High above the shimmering waters of the Santa Barbara Channel is one of the most unique snow areas in the state. It allows Santa Barbara to be the only city in California to offer both surfing and skiing.

Sure, we’ve got the perfect year-round climate. But a few times each winter when it rains here, something magical and unexpected happens: a frosty blanket of snow covers the Santa Ynez Mountains, usually above 3,000 feet. And when there is snow on the South Coast, insiders quickly head to the Camino Cielo Ski Area, one of Santa Barbara's best-kept secrets.

This winter destination is popular with locals in the know who hastily head to the hills after a blizzard. On the drive up, panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and blanketed backcountry will take your breath away. Bring your lunch, water, and sunscreen as there are no public facilities at this hidden gem.

Surfing and Skiing on the Same Day

California is home to one of the nation's most beautiful and surf-friendly coasts and stunning snow-covered mountain ranges. From the towering peaks of the Sierra Nevada in the north to the palm tree-lined beaches in the south, it's a wonderland of surf and snow opportunities. With enough planning, you can easily pull off a "twofer" - surf in the morning and ski that afternoon.

Shortest Surfing-to-Skiing Times in California

  • 45 minutes - Santa Barbara to Camino Cielo Ski Area. When there is snow on the South Coast, and you're feeling like tasting chowder and powder, the surfing/skiing twofer in Santa Barbara will have your head spinning.
  • 2.25 hours - Santa Monica to Mount Baldy. Look shoreward while surfing on a clear winter day in Santa Monica and you can see the San Gabriel Mountains, home to the Mount Baldy Ski Area which is only 60 miles away (as the crow flies) from where you're floating.
  • 2.75 hours - Huntington Beach to Mountain High. Huntington Beach is in the middle of the Los Angeles/Orange County area and it's only 90 miles to Mountain High Ski Resort, with no twisty mountain roads to slow you down. With luck you can transition from surfing to skiing in under two hours.
  • 3 hours - San Clemente to Bear Mountain. It's only a little over one hundred miles and two hours from one of Southern California's best performance waves, Lower Trestles, to the lift lines at Bear Mountain.
  • 4.75 hours - Ocean Beach to Boreal Mountain. The western side of San Francisco is home to the popular Ocean Beach, called "OB" by the locals. The drive from the Golden Gate City to Boreal Mountain Resort is easy, once you get past the Bay Area congestion. It is a straight shot east on Interstate 80. Boreal is the freestyle gem of the Truckee-area resort lineup.