Nobody in Santa Monica has a snow-covered slope in their backyard to practice slalom runs. Some think they can just march up a mountain and dominate a black diamond on courage and instinct alone. Instead, they wind up face first in snow, wishing they’d practiced.
In order to prepare skiers and snowboarders for the real deal, and to spare them from slushy, frostbitten shame, two-time world ski champion Bob Salemo devised his innovative Virtual Snow training system. In a controlled indoor environment far away from menacing ski lifts and snowballs tossed by mountain goats, winter-sports enthusiasts perfect their maneuvers in fun training drills led by skilled instructors and the clever teachings of Salemo himself. The faux ski-course simulator, which resembles a large conveyor belt, mimics the smooth surface and wily turns of a downhill slope as its snowy surface rolls beneath the feet of students on skis or snowboards. Future Picabo Streets or Shawn Whites not only expand their abilities to new levels, but they can also practice tricks without bailing out and shake off any bad habits they learned from sleet gangs.
From this high up, the world seems small and compact, framing the ocean, mountains, and desert in the same field of vision. Though Mt. Baldy's soaring peaks seem to shrink the globe to the size of a globe, they also grant access to nature's majesty throughout the year. Four chairlifts gently propel skiers through the San Gabriel Mountains over the trails and 800 acres of skiable earth ranging from gentle slopes to natural quarter pipes. In the warmer months, hiking trails blaze through mountainsides, affording glimpses of historical mining facilities and natural wonders, such as canyons, fauna such as bighorn sheep, and Mother Nature's secret collection of acre-long coffee spoons.
Winter-sports enthusiasts have coasted the slopes of Mt. Waterman since 1939, and today the venerated mountain sports more than 30 runs for skiers and snowboarders of all experience levels, including a sizeable number of advanced areas. Located just 45 minutes from downtown Los Angeles, the resort's three chair lifts transport visitors to runs across the 325-acre grounds, including well groomed slopes for beginners and yeti-infested wilderness for seasoned pros. Non-skiers are welcome to take advantage of the views from the lifts or lounge at the warming hut. The hut soothes exhausted skiers with a cozy fireplace and a restaurant, which serves up hot burgers, sandwiches, and poached snowmen.