Big Bear Lake

Power hounds unite in Big Bear

By Si Si Penaloza

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Pets need snow vacations too! You may not be able to crate your lovable, furry critter all the way to the Swiss Alps. But Big Bear? That’s a whole lot breezier. Roughly a two-hour drive from Los Angeles, Big Bear Lake offers a quaint, unpretentious resort town and 22 miles of sublime shoreline. The natural atmosphere here is ideal for urban dogs needing a break from the concrete jungle, and gets them back to their soil-sniffing instincts.

Cradled high in the towering pine forests of the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear Lake—a shimmering haven of fresh alpine water–is a far cry from the smog, gridlock and vanity of tinsel-town. Gingerbread Victorian-style cottages sit side by side with rough log cabins and tidy Capes. Here, the locals are laidback; pomp, formality and designer labels are conspicuously out of place. Big Bear offers two major ski areas: Snow Summit and Bear Mountain. The latter is especially popular among the snowboarding crowd.

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When the powder is falling, a ski-party vibe takes over the town. Snow bunnies celebrate the perfect snowfall with impromptu snowball fights and microbrews ‘round the communal fire-pit. The weather in Big Bear Lake is reliably solid. The sun shines more than 300 days a year; it’s so dependable the New Jersey Institute of Technology set up the Big Bear Solar Observatory form which to watch the crystal clear skies.

Best of all, Big Bear is a sporty vacation getaway that has plenty of accommodation options for your furry best friends. The cream of the crop by far is Big Bear Luxury Properties. The name says it all; they offer gorgeous, over-the-top homes in a pristine setting. Most homes are located central to town, within a quick jaunt of every leisure activity you could imagine. Primarily renowned for skiing, Big Bear is a truly four-season destination, with water sports in summer, leaf peeping in fall, and hiking and mountain biking until the snow falls.

As a professional property management company, Big Bear Luxury Properties is well-managed, responsive and family-focused. Specializing in the very best selection of lodges, apartments, condos, chalets and cabins in Big Bear Lake, they can work with any price point. The team prides themselves on offering more for less than you think, making group reunions come true for families of all sizes and demographics.

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Big Bear Luxury Properties’ superbly appointed Grand Views chalet is a seven bedroom masterpiece that sleeps 16 people – perfect for extended families and their well-behaved dogs. On a recent visit, the chalet became an ever more welcoming refuge as the full days of snowboarding took their toll. From our wrap-around, lake-view terrace we spotted a woodpecker, black bear cub, fox and a bald eagle! Who knew soaking in an eight person Jacuzzi could be wilder than the Discovery Channel?

Sliding glass doors along the backside of the home allows for stylish alfresco living, open to postcard-worthy vistas of the valley and lake. We certainly put the Viking appliances, including a stand-alone, carnival-style kettle corn popper to good use, not to mention the built-in cappuccino machine. There is also a game room featuring a bar, full size billiards, foosball table, magnetic dart board and Ms. Pac Man arcade table.

Space tends to be an issue in traditional mountain refuges; that’s certainly not the case here. Grand Views follows its namesake with panoramic views; you can see all the way from the Arctic Circle to Baldwin Lake. The architect positioned just seven en suite bedrooms of epic American proportions into a square footage that could sleep nearly a hundred as a small hotel. The palatial bathrooms are swoon-worthy and most of the bedrooms boast a master suite feel. It’s a divine twist on rustic chic, nestled in the cradle of Southern California’s most dramatic mountains, all without having to leave the sleek shiny fireside.

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For the adrenaline-junkie in me, there’s nothing quite like pointing down a mountain with a plank bound to your boots to shake off the cobwebs! Still, Big Bear powder is soft stuff in which to take a spill. The day one wipeout count was a healthy three. Afterward, it’s easy to slip into an indulgent evening routine: champagne and canapés in the grand living room; three-course meal prepared in the gourmet kitchen of dreams; cocoa and chocolates in the chalet’s own state-of-the-art 12 seat cinema; swagger off to slumber in the most decadent beds imaginable.

And while you rediscover your love of the slopes, active city dogs get to learn new skills (much to their delight and astonishment). We played with a frisky Weimaraner on the shores of Big Bear Lake – it was a total gong show. This wiry dog had all the grace, poise and coordination of a baby flamingo in a tumble dryer. Somehow, my favourite memories of most trips inevitably revolve around dogs!

When traveling to Big Bear with your dog, keep him hydrated and give him time to adjust to the new altitude. The lake is 6,743 feet above sea level, and the surrounding terrain rises up to about 9,000 feet. After playing all day at over a mile above sea level, you and your dog will both feel super-oxygenated, with increased stamina to boot. The thin air proved a draw for elite athletes like boxers Fernando Vargas and Oscar De La Hoya, and many marathoners and cyclists make Big Bear their chosen place to live and train.

Photo Credit: Christopher Atkins