Chill Out

Explore the wintry wonders at Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

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Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

It’s easy to forget about snow while basking poolside in the mild desert climate. But frostier temperatures — and even snow — are just minutes away at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway.

December is the perfect time to experience the spectacular vistas and jaw-dropping ascent on one of the world’s largest rotating tramcars. The 10-minute ride showcases the jagged, inhospitable Chino Canyon from the Valley Station — elevation 2,643 feet — to the Mountain Station, at elevation 8,516 feet. Count on at least a 30-degree drop in temps at the top, so bundle up. You can build a snowman or have a snowball fight — and then descend to the valley for a quick round of golf the same day.

The tram kicks off its holiday celebrations with the annual tree lighting Dec. 1, with author and Bionic Woman star Lindsay Wagner flipping the switch. The event, held at the Mountain Station, starts at 5:30 p.m. and features a performance by the Palm Springs High School Choir. The tram also offers holiday concerts by local choirs each weekend from Dec. 6  to Dec. 21, with shows at 5 and 7 p.m. Grab the youngsters — and the young at heart — and head up the mountain to meet Santa from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 21.

Extended holiday hours run from Dec. 21 to Jan. 5, with the first car traveling up at 8 a.m. and last car down at 9:45 p.m. For a full-on winter wonderland experience, spend the day exploring the snow-mantled woods at the adjacent 14,000-acre Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness. Relax amid the hushed splendor of 54 miles of hiking trails framed by majestic Ponderosa pines.

After getting in touch with your inner Lewis and Clark, feed your growling tummy at one of the two eateries, open for lunch and dinner, located at the top of the tram. Peaks Restaurant offers sumptuous cuisine coupled with magnificent views. Reservations are recommended. For more casual fare, the Pines Café cafeteria-style restaurant serves delicious edibles in a more informal setting; no reservations are needed. One Tram Way, Palm Springs. 760-325-1391. Grab a sneak peek of weather conditions via the Tram Cams at www.pstramway.com

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