BIG BEAR LAKE — Snow Summit above Big Bear Lake has the key ingredient for its 35th anniversary celebration Feb. 1-7: snow.
One of the most wintry holiday weeks in years left enough natural snow on top of a machine-made base for depths of up to three feet as of New Year's weekend.
The season opened Thanksgiving Day on a base of man-made snow. All runs serviced by Snow Summit's 10 chairlifts are open for skiing and it's cold enough for the snow-making equipment to be used nightly.
During the week of Snow Summit's birthday celebration, the first 35 people in line each day will receive free lift tickets. The next 35 who purchase day tickets will get free night skiing.
A vintage ski race on Feb. 6 will feature equipment used from years ago. In the evening, a torchlight parade and fireworks display are scheduled.
The weekend of Feb. 12-14 will mark the return of the International Men's Pro Ski Tour to Snow Summit as part of the North American Pro Ski $50,000 Audi Cup competition.
On Feb. 23 co-ed teams will try to ski 1 million vertical feet to raise funds and awareness for the Jimmie Heuga USA Center, a nonprofit scientific research organization.
The last big event of the season, March 28-April 1, will be the Snow Summit Springfest, featuring bands and free ski racing.
The First Years
Snow Summit opened in 1953. Tommi Tyndall, the late founder who opened the resort with his wife, Jo, and whose stepson, Dick Kun, is now president, had assembled a detachable chairlift on tall wooden towers, believed to be the first lift of its kind.
It survived only the first season, and tows had to take over for a couple of years until a modern chairlift could be built to the top of the mountain.
The Tyndalls started making snow in 1963, and became leaders in use of snow-making equipment.
Normally snow-making is best at night when the temperature drops to about 28 degrees, but with the right combination of dry air, snow has sometimes been made at higher temperatures during the day.
Man-made snow is used on more than 90% of the 17 miles of ski runs serviced by the 10 double and triple chairlifts. These vary from the beginners' area to steep mogul slopes like the Wall. The wide and winding descents of the Summit run are among the most popular. The chairs can operate exclusively on man-made snow if necessary.
Two lodges at the base of the slopes have cocktail bars for apres-ski relaxation, and serve food throughout the day. View Haus atop Chair 10, with views of Big Bear Lake and the San Gorgonio Wilderness, features pasta dishes, sandwiches and salads.
After Tommi Tyndall died in 1964, Jo Tyndall carried on and Dick Kun became part of the management team.
Snow Summit's development plans are part of the Big Bear Lake area's growth into a year-round resort.
Big Bear Lake has a rich heritage dating from the mid-19th-Century discovery of gold by William F. Holcomb.
One historic building, Gold Mountain Manor, has been restored as a bed-and-breakfast inn.
Knickerbocker Mansion, built of logs early in this century by the keeper of the Big Bear Lake dam, has been renovated, also as a B&B inn. The Robinhood Inn includes Friar Tuck's Restaurant.
Accommodations throughout the valley and the surrounding slopes are from small Bavarian inns and lodges to condos and mountain cabins.
Among more than a score of restaurants, George and Sigi's Knusperhauchen (which means gingerbread house) rotates German, Austrian, Swiss and Hungarian specialties.
Boo Bear's Den often has more than 30 seafood items on its menu. The Blue Ox has a special brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Pong's Place is known for its Japanese, Chinese and Thai food. The Iron Squirrel offers a country-French menu. Ronardo's includes Russian and other European specialties. Several restaurants and pubs have nightly entertainment.
A double room with fireplace on a winter weekend night at the Robinhood Inn is $72. The beginning rate for doubles at Big Bear Inn is $75. Cabins start at $65, condos at $105.
For information on privately operated cabins and condos, call Big Bear Reservation Service at (714) 866-3671. The central reservation service at the Big Bear Lake Tourist and Visitors Bureau is (714) 866-4601 or (714) 866-5878.
Day lift tickets at Snow Summit cost $27.50 for adults, $16 for children, with special rates for beginners and the ski school. Ski equipment rentals are also available.
Reservations are suggested for weekends and holidays, in person or through one of the ticket outlets--Ticketron, Teletron or the Snow Summit Credit Card Reservation Service at (714) 866-5841. For information on snow conditions, call (213) 976-0601 or (818) 976-0601.