By RHEA-FRANCES TETLEY
Following the late December storms – which brought up to 24 inches of snow – visitors flocked to the mountaintop, enticed by the sight of snow-capped mountains, visible from the valley below.
The temperatures have remained fairly low so, with the exception of the rim itself, plenty of snow has remained the past two weekends for young and old to play in the snow.
“It took several hours to get here (over New Year’s weekend) because there was so much traffic,” said Jane Freeman from Rialto. “But now that we are here, this is so exciting – and cold! I’ve never seen snow up close before. I wish I’d dressed warmer. I’m glad I went into Goodwin’s and bought a sweatshirt. This is a great day and I’m having so much fun.”
Visitors found places to play in the snow around the Lake Gregory area. Many were playing with sleds on the vacant field next to the San Moritz Lodge, where they threw snowballs at each other, pulled each other around on sleds, made snowmen and had winter fun.
Across from Camp Seeley in Valley of Enchantment, some children were playing in the empty field, sliding down the slopes there. They parked along the road in the parking area next to the road for the Heart Rock trail, as it had been cleared for safe parking by an unknown person. The next day, the other side of the street also had been cleared, enabling more to play safer. There are not that many places for the public to snow play in Crestline without being on private property.
Next to Fire Station 91 in Lake Arrowhead on Highway 189 there is a vacant lot next to Capre Realty that often attracts many snow players as well. The intersection of Highway 173 and Highway 18 is a designated snow area by the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and it was well used over the first weekend of the year, but some cars were not parked off the road, causing traffic to slow down, which affected the traffic for miles down the road.
The area along the side of Highway 18 on the west end of Running Springs is another designated snow play area by the USFS, which was also very active. The USFS has all the designated snow play areas listed on their website; unfortunately, many, when they come to the mountain, do not have Internet service, so sometimes they play in the snow wherever they see it.
Many of these snow players come with what they consider warm enough clothing, but forgot gloves or hats or needed warmer or dry clothing, which resulted in them buying items while in the communities. They also support communities by buying meals and going shopping.
Susan Green of Crestline said she decided to move to the mountain because, as a child, her parents brought her up to play in the snow, so she vowed to move here sometime. However, she also remembers that her parents taught her to never litter, saying, “I remember seeing Woodsy Owl on TV as a child, too, telling us to ‘Give a hoot and don’t pollute.’ I kinda wish Woodsy was on TV again, as so many kids and families now leave behind their broken sleds, and fast-food bags in the snow. I doubt they know how unhealthy it is for the forest animals, if they try to eat it.”
Gina Larocca of Running Springs was distressed over trash some snow players left in town. “On the snowy hill next to Toto’s, it’s shocking the amount of trash they left. Upwards of 30 to 40 broken sleds were piled up, just left all over the place; diapers, poop and trash were everywhere. So sad. I’m all for tourism and I’ve lived in tourist towns prior to living here, but I have never seen anything like this.”