• Memorial Day ceremony set for Veterans Park in Big Bear Lake May 23, 2018
    Memorial Day is a federal holiday to remember the people who died while serving in the U.S. armed forces. On Monday, May 28, the Big Bear Valley Marine Corps League Detachment 1038 and The American Legion Post 584 hosts a…
  • Sonora Cantina hosts fundraiser for float May 23, 2018
    Big Bear has been accepted into the 2019 Tournament of Roses Parade. To help fund the design and construction of the float, several fundraisers are being held throughout the year.
  • Healthy Start reorganizes May 23, 2018
    Things will be different for Bear Valley Unified School District’s Healthy Start program in the upcoming school year. And not everyone is happy about it.
  • Celebrate Big Bear life May 23, 2018
    The Big Bear Lake Elks Lodge hosts the inaugural Big Bear Reunion June 16 in Big Bear Lake.
  • Sheriff’s Log May 23, 2018
    May 15
  • Sediment project on Highway 18 May 23, 2018
    Caltrans has started a landscaping project along Big Bear Boulevard from the dam to Gildart Drive in Big Bear Lake. Motorists may expect delays because of one-way traffic control and occasional, short-term moving lane closures from 7 a.m. to 3:30…
  • Bear Valley Virtual Academy IRL May 23, 2018
    Gram Cernetiz, 13, taps his pencil on the desk as he watches a lesson over the internet. It’s the only movement he makes as he concentrates on the screen while attending Bear Valley Unified School District’s Virtual Academy May 12.
  • Just call him Mr. T May 23, 2018
    Matt Thompson’s enthusiasm for education can be heard in every word he speaks. His goal is to instill that same love for knowledge in the children he meets.

History

Big Bear was originally inhabited by the Serrano Native American tribe. In the 1800’s and prior, the area was teaming with huge grizzly bears and other wildlife. As today, it was a winter wonderland in cold months and a sunny, warm spot in the summer. These days it is best knows as the most popular Southern California ski destination, as well as a great place for summer sports like boating, camping, and fishing. While many people contributed to the popularity of the now year-round mountain resort, a few include:

In 1845, the mayor of little Los Angeles, Benjamin Wilson, discovered Big Bear Valley. He was chasing an Ute Chief named Walkara into the Santa Ana Canyon of San Bernadino. There, high into the forest, Wilson and his team found a pristine village teaming with wildlife, namely grizzly bears. For this reason, the area was called Big Bear Valley.

In the 1860’s, William Holcomb was hunting for bear. He unexpectedly stumbled onto gold in the valley. This began Southern California’s largest gold rush and brought an influx of residents to the area.

In 1888, the first Big Bear area hotel was built in 1888. The builder, Gus Knight, was just 21 years old. He felt sure the lake would bring visitors to the area.

In 1912, a resident named Kirk Phillips created a bus line that ran from San Bernadino below into the mountain region of Big Bear Valley. He got the idea while on a trip in New York City where he saw a bus line created by rows on trucks where passengers sat. His bus line to Big Bear was nothing fancy– just trucks with several rows of seats. This route, called the Mountain Auto Line, greatly increased the numbers of people travelling back and forth to Big Bear. The trip previously took two days using carriages.

In 1921 the Stillwells Lodge and Ballroom was opened by Carl and Mamie Stillwell. It quickly became famous throughout Southern California for dancing and live music by the lake. Visitors could take a swim in the pool, dine at the restaurant, play a game of tennis, or take a boat ride on the lake all from the same place. Popular bands played on site constantly, so this was a place everyone wanted to see.

Also in 1921, another soon-to-be famous landmark opened–Pan Hot Springs Hotel. Emile Jesserun bought dozens of acres of land that included a local hot spring and built the hotel on this land. This was the area’s first major resort. It was destroyed by fire in 1933.

In 1947 Tommy Tyndall, a young but expert skier, started ski schools and the Big Bear Winter Club. He decided to open a ski resort and found an ideal spot east of Big Bear Lake. In 1952, this site became the now famous Snow Summit.

During the 1950’s, Big Bear changed from a summer resort area to a year-round resort due to the growing popularity of downhill skiing. In the 1980’s snowboarding debuted and this sport also gained popularity, as did Big Bear where people flocked to do it from Southern California and beyond. Read about or, even better, visit the Big Bear Museum. This historical landmark is located in Big Bear City at the eastern end of Big Bear Airport on Greenway Drive.