History of Big Bear
The Big Bear Valley is home to 20,000 permanent residents and is located at an elevation of 6750 feet. Tourism helps bring the weekend population up as high as an estimated 100,000 people. The Valley is nestled around a majestic lake and surrounded by tranquil forests. At the heart of the Valley is the Village Shopping area. Each week thousands of tourists visit the Village to enjoy the nearly 100 unique shops and restaurants.
1949 saw the establishment of Big Bear's first ski lift at Snow Forest. The world renowned Snow Summit resort started operation 3 years later. Today's Big Bear's resorts feature the finest skiing available in Southern California.
Bear Valley was discovered in 1845 quite by accident. It was Benjamin Wilson, who made this momentous discovery while chasing Indians who were raiding the farms and ranches in the valleys below. He was later to become the first mayor of Los Angeles and the grandfather of General George Patton. Big Bear was a sleepy mountain basin until the building of the Bear Valley Dam in 1884
Before the Dam, cattle grazed in the grassy meadow lands and ducks plied the meandering stream. The only body of water was often dry, Baldwin Lake, at the east end of the Big Bear Valley. It was the building of Bear Valley Dam that forever changed the face of the high mountain basin. The newly created lake led to the establishment of several resorts in the Big Bear area. In the early 1900's Big Bear became a prime location for Hollywood's emerging film industry.
The Prohibition Era brought moonshine, whiskey and illegal gambling to the Big Bear resorts until Big Bear's notorious moonshiner, "Count" Scheldon was arrested and sent to jail. Big Bear hibernated during the World War II years, but no sooner was the war over than a new boom hit the mountain community. Some 500 new homes, along with business buildings, motels, a new theater, and new recreation facilities were completed by the end of 1946.
There are many stories concerning Big Bear. Some true, some not so true. One such story is told about the Captains Anchorage Restaurant in the Moonridge Triangle. At one time owned by character actor Andy Devine. The restaurant has great steaks and seafood. But, while dining, you might ask about George. George is reputed to have hanged himself upstairs many years ago. However he hasn't been able to find his way out and continues to haunt the upstairs portion of the building. George is a mild and retiring ghost. He seems to have mellowed over the years.
Big Bear residents became accustomed to torrid gunfights, racing stagecoaches, burning houses and Indian attacks as several film companies shot films in the Big Bear Valley. Development in Big Bear reached a feverish pace with the creation of the famous Rim of the World Drive in 1915.
By 1921 over 52 resorts had been built in Bear Valley. Winter sports, which would eventually make Big Bear a year-round resort, got its start in January 1924, when the Sierra Club held its first annual winter sports meet at Baldwin Lake.
Big Bear Lake is Southern California's only four season mountain resort and it is conveniently located less than two hours from Los Angeles.
In the winter it comes alive with thousands of skiers who come to town for exciting skiing action at Southern California's two largest ski areas. Last year an estimated 700,000 skiers enjoyed winter sports at these two resorts.