• Adventure is calling and we want to know about it March 19, 2019
    Take this short survey and tell us what adventures are calling you to Big Bear. Your answers may appear in the April issue of Big Bear Now magazine.
  • Mountain Living available now March 15, 2019
    Check out the latest issue of Big Bear Now Home Guide to Mountain Living, a special online publication.
  • Reported fire contained to couch March 14, 2019
    Big Bear Fire Department crews quickly extinguished a fire in the 800 block of Elysian Boulevard in Big Bear City on March 14.
  • Fatal head-on traffic collision in Arctic Circle March 13, 2019
    UPDATE: March 13, 2019—California Highway Patrol officers continue to investigation the cause of a fatal collision that claimed the life of a passenger in one of the vehicles that collided head on earlier today.
  • March madness March 13, 2019
    If you live in Big Bear you may be over winter by now. Mother Nature dropped 12 to 18 inches of fresh snow on Big Bear Valley March 11. Residents woke up to the sound of snow plows Tuesday morning,…
  • Big Bear Airport in construction limbo March 13, 2019
    For years the Big Bear Airport District has saved its money to help pay for a new terminal building. When possession of the building was completely turned over to the district in 2014, the wait was near an end.
  • T2 field trip postponed March 12, 2019
    Often the main casualties in Big Bear during winter weather events are special events. March 12 is no exception.
  • Big Bear blanketed by fresh powder March 12, 2019
    If you live in Big Bear you may not be as enamored with the fresh winter blanket Mother Nature dropped on the Valley overnight. You have to shovel out.

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.