Lost Ski Areas of Southern California
Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge
Editors Note: Mt. Waterman Ski Area reopened on February 16, 2008 after being closed for five years. For more information, visit their web site www.skiwaterman.com.
Neighboring Kratka Ridge Ski Area remains closed and the future of the area is uncertain.
Just under one hour from Downtown Los Angeles is the former ski areas once known as Los Angeles' closest. Located in the Angeles National Forest off Angeles Crest Highway 2 is Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge ski areas. The two resorts were each small, but played a significant role in Southern California's skiing history.
Lynn Newcomb, Sr. one of the pioneers in Southern California skiing started Mt. Waterman with a rope tow in 1939. Three years later, Newcomb built the first chairlift in Southern California at Mt. Waterman. At the time (1942) it was only the second chairlift in the state. For more than 60 years the Newcomb family operated Mt. Waterman Ski Area and Newcombs Ranch Inn on Highway 2 leading to the ski areas.
Kratka Ridge, Mt. Waterman's neighbor was located two miles past Mt. Waterman and opened in 1954 with a single chairlift. That same "Single Chair" still remains at Kratka Ridge today. In 1999, both ski areas were sold to a new owner and renamed Angeles Crest Resorts.
The new owners had aggressive plans to update the facilities at both resorts, expand terrain and more importantly, install a modern snowmaking system. Their efforts to secure funding and permits unfortunately failed.
Both ski areas lack a snowmaking system and thus rely solely on mother nature for snow. With the lack of such modern facilities each ski area has had inconsistent seasons compared to the resorts in Wrightwood, Big Bear Lake and Running Springs.
After the first owners failed Mt. Waterman fell back into the hands of the Newcomb family for a couple of years. It was sold again to a group of die hard skiers, but this group failed to ever open the resort. Bad snow years, lack of cash to operate and the failure to secure the necessary permits added to the problems. The base facilities and single chair at Kratka Ridge also burned to the ground December 2001.
In February 2005 one of the owners died in a unfortunate accident on Mt. Waterman. The 2004-2005 season brought record snowfall to Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge, but neither resort operated. The last known year of operation for Kratka Ridge was spring 2001. Mt. Waterman is known to have last operated in February 2002.
Mt. Waterman at closing featured three double chairs. The top elevation is 8,000 feet and the base elevation at the bottom of Chair 1 is 6,950 feet. The base facilities at Mt. Waterman were limited to a ticket booth and roadside parking. The "Warming Hut" was located at the top of Chair 1 and had restrooms, food service, ski school, rentals and first aid.
Chair 1 served the legendary "face runs" which were all black diamond. The face runs were not exactly inviting to beginner and intermediate skiers, but Mt. Waterman made the effort to make it known that there was plenty of beginner and intermediate terrain up top serviced by its own double chair, Chair 2. Downloading on Chair 1 was permitted if you were not able to ski the challenging expert slopes back to the parking lot.
Chair 2 served four main trails, two beginner and two intermediate. Warming Hut Trail was a long gentle beginner trail from the summit back to the Warming Hut. Nice-N-Easy started at the summit and split at the funnel to either the Race Course or a merge with the intermediate trail Kiss-N-Run. Newcomb's Delight named after the owner was the second intermediate slope.
In the summer of 1981 Mt. Waterman constructed Chair 3 in the Bighorn area east of Chair 2. The new Riblet double chair served mostly advanced terrain, Rams Revenge and Streakers.
Recently, the forest service announced that they have revoked the permit for Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge. The current owners have until June 30, 2006 to either sell or vacate the permit area. If they fail to sell and the new owners fail to secure a permit the ski area's facilities and chairlifts will be dismantled and bulldozed by the US Forest Service.
The Pasadena Star reported on March 12 that Lynn Newcomb and another investor are interested in buying Mt. Waterman and Kratka Ridge.
Photo credits: Mt. Waterman Ski Area Brochure