Big Bear – Year Round Mountain Escape

A prolonged SoCal heat wave prompted an excursion to the mountains, and Big Bear was the perfect answer for our family. As a transplant from the east coast, I had been under the misapprehension that Big Bear was merely a more proximate skiing alternative to Mammoth. But during a weekend in mid-September I discovered that Big Bear’s other seasons have delights on offer.

One of the unexpected delights was Oktoberfest, an eight week celebration of traditions including imported beer, sausage and more. This is the 45th such gathering in Big Bear, so my wife and I hoisted our commemorative steins and enjoyed the festivities. A surprisingly large number of folks dusted off their leiderhosen and dirndls, and many partook of the various friendly competitions. The log saw contest and the stein holding contests were big draws.

We washed down the bratwurst, knockwurst, sauerkraut and pretzel rolls with Spaten and other imported brews. The live band kept the mood festive.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.06.18 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-16 at 9.59.46 AMBig Bear Speedway let us try out our best Mario Andretti efforts. After watching an instructional video and donning our full sized helmets, we were led to the outdoor track where our Sodi RT8 karts were waiting. The karts feature technical innovations like a Pro-Slide absorber system and universal joint steering.

Each kart is radio-equipped, so you are racing for your best elapsed time. Of course, the competition of overtaking your buddies (or daughters) is inevitable too. A printout of each heat settles the argument of who was the fastest. The 1/5 mile track has a straightaway, where speeds up to 30MPH are attained, and a series of hairpin turns, chicanes and turns to test your mettle. We had a blast and shall return.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.12.13 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.12.23 AMLess exhilarating but enjoyable in many other ways was the Action Segway tour. Fabian led us on a two hour tour around Big Bear, showing us places we would have missed. The two wheeled electric vehicles were equipped with oversized tires, letting us cruise over dirt and rocks as we toured the town. Fabian shared lots of local lore, most of which seemed true. We fact checked one amazing statistic he mentioned, and it is accurate: bald eagle nests can weigh up to two tons.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.04.54 AMScreen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.11.43 AMIn keeping with our apparent theme of wheel-based activity, we stopped by the Alpine Slide for a whirl down the hill. We ran out of time to check out Big Bear Pirate Ship, which is a 1/3 scale replica of a 16th Century Spanish Galleon.

But the plethora of trails around the area beckoned, and we headed up one trail across from the ski resort. Looking across the lake, through the clear, sunny mountain air we realized that one can also get away from it all in Big Bear.

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 10.12.52 AMBig Bear Cool Cabins was the local company which organized our accommodations. We were very happy with the two story cabin in the woods. The deck wrapped around half of the building, and we made breakfast one morning and dined al fresco. Late in the day after our two and four wheeled adventures we kicked back on the deck as the shadows grew long.

The kitchen was well appointed, and the living room had a woodburning fireplace with DVD and a big screen. There was plenty of room to spread out, and then we gathered for rounds of favorite family games (Quirkle and poker – Anaconda, night baseball).

Our bedrooms were very comfortable, and in the clear mountain air we slept like babies.

Big Bear just about qualifies for the elusive spot Brian Wilson referred to as ‘the nearest faraway place.’


Big Bear Speedway
Action Segway
Big Bear Pirate Ship
Big Bear Cool Cabins


Brad Auerbach has been a journalist and editor covering the media, entertainment, travel and technology scene for many years. He has written for Forbes, Time Out London, SPIN, Village Voice, LA Weekly and early in his career won a New York State College Journalism Award.