Visiting Los Angeles in the winter means indulging in outdoor sports that run the gamut from skiing to surfing—all of which can be accomplished in a single day. With temperatures that regularly hit the 70s and 80s, visitors and residents alike can be riding a wave in the morning and speeding down a powdery slope come afternoon. The following are some of your best bets for both options—and a few more, too—all within a short distance of the City of Angels.
Snorkeling at Lover’s Cove
Catalina Dive Shop
Prices begin $45 per tour, lasts 1 1/2 hours, in water for 45 minutes
For the feel of an aquarium but the reality of the open sea, head for Lover’s Cove on Catalina Island. Colder months mean more clarity for better visibility at this protected marine preserve where one recent sighting turned up about 500 barracuda. But there are more fish to not fry in this particular water wonderland. Sea lions like to mingle with humans wearing effective face gear and expert guided dives are conducted by Catalina Snorkel and Scuba, the only outfit entrenched in this highly rated Avalon snorkeling spot.
Related: Guide to Catalina Island.
Ice Skating at Pershing Square’s Downtown on Ice
Cost: $8 (including one-hour skate and skate rental)
Hours: Open daily through Jan. 16, Monday- Thursday: 12 p.m. -10 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. -10 p.m.
Pershing Square is Los Angeles’ answer to New York City’s Rockefeller Center, at least in the winter when ice skating under the sun makes even amateurs angle for a triple Lutz, or at least a camel spin. The rink also employs an onsite ice practitioner, ensuring the landscape is ideal for skating, and that Southland’s striking downtown skyline reflects off a perfectly smooth surface.
Related: Guide to ice skating in LA.
Skiing at Snow Summit
Astounding alpine views and wide open groomed runs mark Big Bear’s Snow Summit as the best ski spot for all athletic levels in Southern California. Operating since 1952, this winter retreat calls beginners to Sundown, Skyline Creek and Summit Run; intermediates to Cruiser, Westridge Freestyle Park and East Why; competent veterans to Ego Trip Park and Dicky’s; and expert skiers to The Wall, Side Chute and Olympic. Want to join in but worried about enough powder for a smooth ride on a warm day? Never fear. Snow Summit’s multi-million dollar snowmaking system covers the resort’s vast terrain of 240 acres in tons of the fluffy white stuff.
Surfing at Black’s Beach
Hours: Open daily, 6 a.m.- 8 p.m.
While Surfrider Beach close to Malibu Pier makes for wave-riding heaven for all skill levels, secluded Black’s Beach further south about two hours in Torrey Pines is a much better bet for advanced candidates. In fact, this two-mile-long strip–known for gnarly ripples on the southern end–is considered among the most powerful and fastest breaking surfs in the Southland. Underwater Scripps Canyon causes the waves to grow, making this outpost not even approachable for novices.
Related: A guide to LA’s best surf spots.
Hiking at Griffith Park
Hours: Open daily, 5 a.m.- 10:30 p.m.
Communicating with nature in Griffith Park is merely a lure for hiking the myriad trails of America’s largest municipal park. Other enticements include a chance to get up close and personal with all kinds of landmarks, like an abandoned zoo (known as the old zoo, circa 1930s) with its beat-up cages and quiet surroundings, and Mount Hollywood summit, the highest peak in these parts of rugged Los Angeles. All sorts of topography (from sparse flats to jagged hills) and all manners of animal life (including deer, foxes, wild quail, coyotes, and, yes, even rattlesnakes) are found amongst a 53-mile network of trails, bridle paths and fire roads, making hiking the name of the game for well-rehearsed all-terrain walkers as well as former couch potatoes who lack any experience whatsoever.
Los Angeles travel writer Jane Lasky contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on Examiner.com.