People talk about our amazing proximity to both the beach and the snowy mountains, but how often do we take advantage of that proximity? Some might even ask, why should we take advantage of that proximity?

Just look at the Tehillim we read in the weekday Pesukei D’zimrah. In Psalm 147 it says: “He Who gives snow like fleece, He scatters frost like ashes. He hurls His ice like crumbs – before His cold, who can stand?”* It’s a glorious thing that we can experience snow and ice first hand, rather than just look at pictures. It really is amazing, when you think about it, that we can enjoy a warm sunny day in the city while less than two hours away fluffy white snow awaits us.

One possibility for sledding is Frazier Park. About 1 ½ hours North on the 5 freeway, Frazier Park is a small town with a treasure chest of snow. Our experience with Frazier Park has been that once you get off the highway and head up the main road that climbs into the mountains, it’s just a matter of stopping somewhere along the way and joining other adventurous sledders on a good hill. One year we found ourselves up in the hills, amongst the fragrant pine trees, a soft snow falling as we sought out clear areas to safely sled. It was, need I say it, freezing cold, and the air had the invigoratingly clean smell of ice and pine. We watched tufts of snow float down from the sky and caught the lacey snowflakes on our mittens. Just thinking about it makes me want to be there. There is an official “snowplay park” called Tait Ranch which is on the Frazier Park Road, only three miles off the highway and $5 per car to enter. Pulling over and wandering between the pine trees is free, however.

And then there’s Mount Baldy. Mount Baldy really takes the cake because it’s only a 1 hour and 20 minute drive from West LA. You can see it from the highway in the winter, covered in a blanket of snow. The winding drive up the mountain is kind of neat, too. It is pretty apparent where the sledding is. The road splits and there are cars parked up against the snow banks. On the hills nearby, families build snowmen and, of course, try the different sledding runs. A note about when to go to Mount Baldy: better to go during the week. A day when there happens to be no school is perfect. The trouble with going on a Sunday is that loads and loads of people from around LA have the same idea and it can make for an unpleasant experience. During the week, however, it seems to be just a few families with young children who tend to congregate on the sledding hills.

Both Frazier Park and Mount Baldy have weather condition updates online and it’s important to check the weather report plus call before you go to make sure there is enough snow for sledding. Unlike at my Mom’s house where you can look out the window, see your car buried in snow in the driveway and know that anywhere in New England there’s enough snow for sledding, we can’t determine much from looking out the window beyond if it’s raining too hard to brave the highways. We were once caught in a torrential downpour on the way to Frazier Park—I don’t recommend it.

And don’t forget your sled. The ideal sled, I think, is the red plastic toboggan, which doesn’t have any sharp edges and doesn’t require any skill to handle. We found my old standard at a local sporting goods store.

Despite the often clear blue skies, it’s important to wear the proper gear for the snow. This should include boots, heavy socks, a snowsuit or ski pants and a jacket, waterproof mittens or gloves, a hat, and sunscreen. The first time we brought our daughter to the mountains to experience snow, a little bit touched her skin and she screamed—I guess it didn’t feel the way she expected. Her reaction made me think about how we can take things for granted, those of us who grew up with four seasons, not to mention those of us who grew up around woods to explore and animals to see.

Within Tehillim 147, David Hamelech writes of grass on the mountains, of horses, and ravens– things we don’t see in the city. It’s important to get out and experience these things first hand, when possible, and to see to it that our children don’t only know snow from picture books.

*translation from Artscroll’s Klein Edition Women’s Siddur

Notes:

Frazier Park: take the 5 freeway north to the Frazier Park exit, keep going on Frazier Park Road, see: www.shopoutdoors.com/activities.html or http://www.frazmtn.com/fmcoc/snowcond.htm

Mount Baldy: take the 10 freeway east to the Mountain Ave/ Mt. Baldy exit, head north up the mountain. Ph. http://www.mtbaldy.com/