• Highway 38 closed for air rescue January 22, 2019
    Highway 38 is closed in both directions for an unknown duration for a air rescue operation. The closure will take place at the Jenks Lake Road site on Highway 38.
  • Traffic on and off the mountain from slow to a standstill January 20, 2019
    UPDATE: Sunday, Jan. 20, 2 p.m. — Downbound traffic on Highways 18/330 to Highland from Big Bear are experiencing 30-plus minute delays.
  • Total lunar eclipse set for Sunday, Jan. 20 January 20, 2019
    The storms have left, and the sky is clear in Big Bear. And that’s a good thing, especially if you want to see the first lunar eclipse of 2019.
  • Vehicle catches fire on highway January 18, 2019
    Expect delays on Highway 330 due to a vehicle fire.
  • Wet, windy Big Bear day January 17, 2019
    The final round of storms to hit the mountains is bringing rain and wind to Big Bear today.
  • Parolee arrested on firearms possession January 17, 2019
    Freddie Chavez, 26, of Big Bear Lake is in custody awaiting an arraignment hearing in San Bernardino. Chavez was arrested on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm and violating his parole terms. There is a gang…
  • Public welcome at Ed Foundation meeting January 16, 2019
    The Bear Valley Unified School District Education Foundation meets Tuesday, Jan. 22, at 6 p.m. at the district office. All individuals interested in the discussion regarding recently-donated property are encouraged to attend the meeting.
  • On the agenda January 16, 2019
    The public can stay informed by attending and participating in local government meetings. Check each agency’s website for a copy of the latest meeting agenda or call them for more information.

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.