San Gabriel Mountains
Angeles National Forest
|Nearest city||Pasadena, California|
|Vertical||1,030 ft (310 m)|
|Top elevation||8,030 ft (2,450 m)|
|Base elevation||7,000 ft (2,100 m)|
|Skiable area||150 acres (61 ha)|
|Lift system||3 chairlifts|
|Snowfall||180 in (460 cm)|
Mount Waterman is a ski area on Waterman Mountain in the San Gabriel Mountains of the Angeles National Forest in Los Angeles County, California. The area is located on California State Route 2, the Angeles Crest Highway, and reaches a height of 8,030 ft (2,450 m) with an overall vertical drop of 1,030 ft (310 m). Mount Waterman is leased under a special use permit from the Forest Service. Skiable terrain is distributed as: 20% beginner terrain, 20% intermediate, and 60% advanced.
Mount Waterman facilities include a ticket booth at the base at 6,900 ft (2,100 m), warming hut, restrooms, ski school, ski patrol (first aid), ski rentals–though currently inactive–and a heliport halfway up the mountain. Near the top there is a 5 million gallon, tadpole-filled reservoir for a future snowmaking system, and at the 8,036 ft (2,449 m) summit, there is a plateau with large boulders. Waterman has three double chairlifts to serve its ski trails. Mount Waterman currently has no snowmaking equipment.
There are steep backcountry ski trails on the east and northwest sides of the mountain, though skiing these trails is not recommended since it is not patrolled. During heavy El Niño snowfall in 1998 the County Sheriff ticketed some backcountry skiers who entered these areas. Several skiers and snowboarders went missing and had to be rescued that year.
Much land in the San Gabriel Mountains was leased from the US Forest Service in 1888 to master trailblazer and cabin builder Louis Newcomb. The official name of the hill is Waterman Mountain. Robert B. Waterman was a pioneer mountain man and a ranger in the San Gabriel Forest Reserve. Waterman, together with his wife Liz and their friend Perry Switzer, completed a three week hike from La Cañada to the Antelope Valley and back again (May 1889). With this epic feat, Liz became the first white (non Indian) woman known to have crossed the San Gabriels. Along the way, she placed a cairn on this summit and it was thus christened Lady Waterman's Peak. However, then current attitudes toward the "weaker sex" didn't deem this a fitting name. The peak has subsequently been called by different variants, all of which leave out the "Lady". To his credit Robert Waterman made numerous futile efforts to have the full original name restored.
Lynn Newcomb, Sr. and his sons Ren Newcomb and Lynn Newcomb, Jr. built the first rope tow at the area in 1939. Mount Waterman claims to have had the first chairlift in California, opened by the Newcombs on January 1, 1941. The chairlift broke down during the opening day and riders had to jump off, but the resort continued operations.
Lynn Newcomb, Jr. took over the operation when his father passed on. The area stayed the same as it was in 1941, a single chair chair lift and three rope tows until 1968. Then chair #2 was added, a fixed grip double. it opened for the 1968-69 season with a spectacular amount of snow. The original single was replaced in 1972 with a fixed grip double. In 1981, chair 3 was added. Lynn Jr. ran the ski area for all but a two-year period, when it was sold to two San Gabriel Valley businessmen in the 1990s. Those new owners returned the resort to Newcomb when their ambitious plans for snowmaking and other improvements at the ski area fell through.
Angeles Crest Resorts (ACR)
Newcomb sold Mount Waterman to a group of Southern California businessmen, the main investors being: Barry R. Stubblefield of Valencia (owner of a lighting business that serves Hollywood) & his brother Gregory R. Stubblefield of Pasadena (United Way benefactor & regional president and chairman of Enterprise Rent-A-Car), James "Jim" R. Newcomb of Valencia and Charles "Chuck" W. Ojala (also residing in Valencia). Together they formed Angeles Crest Resorts (ACR) and operated Mount Waterman and neighboring Snowcrest ski area beginning in 1999.
The resort did not operate between July 2001 and February 2008, mostly due to failure to meet U.S. Forest Service operating requirements. Mount Waterman has higher natural snowfall (average 180 inches) than most Southern California ski areas and its snow is fairly well preserved by tree shading and steep north exposure. However, the snowfall is very erratic and with no snowmaking the area was unable to operate in dry years such as the 2001/2002 season. Mount Waterman's commercial appeal is also limited by its topography: a nice beginner area up top and abundant steep glades for experts, but very limited terrain for intermediate skiers.
In January 2005, Barry R. Stubblefield, 48, part owner of Mount Waterman, who was digging out Waterman after a snowstorm, died while skiing with two ski patrol members when he fell and tumbled out of control until he hit a tree, according to Sgt. Don Hudalla of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Crescenta Valley Station.
The Southern California region had nearly record breaking precipitation that winter. Los Angeles almost broke its highest record for precipitation. In Feb. 2005 there was 3 to 6 ft (1 to 2 m) snowpack, and then another 10 to 12 ft (3 to 4 m) of powder fell. This information was obtained from the caretaker at Mount Waterman via mobile phone. The first snowfall was before Halloween 2004 and averaged 3.5 ft (1.1 m); in early May 2005 there was still a snowpack of about 2 ft (0.61 m). This snowpack rivaled the record El Niño years of 1982-83 and 1997–98, but in 2004-05 the area was still not open to the public. But stories of long hikes up the closed Angeles Crest Highway to Cloudburst Summit, then onto the buried lodge are remembered by a select few. There was one snowfall in particular that year that reached the bull wheel at the base of chair one! The top of one was merely a mound of snow with a channel cut through, while the lodge was completely buried--gone...
Events of note
Angeles Forest Supervisor Simeri E. Jarvi died of a heart attack while climbing this peak in 1964.
In September 2004, Todd Brugger, 33, a caretaker at the Mount Waterman Ski Area and volunteer forestry worker was reported missing, Brugger lives in the oldest structure on the mountain. Authorities said he rarely left the mountain during the four years he has lived there. A Joint search team was mobilized, from the US Forest Service, Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF), and private search parties. Brugger reportedly went up to the forest one night to check on some lights and activity up towards the reservoir. After further investigation and a hike to brass cap, Brugger loses all memory of the next hours. After a phone call to a friend via cell phone he comes to in Devils Canyon unharmed but with a good headache. After hiking himself out to the highway, Brugger is picked up by an Edison subcontractor and taken to Newcomb's Ranch. He was dehydrated but in good physical shape. Two days later Brugger returned to his home in the mountain where he continues to live and run mountain operations.
Mt Waterman LLC
On July 2, 2006, the Pasadena Star-News reported that Rick Metcalf, an associate of Lynn Newcomb, and longtime Waterman skier, had formed Mt. Waterman LLC and purchased the Mount Waterman and Kratka Ridge ski areas and was securing operating permits with the goal of reopening Mount Waterman for the 2006-2007 ski season. 2006-07 was the driest season in Los Angeles history so Mt. Waterman never had enough snow to open. A new Mt Waterman web site launched on January 11, 2008 publishing a notice that set opening date in early February.
February 2008 re-opening
February 16, 2008 was the official re-opening day of Mt. Waterman. Over 200 persons were in attendance. Chairs 1 and 2 were operational largely due to the efforts of a few dedicated locals who dug through ice and dirt to clear the loading zones.; Chair 3 was still being dug out from recent snow fall. The Metcalfs, other owners and press were in attendance, as well as former owner Lynn Newcomb.
The resort operated for approximately five weeks on a limited, weekend schedule (Saturdays and Sundays), closing in mid-March 2008. The snow pack had melted to patches by mid-May, only to revive in a Memorial Day weekend storm of over two feet.
Mt. Waterman operated during the 2008/2009 ski season. All three lifts ran during the season, and the resort received over 3 feet of snow in December. Conditions throughout the season were variable due to warm weather patterns and winter rain, and the resort usually operated on a Friday-Sunday schedule from Dec. 21 - Jan. 12, then again from Feb. 13 - March 15. Resort facilities received improvements, highlighted by the reopening of the lodge.
The Station Fire (2009) exploded out of control on August 29–30, 2009 and was visible to Mt. Waterman caretaker Todd Brugger several miles west of the ski area. The fire took out his phone line early on, so he was completely on his own. Once he started seeing smoke coming from Devil's Canyon directly behind the ski area, he took a bulldozer up to the ridgeline and dumped some dirt off the back to form a firebreak. On Sept. 5 the fire climbed up Devil's Canyon close to Todd's firebreak. The smoke reduced visibility to 10–20 feet but the fire never crossed the ridge into the ski area. In the Winston sidecountry west of the ski area the fire crossed the ridge and burned some ground cover but not the forest. Firefighters finally arrived on the scene at Mt. Waterman on Sept. 6, including a plane with fire retardant.
The Station Fire's most serious impact upon Mt. Waterman was the closure of the Angeles Crest Hwy above La Canada during all of the 2009-10 and 2010-11 ski seasons.
2009-2010 and Later Seasons
Mt. Waterman had enough snow for skiing by late January 2010 but no road access. An alternate route through Big Tujunga Canyon was finally opened in March, so Mt. Waterman operated on its Friday-Sunday schedule from March 13 - April 18. In 2011 Mt. Waterman was again accessible via the Big Tujunga route. It was open the first 2 weekends of January, then Friday-Sunday from February 27 - April 3, except for the 3rd weekend of March when there was too much snow so the road could not be plowed.
The Angeles Crest Hwy above La Canada finally reopened in May 2011, so Mt. Waterman has since had normal road access. In the 2011-12, 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons natural snowfall was inadequate to open the ski area for business.
In 2010 Mt. Waterman partnered with GP, the largest DH mountain bike group in the US, to create a summer program. Upon permit approval this will include a managed bike park in the year round plan.
- Mt. Waterman
- Newcomb's Ranch History
- United Way of Greater Los Angeles
- Enterprise promotion list
- Zaba Search
- Zaba Search
- "Missing Man Found Hitchhiking on Highway". Los Angeles Times. September 29, 2004. p. B.4.
- Deborah Schoch (2010). "Rebirth of a pioneer gives skiers a lift". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 23 November 2010.
- "The Californian ski resort praying for snow". BBC NEWS. May 8, 2014.
- Mount Waterman official web site
- Mount Waterman Ski Patrol
- Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge Article
- Southland Ski Server-Mount Waterman
- Newcomb's Ranch
- SoCal Skiing History
- The Angeles National Forest site from the USDA Forest Service
- Los Angeles Times Article,"It's all about character "
- Los Angeles Daily News Article, "Death of coach left team at a loss", about then owner Barry Stubblefield.
- Los Angeles Times article, "Rebirth of a pioneer gives skiers a lift", regarding February 16 re-opening.
- Skier's Guide to Mount Waterman, article and photos