Friday, March 8, 2013 at 10 a.m.
First a disclaimer: This spot isn't actually located in Carbon Canyon. Rather the ruins of the Ski-Villa resort lie just east of the region's border with Chino Hills. But for Orange County residents interested in viewing this crumbling gem of vintage kitsch, Carbon Canyon is the only logical approach.
Second disclaimer: If you don't know what you're looking for, you'll miss it. Cradled in the rural crags of the rugged canyon (which incidentally never gets snow), the abandoned ski resort is located just off Carbon Canyon Road. If you're paying close attention to the torrent of traffic that zips along the narrow two lane ribbon of asphalt, you're apt to miss the turn off.
Remains of Ski Villa near Carbon Canyon
You'll know you've found what you're looking for when you spot a massive hill, covered in cement, peering down from behind a seven-foot chain link fence. Weeds burst from vertical seams that run down the face of the hill. At the bottom is a small cement staircase affixed with a cement trash can--faint reminders of a resort that bustled briefly with ski enthusiasts. The area is now overgrown and littered with jagged pieces of glass, beer bottles and other detritus, making it hard to imagine the property in its original glory, back when developer John Kramer invested $700,000 to build the unlikely attraction.
These days it's hard to find details about the slope or even folks who know the place existed, but a Los Angeles Times article from July 29, 1973 confirms that the attraction operated for a short period in the late 1960s. Advertisements from the era attempted to lure skiers to the canyon with promises of shorter drives, three tow lifts, Austrian ski instructors and a chalet-style cocktail lounge. In order to give life to his vision, Kramer poured asphalt over the 1,500-foot hill, then coated it with "snow," which in reality was a six-inch thick plastic foam compound. When the plastic ate the asphalt away, he coated the slope with cement.
"Kramer predicted the plastic would last three years," reads the Times article. "And that's how long Ski-Villa stayed in business."
One of the reasons given for the villa's short life was the probability of injuries related to falls on the slope's hard surface. When Kramer's brainchild floundered, the Times reported that he removed the plastic and just disappeared.
Today, standing in the shadow of the cement hillside are several buildings that were part of the original resort and have since been converted to houses. Interestingly enough, Chino Hills was considering construction of an airport which never came to be. It's no wonder the Times referred to the area as a "laboratory of broken dreams."