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Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

Marines lifted above the clouds

By Cpl. Derrick K. Irions | Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton | February 27, 2013

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Skiers overlook Big Bear Lake before attempting a 15-foot jump on the Bear Mountain Express trail. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain Resort during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

Skiers overlook Big Bear Lake before attempting a 15-foot jump on the Bear Mountain Express trail. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain Resort during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23. (Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions)


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Marines from Camp Pendleton gather after arriving at Bear Mountain Resorts. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

Marines from Camp Pendleton gather after arriving at Bear Mountain Resorts. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23. (Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions)


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After getting geared up, Cpl. Dustin Weisner, a airframes mechanic with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, left, and Cpl. Sean Michael Bautista, an administration specialist with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, show off their snowboards before heading to the slopes of Bear Mountain Resort. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

After getting geared up, Cpl. Dustin Weisner, a airframes mechanic with Marine Light Attack Helicopter Training Squadron 303, left, and Cpl. Sean Michael Bautista, an administration specialist with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, show off their snowboards before heading to the slopes of Bear Mountain Resort. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23. (Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions)


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Cpl. Nathan Hernandez, a ground radio repairer with 1st Marine Division, navigates his way down Bear Mountain for the first time. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

Cpl. Nathan Hernandez, a ground radio repairer with 1st Marine Division, navigates his way down Bear Mountain for the first time. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23. (Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions)


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Carving back-and-forth down Bear Mountain, Cpl. Sean Michael Bautista, an administration specialist with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, prepares to attempt his first jump of the day. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

Carving back-and-forth down Bear Mountain, Cpl. Sean Michael Bautista, an administration specialist with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, prepares to attempt his first jump of the day. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23. (Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions)


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Cpl. Sean Michael Bautista, an administration specialist with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, grinds over a trick box as he negotiates his way down Bear Mountain. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

Cpl. Sean Michael Bautista, an administration specialist with 7th Engineer Support Battalion, grinds over a trick box as he negotiates his way down Bear Mountain. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23. (Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions)


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The sun leaves an orange glow as it sets over the peaks of Big Bear Lake. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

The sun leaves an orange glow as it sets over the peaks of Big Bear Lake. Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23. (Photo by Cpl. Derrick K. Irions)


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BIG BEAR LAKE, Calif. -- On a brisk winter morning at Camp Pendleton, a bus loaded with Marines departed on an expedition that would place them high above the clouds on a mountain top in temperatures that drop well below freezing.

Marines equipped with a snowboard or skis hit the slopes of Bear Mountain during a Single Marine Program snow trip Feb. 23.

SMP hosted the snow trip for single, active-duty personnel and provided a discounted rate that covered transportation, gear rental, lift ticket and optional two hour lesson.

“It’s a really good deal for only $40,” said Justin Stein, a combat videographer with Headquarters and Support Battalion, who attended three of the four snow trips that the Camp Pendleton SMP provided during this winter season. “First time I went with SMP was in 2010. I (learned how to snowboard) pretty quickly, and I was like ‘Hey, this is a lot of fun.’”

At 8,805 feet above sea level, Bear Mountain provides the highest lift-served peak designed for expert skiers and snowboarders, which is a double black-diamond classified run, fittingly named Geronimo.

Stein, an intermediate snowboarder, is proficient at a common technique known as the falling leaf, which allows snowboarders to quickly and safely maneuver down the mountain by angling his body and board downhill and drifting from one side of a slope to the other.

“Part of the reason we do these trips is to meet the requests that we get from the Marines,” said Danielle West, the Camp Pendleton SMP coordinator. “It gives them time to decompress form their job or a recent deployment.”

West said the Big Bear trips and similar events can provide a healthy dose of adrenaline - a positive way to exert their energies.

“A lot of guys who have been in a deployed environment have that need for adrenaline, and they can fill it via snowboarding in a half-pipe or going off a jump,” she said.

SMP provides these types of events to open the door to new-found friendships among the Marines through recreational activities.

“With (approximately) 20,000 single Marines on the base, it’s pretty easy to just keep to yourself and stay within your unit,” said West. “But once they’re up there snowboarding and falling down next to each other, they quickly become friends.”

“The best part is interacting with people you work around. It’s not just a bunch of strangers,” Stein said. “Instead, it’s more like, ‘Hey, we’re both Marines. Let’s go snowboarding together.’ It’s a good bonding and camaraderie building experience.”

This trip was the last of SMP’s scheduled trips to Big Bear Lake for the season.

For more information about tickets and upcoming events, contact SMP by visiting building 1253 or call (760) 725-6288.

Contact Cpl. Derrick K. Irions at derrick.irions@usmc.mil


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