I drove to Mammoth Saturday, had this view driving into town near sunset.
I stayed at the alumni ski house with Adam, surprisingly no one else from L.A. was there. Most of the shareholders had been there for the 3-day weekend last week.
So far February had not been kind to the Sierra, with only about 20 inches new over a barely adequate base. Adam and Staley had both been to Mammoth the last week of January and since then the wind had stripped the top ridgelines so several of the steep runs were not accessible. Here's a view of chair 23.
Staley had been at Mammoth since Friday. Wind came up Friday night and blew a lot of loose snow onto the upper runs. He said Saturday had lots of windsift, but it was more in patches on Sunday. From Cornice you could traverse just under the Drop Out 2 rocks to some good chalky snow with occasional windsift.
Adam and I took a couple of warmups, noticed chair 1 down for a mechanical issue that was fixed around noon. Nonetheless no real lineups. After face of 3 (a bit firm and sketchy at the top) and Cornice we ventured into Climax.
Climax this season is a series of lines constrained by the rocks, now typical in challenge to Wipe Out/Drop Out in a normal year. There's an icecap at the top formed by leftover snow from last year, which intimidates some and cuts down on skier traffic. So the chalk/windbuff in there is good (most loose snow was on far skier's left).
Next run up top we skied Dave's, which has the best conditions on the upper mountain. Dave's also has a 2011 season Ice band, visible here with some gaps.
Below that there's lots of nice windsift.
We skied a couple of runs on the new chair 5. Lines are more constrained and thus bumpier than usual. Adam here on the upper section.
And here's a narrower than usual view down Dry Creek.
We met some of Adam's friends for San Diego State, tested the chair 25 groomers, which despite the sunny day were still on the firm side at 10:30. About 11AM we met Staley, skied another line on Climax. Adam and his friends went to meet another SDSU friend from Turkey who was on his first time on skis. Adam had provided some instruction Saturday and was checking on progress Sunday. Mammoth sells a beginner ticket good on chairs 7 and 17, which were more than enough to keep his beginner friend busy.
Staley and I skied the lines under Drop Out twice, then down to 14 and back to main via Scotty's. I took a 3rd run on Climax, down through Dry Creek, up 23 to a bony entry to Monument. Riding up chair 1 I was tempted to take a run on Baby Gravy, before leaving. I skied 27,600 by 2PM.
This is the 3rd lowest snow cover Mammoth has ever had in late February, but fortunately it's holding up well with typical Mammoth snow preservation. There is no melt/freeze anywhere except for the sun exposed runs east/south of Lincoln Mt. I took no pictures of the groomed runs but all were well covered in packed powder from Main to Canyon.
By contrast warm weather last week had melt/frozen nearly everything at Tahoe. Even the most north facing parts of Alpine Meadows on Monday had an icy subsurface, and tseeb's report from Kirkwood plus TR's from other Tahoe areas reported boilerplate conditions over the weekend. As of Feb. 26 Tahoe snowfall had fallen behind even the infamous 1976-77 season.
Fortunately conditions improved dramatically with Monday's surprise storm. The next one Wednesday is now predicted 2-4 feet, so it's possible that more expert terrain will open soon and the Sierra will have a fairly normal March.
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,318K in 2010-11
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12