Waterman Spins its Lifts

Here's one of the Holy Grails of Southern California skiing: I finally got to ski Mount Waterman, which opened this past weekend. Yes, I've skinned around the area before, but never ridden any of its chairlifts.

The place blew my mind.

First of all, it's gorgeous. You may have noticed that many of our SoCal resorts are not exactly the most picturesque places on Earth, what with their dry, scrappy forests, dusty hills, and muddy parking lots. Waterman, on the other hand, is truly and most unexpectedly gorgeous: a lush forest surrounded (!) by pretty snowy peaks.

There are somehow not one but three chairlifts, and the terrain absolutely deserves to be called expansive—particularly if you factor in the tremendous sidecountry opportunities (quick note about that: beware the damn gullies!).

With a base elevation of 6942' (via Google Earth) and a summit right around 7972', you get just over 1K total vertical, giving the mountain an authentically "big" feel (again, by SoCal standards). I was expecting, frankly, one chair and a left-or-right option. The reality is a far richer skiing experience.

If you're thinking of going, be aware this is not a beginner-friendly resort (though you could ski the upper chair exclusively and ride the main chair back down). The front-side terrain is very steep, and snow quality is best described as lift-served backcountry, with a nasty tendency toward ice.

But my goodness what a piece of history this place is.

To imagine skiing Waterman in its heyday is to be transported back to the Golden Age of Southern California skiing, when the lifts spun every day, and a base elevation of 6900 feet put you well above a snow line where winter storms dropped seven feet of snow, just because.

Taste this rich piece of Socal skiing history if you can. This is, alas, clearly an endangered species.

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Charles March 20, 2019 at 5:39 pm

Beautiful and tranquil video! Looks like paradise...

Dan Conger March 23, 2019 at 9:51 pm

Awesome ... my Dad used to ski Waterman back in the 70’s and early 80’s, then winter just stopped showing up.

Brad Brown March 26, 2019 at 9:21 pm

Ah but you miss another gem just a little further up Route 2. That would Kratka Ridge. Ski buddy Bob and I did laps back in 94-94 after an early April dump, let’s be kind and just call it adventure skiing. Not a place for sterling conversationists either because it’s all single chair. And if you’ve ever found yourself doing a mid chair lift ride maintenance survey on Baldy, then Baldy’s 3rd world lifts seem positively first world in comparison. Still a classic and glad we did it, once.

Andy, hats off for the great video. This place looks really fun. After more than a dozen trips to SS so far, shaving an hour plus off makes even an afternoon trip viable. Thx for the scouting, though it looks like the skiing was thanks enough.

Will Tacy April 1, 2019 at 5:30 pm

Hit Waterman this Sunday. What a great, funky local hill. It reminded me of skiing back home in VT back in the 80s. Not just Mad River, but Magic Mountain and Suicide Six and Haystack. There were probably 40 people there, and it seemed like almost all of them knew each other. Conditions were variable - corn to slush in the sun, firm in the shade. But seriously fun. For a weekend where driving to the Sierra was out of the question, this was a terrific option. I just hope they can keep it going.