Big Bear Lake, CA — Longtime Big Bear resident Dick Kun has been watching the snow fall for over 60 seasons and, as president of Big Bear Mountain Resorts, he’s become an expert on snow in the Big Bear Valley. He says that this last series of storms, which included four fronts over the course of a week, is as intense as the legendary storm of 1969, though we are better equipped to deal with five feet of snow, now, 40some years later. “This is the biggest and deepest amount of snow we’ve had since January/February 1969,” Kun tells KBHR. “Then we had at least as much snow as we have now, but with torrential rains, then more snow after that back in ’69, it compounded it, and a lot of roofs caved in. The roads and the town were much more cut off and isolated, so it was much worse than now. There were less resources to deal with it, and the power was out much longer. We had a whole day of digging out at Snow Summit, when we had just one chairlift and it was buried. We had to dig out the terminal so the chairs could go around, and there was probably another foot or two than we have now.”
As for the January 2010 episode of epic snowfall, Kun says, “What’s really unique about this one is how much snow we got in just a few days. This pattern is the most similar to ’69. This one is unique in how much fell in such a short amount of time; this is the most intense because you can think of it as one storm, even though it was four fronts that came through. There may be some drifts up to seven feet, but we got about five feet of snow.”
There have been other years with plenty of snow, but Kun points out that these were El Niño years, in 1973, ’79, ’83 and ’98 when, he adds, “These were big snow years that started early and went all season long, but no crippling storms.” Whereas, in 1969, it “came on like gangbusters,” he says, and went into April. He even notes a story of a half-dozen Boy Scouts who were taking a trip from Fawnskin to Green Valley and went missing, not to be found until spring.
Though the benefit of our current snowfall is that Snow Summit and Bear Mountain resorts will probably not have to make much more snow, if any, for the duration of the ski season, Kun says that this epic storm cost them hundreds of thousands of dollars, not just in snow removal efforts (on the lifts, parking lots and facilities, as well as overtime), but in lost revenue due to road closures. “On Monday,” he says, “we closed Bear because we had 1,700 skiers, whereas we would have normally had 4,000, and today is worse, with the confusion about road closures. We would have had 5,000 today, but the enthusiasm this has created may allow us to catch up in the next couple weeks.”