting out. If you leave bright and early from Los Angeles you can make it to Mt High in less than an hour and a half. We have found traffic to be minimal on Tuesdays and Fridays even during commuting hours. For those of us in Los Angeles, this is always a win!
As soon as you arrive, you will need to get your lift tickets and receipts for your gear/lessons.
From here you head towards rentals. Moving through the rentals process isn’t quite as quick as you might imagine, so I’d recommend planning plenty of time to get your things rented and put on. Ideally you should plan to arrive 2 hours before the start of your lesson.
The first step after purchasing your lessons is entering your information into a computer screen before gathering your print out and then moving through each station to get all of your belongings. You will be fitted for your boots and then move on to another line to get your skis or snowboards.
Once you have your gear, and locked up your shoes, it’s now time to make your way to your lesson! All lessons are held to the right of the ticket offices under the Bullwheel Grill. Look for the big sign that says Winter Ski School and that head direction.
Getting used to the tightness of his boots and walking with all his gear on, my son’s excitement grew as he hopped on the first moving walkway. He couldn’t wait to see what was coming next on this adventure. This was a welcome relief for me since with kids you just never know which way things will go when they are exposed to things so new and different than their normal.
Note: Parents if you do not have a lift ticket, you cannot use this moving walkway. You can probably go when you are with your child, but if you need to go up/down while the kids are in the lesson, you will have to walk!
Ski School at Mountain High
I have been skiing maybe 3 times in my life, the last time being decades ago! As you can imagine, I was nervous for myself and for my son who tends to get frustrated if he’s not perfect the first time he tries something. I had warned him it would be tough and that he shouldn’t get frustrated if he couldn’t get the hang of it.
But, honestly I shouldn’t have been worried. The instructors at Mt High are amazing with the kids. They immediately made them feel comfortable with what was going to happen and what was expected of them. For our lesson, there wasn’t much messing about either – within minutes of starting they were learning about side stepping so that they could get on the magic carpet to begin their first run down!
On our first visit, we opted for the 2 hour lesson (half day), but wished we had scheduled the full day lesson (5 hr) as my son loved it. If you are a great skier yourself you can probably manage with the half day lesson and then take your kids up on the slopes yourself. In our subsequent visits, my son has done full day lessons. Occasionally he is with only 1 other kid and the teacher so they get a ton of skiing in for the day!
I have only mentioned skiing, but Mt High offers snowboarding lessons for children and adults as well. While snowboarding can be a bit more difficult, we saw several small kids totally rocking it.
Parents can hang around to watch the lesson, but it’s probably better that you find yourself a warm spot inside the nearby lodge where you can peak out while sipping your hot chocolate (or cold beer!). I stuck around to watch for a bit and enjoyed seeing the instructor teach the kids about “french fries” – keeping your skis straight and “pizza slices” – the wedge to slow down. Even with falling all the time, the kids in the lesson were having a ball.
Why Mountain High is Great for Beginners
The first time I went skiing was in Colorado where the bunny hill was massive and the green slopes were downright scary to my novice eyes. I had these visions in my head before arriving to Mt High for our ski lessons. But it was totally the opposite, which is why I’ve now been telling everyone how amazing it is for beginners.
The area where the lessons occur is a small gradual slope that is perfect for kids (and adults!) who have never been on skis before. It’s not intimidating at all, and it has an awesome magic carpet which kids find fascinating.
Once you have gotten the basics down, the instructors (or you) can take your kids up to one of the parks easier green slopes. It’s a really gentle hill that provides enough of a slope to challenge yourself, but not too much that kids will get overwhelmed and scared.
The lift is also short and goes pretty slowly which is a great place to learn how to get on/off ski lifts.
For families who have the basics down and need a bit more of a challenge, there are several more green slopes here as well as a blue and several black.
I would say that for super advanced skiers they might find the hills too tame, but it’s a perfect mountain for families who have a variety of ski levels amongst them. Additionally, there are even more advanced runs at the East Base that can be accessed by a short shuttle bus ride.
Cost of Skiing Near Los Angeles
We found Mountain High to be quite reasonable for a day out on the slopes. Check Mt High’s website for the current prices, but in general you can expect to get a 2 hour (half day) or 5 hour (full day) children’s lesson, equipment rental (boots and skis or snowboard – helmets are extra) and full day lift tickets for around $115 for half day and $141 for full day.
Ticket windows open at 7:30 am on weekends & holidays with children’s lessons often selling out by 8:30 am. On-site sales end at 8:30 am, which means you will need to arrive bright and early!
Lessons begin at 10 a.m. daily. It is requested that you arrive to your lesson at least 30 minutes early so that the instructors can organize the children based on ability levels.
Mountain High can be a bit confusing for new visitors in that there are several sections to the resort. West Resort is the one that we recommend for beginners and where all lessons are held. There is also the North Resort which is great for more advanced skiing and for snow tubing. Additionally, there is East, but it was not open due to lack of snow during our visit. Make sure you know which one you are going to before you set off – we found ourselves at the wrong one by accident.
Parking is free with the exception of the North Resort and the upper lot at West Resort which are $10 on weekends and holidays. Shuttle buses run between the East and West Resorts if you plan to park hop. If you plan to ski or snow tube at the North Resort, you will need to park there.
Where to Eat
There are 3 main restaurant options at the West Base at Mountain High. There is a lodge up by the children’s ski school area, Bullwheel Grill with basic comfort food like mac n cheese, chicken tenders, pasta and hamburgers. For those wanting something a bit quicker than a sit down, order type meal, there is a cafeteria down at the base of the mountain near the ticket offices. The cafeteria serves pre-made salads, sandwiches, pizza slices and already cooked chicken tenders with fries. They also have drinks, candy and a hot soup of the day.
If you are looking for a little higher end meal, check out the Big Pines BBQ Grill outside of the cafeteria. This place is always hopping, which means it can take a while. Hamburgers, veggie burgers and more served hot off the grill.
Tips to Have the Best Experience at Mt High
Driving to Mountain High
One of the many great perks of visiting Mountain High is that the drive is quick and easy with very few twisty roads to make kids car sick. Being on major highways for the majority of the drive makes it go by much quicker. Additionally, chains are rarely needed on the way to Mountain High.
However, I always bring my chains just in case, as you never know how the weather will turn. But even in cases of snowy conditions, the section of the road where chains would be necessary is quite small compared to other mountains in the area. For us, this makes Mountain High even better.
As this is such a great mountain, and is so close to LA, the park often sells out very early in the day. Therefore it’s important that you arrive as early as possible on weekends and holidays. For the 10am lesson we suggest arriving by 8:30 am on weekdays and 7:30 am on weekends and holidays. Yikes! I know it is early, but I can tell you from experience it is no fun to drive the whole way there and not get to ski or go tubing!
If you know when you want to go, book your lessons in advance. Limited spots are available to book online, but the earlier you book, the more spots available.
What to Bring
- Borrow or rent ski gear if this is your first time. Make sure to have layers on (PJs or leggings are great if you don’t have long johns), a snow bib for kids or snow pants for grownups, snow jacket and snow gloves. You can do without the goggles (unless it’s snowing!) for your first visit. Note: The resort does not rent clothing, however you can pick that up on your way at some of the shops in Wrightwood. Prices are great for adult clothing.
- Lots of water. It is dry and cold so no one thinks to drink water, but you can get dehydrated quickly.
- Check the Mt High website to see if there are any forms that you can fill out prior to your arrival to save time. You will need to know your child’s weight, height, and shoe size for the rentals.
- You will need a driver’s license and credit card to rent skis or a snowboard. Make sure someone has this in your group!
- Rent all of the equipment you need for skiing or snowboarding. Mountain High actually prefers you to use either all of their stuff or none of their stuff. If you have ski boots, they will still want you to rent theirs so they can make sure they fit the skis properly.
- The rental can take ages, so plan at least 1 hour for getting your tickets, sorting out your rental gear and storing your belongings in a locker.
- Unless you were lucky enough to park close, you will need to rent a locker to store your shoes.
- If you want your child in a helmet, you will need to request this at the equipment rental and pay extra for that.
Even More Info
- Lessons are for children ages 4 and up
- Go to the bathroom before your lesson
- For first lessons, go for the group lessons as the kids will have fun with other kids at their same level. This goes for the adults too, unless you get a semi-private lesson with your partner or friends.
- End on a good note and wrap up before your kids are too tired.
We are totally sold on Mountain High and are already planning our next escape there for a day of lessons. I didn’t go for any myself this time, but now that I know the lay of the land I know that I can do it easily while my son is in his lesson. I look forward to making more memories with my son here, building his confidence and then setting our sights on mountains around the world!
While we have also been to Big Bear Mountain Resort, and June Mountain, we prefer the ease of Mt High for beginners who need a mellow experience. The great thing about Mountain High is that is also has small terrain parks, black diamonds and offers different runs for all skill levels. Granted it is no Mammoth Mountain and does not have cross country skiing options, this is perfect for beginners.
Have you been skiing at Mountain High? What is your favorite run? For now we are sticking to Easy Street!
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