Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

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Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Tue Feb 02, 2016 11:00 pm

Last fall I gambled on the El Nino (which doubles the odds of a good SoCal ski season from 30% to 60%) and bought Mt. Baldy season passes for $169 each. I decided to pick up our passes Monday and see if the 7 inches new snow could be skied anywhere. My expectations were low, and let's just say I overestimated conditions.

The early morning report said Thunder would open by 10AM, the update said noon, so I left home then and arrived at 1PM, finding to no real surprise that it still wasn't open. No surprise because everything had been coated with ice after it rained most of the day Sunday.

Pictures tell the story that Baldy has along way to go.

Base of Chair 1:
IMG_1070.JPG


Bentley's is the usually the safest way to get down the mountain if it hasn;t snowed in a while.
IMG_1072.JPG

Of course there needs to be a base first.

The upper part of Chair 1 approaching the Notch with ice-glazed trees.
IMG_1285.JPG


Chair 4 was never open even after the early January 2 foot storm.
IMG_1323.JPG


Skiing down the Beginner Gulch with Goldridge in background.
IMG_1324a.jpg

This was all hardpack and half the normal width.

Looking up from the bottom of Thunder ~2:00PM
IMG_1366.JPG

Shortly thereafter the chair started moving slowly so the lifties could whack ice off the chairs with shovels.

Here's an overview of Thunder from the top of Chair 2.
IMG_1367.JPG

From this distance Robin's and Skyline look decent.

At 2:50 Thunder finally loaded.
IMG_1405.JPG

There were maybe 10 people in front of me, and I'd be surprised if more than 20 people skied Thunder on Monday.

On the ride up the sun illuminated some of the ice-glazed trees to sparkle brilliantly.
IMG_1416.JPG


Liftline is still very thin and brushy but there appears to be blown in snow in upper Emile's.
IMG_1420.JPG


When I got up there, everything was roped off except Fire Road/Bonanza. Most of that was as hardpacked as the beginner area. So after the rain it appears most of that 7 inches was blown away to Nevada. It was also blowing quite hard Monday, though in the opposite of usual direction, north to south.

Next time up I ventured into Skyline as it looked like windpack. I soon found out why all but Fire Road/Bonanza were closed. It was very hard boilerplate at the top, almost impossible to hold an edge, but fortunately my partially out-of-control sideslip ran into some loose windblown snow. Here are my only good tracks of the day.
IMG_1423.JPG


Below these tracks the boilerplate surface returned and I gingerly sideslipped down to an opening in the fence where I could traverse into the trees and Emile's. Between the bushes and the lurking boilerplate subsurface it was strictly one-turn-at-time getting down from there. But at least there was some new snow in the trees and gully, and I didn't feel I was taking my life in my hands as on parts of Skyline. I have some respect for the easterners skiing on rain-glazed snow, much scarier than steep chutes in good snow IMHO.

I rode Thunder one more time. This time the chair stopped 5+ minutes near the top in the howling wind. At the top of Thunder I took one pic of Palos Verdes/Catalina framed by the icy trees.
IMG_1421a.jpg


I contented myself with another Fire Road/Bonanza, then rode Chair 2 up and Chair 1 down, reaching my car well-chilled about 4:30PM. Vertical was a modest 4,500 for the afternoon.

I do not criticize Baldy management much for this one given the widespread icing. Anyone who bought a day ticket was given a voucher for another day. I was able to pick up our season passes so either Liz or I can be direct-to-lift if the skiing ever becomes worthwhile.

In my case the El Nino Baldy gamble is not panning out. All the forecasters say we'll have a big high pressure ridge and dry weather for the first half of February. Liz may have more opportunity later in the month when I'm in Canada. A "March miracle" like 1991 won't help either of us as we won't be at home hardly at all in March.

The Sierra is having a nice season, as are Arizona and New Mexico, but so far El Nino is a bust in SoCal.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby snowave » Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:28 pm

Thats depressing. I had my doubts about El Nino working out for socal this year. "The Blob" did indeed have an effect, as it's still sitting out there, just further south than it's been... forcing the storms further north. At least most of the Sierra is able to catch the storms though.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Feb 03, 2016 12:35 pm

This analysis is focused on the Northwest and why it's done well so far, but it says "The Blob" is gone.
http://cliffmass.blogspot.com/2016/01/s ... aints.html
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby snowave » Thu Feb 04, 2016 12:28 am

Kinda-sorta true now, but as recent as a couple weeks ago (Jan 14), SST's off the CA coast were still 1-2C above avg. http://tinyurl.com/gnjyk9t

The actual "blob" of SST's did start to fade a little in December, but has cooled much more so in the last week and a half, (likely due to significant upwelling from the recent series of storms), but the remnant high pressure is pretty much still there, which is largely what's steered the storm track further north this winter, before it dives back down to the east/southeast, with the core of the storms missing socal more times than not.

p.s. Cliff Mass is quite the character. He is definitely one to :stir:
Last edited by snowave on Thu Feb 04, 2016 1:18 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby egieszl » Thu Feb 04, 2016 1:17 am

Finally a Baldy thread! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've been reading here and itching for a couple of years to have the opportunity to bash that hill! The lack of snow means there has been a drought on Baldy threads.

The place is so pathetically managed that they won't even post their base depth on the website anymore. No wonder too, because they don't have any base. In typical Baldy fashion a couple of weeks back they even claimed that the terrain beneath Chair 1 was open for skiing. Yeah right! A week after the storm they claimed it was still skiable, but to watch for rocks, obstacles, and you might have to walk in a few spots. What that translates to in normal ski area operations is a closed run with "no coverage".

The reports from a couple of weeks ago I found online sounded like a typical Baldy nightmare. Massive traffic jams, a giant mess in the parking lot, huge snaking lines at the ticket outhouse, employees who've apparently just arrived from Mars, and then a lousy experience to be had on the ski hill and more so, the tubing hill. Your typical Mt. Baldy situation- pissed off, ripped off people to be found every where.

It's even more pathetic to think about the investment they've made in their snowmaking infrastructure over the past decade with the promise that they'd be able to make enough snow on Thunder to offer a quality skiing experience. I don't get it, they still can't get Thunder open with man-made snow and with that water pond I'd expect the beginner hill to at least have wall-to-wall coverage, but it doesn't.

That place is so sad.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Thu Feb 04, 2016 6:52 pm

Mt. Baldy Ski Area is currently not allowed to draw water from the pipe into the San Antonio drainage (also serves Mt. Baldy village) because of the drought. So they are in a similar situation as Mt. High for snowmaking at the moment.

I had zero expectations of quality skiing on Monday. But I've been going there for over 35 years and I believe I can figure out when it's worthwhile and how to avoid the bottlenecks. Picking up our passes so we'll be direct to lift if it ever snows enough was one of the measures to that end.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby jojo_obrien » Fri Feb 05, 2016 8:49 am

I'm going to get defensive here.........beauty is in the eye of the beholder. You're painting Baldy out to be a sh*thole and poorly managed.......I can imagine that if all you hear is the negative aspects of Mt. Baldy. It's not owned by a bunch of corporate profiteers with access to endless cash. It's ALWAYS been struggling .......and you know what....us locals like It that way. It's a bit of a time warp (think Cuba) .....and we locals who have skied it for many, many years love it for what it is. I will say, I was enraged at their dirt cheap season passes offered about 5-6 years ago...... I thought that was an epic failure (made it too cheap to ski on a hill that's not designed for the masses).

Do they "lie" about ski reports? All SoCal resorts have lied about ski resorts since the skiing was invented.....especially the little players like Snow Valley and Baldy. They're doing anything they can to compete with the bigger boys -- like Bear and Summit.

Have I skied days like Tony where it's absolutely horrible ice/hardpack where I'm cursing Baldy under my breath? Too many to count......... regardless........as you can see from the pics....there is something very beautiful about it even with ice rime all over the place...... in fact "Baldy has been considered holy by the San Gabrielino/Tongva native Americans for generations, and by The Aetherius Society for over 50 years."

Some of the people that run this place are what make Baldy such a nice place -- you see the same faces...busting their ass on a powder day when the lifts don't want to turn.......probably making measly pay, there for the love of the mountain and also working to pay their bills.

The fact is........Baldy.....like Waterman, has always relied on natural snow. On years where it dumps in the local mountains (a fond memory), the skiing can be incredible and some of the lines unforgettable. I remember the first time I met Tony C and he took me down Eric's for the first time.........unforgettable.........

I grew up in Claremont -- when I was a kid, it got cold.....almost cold enough to snow there (1200 ft). We're looking at 85 degrees for Super Bowl Sunday. El Nino? Que?

The fact is.....Mt. Baldy has been a casualty in a warming planet. The future doesn't look bright for the place.


egieszl wrote:Finally a Baldy thread! Thank you, thank you, thank you. I've been reading here and itching for a couple of years to have the opportunity to bash that hill! The lack of snow means there has been a drought on Baldy threads.

The place is so pathetically managed that they won't even post their base depth on the website anymore. No wonder too, because they don't have any base. In typical Baldy fashion a couple of weeks back they even claimed that the terrain beneath Chair 1 was open for skiing. Yeah right! A week after the storm they claimed it was still skiable, but to watch for rocks, obstacles, and you might have to walk in a few spots. What that translates to in normal ski area operations is a closed run with "no coverage".

The reports from a couple of weeks ago I found online sounded like a typical Baldy nightmare. Massive traffic jams, a giant mess in the parking lot, huge snaking lines at the ticket outhouse, employees who've apparently just arrived from Mars, and then a lousy experience to be had on the ski hill and more so, the tubing hill. Your typical Mt. Baldy situation- pissed off, ripped off people to be found every where.

It's even more pathetic to think about the investment they've made in their snowmaking infrastructure over the past decade with the promise that they'd be able to make enough snow on Thunder to offer a quality skiing experience. I don't get it, they still can't get Thunder open with man-made snow and with that water pond I'd expect the beginner hill to at least have wall-to-wall coverage, but it doesn't.

That place is so sad.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Feb 05, 2016 12:22 pm

jojo_obrien wrote:Mt. Baldy has been a casualty in a warming planet.

Los Angeles climatology in recent years has been quite interesting. I have lived here all my life except in college in the early 1970's. Perceptions of a "hot year" are more based upon hot summers, and my gut feeling is that the "hot years" were mostly in the 1980's and 1990's. The past 2 summers were conspicuously the hottest since then. In this case the perception reflects the reality:
Image

The slowdown in temperature rise after 1998 is quite conspicuous in the L.A. data. Meteorologists such as Joe Bastardi ascribe the "pause" in global warming to PDO shifting from positive to negative after El Nino 1998. Logically a cooling off in the northeast Pacific would have much stronger effect upon west coast USA than nearly anywhere else in the world. We all know the water in the northeast Pacific was unusually warm in 2014 and 2015, and sure enough the L.A. temperatures went back up to the level of the 1980's and 1990's. And as mentioned before, 2015 world temperatures broke out above the plateau of the previous 17 years.

As far as skiing is concerned, what we want to watch for is rain vs. snow incidence. The recent storm was mostly a negative in that regard. But we've always had the occasional deluge of rain in the SoCal ski areas, notably 1980 and 1986. And we've had some great SoCal ski seasons during warm years on that graph, notably El Nino 1983 but 1992 and 1993 also.

The recent phenomenon (last 5 years or so) that's unusual is the relative frequency of "inside slider" storms (NW to SE storm track) that produce more at Big Bear than in the San Gabriels. This is probably just weather. In more extreme form all of California is blocked out as in much of 2014 and 2015. This year it's only SoCal that's missing out.

I've crudely tracked rain incidence in SoCal mountains since I started skiing and don't see an obvious increase. But I have some curiosity whether "urban heat island effect" can move temperatures in downwind mountains enough to increase rain frequency. L.A. would certainly be an obvious candidate for that examination.

Also, change in annual temperatures might be different by season, and night vs. day. My perception is that nighttime lows have increased more since I was a kid than daytime highs. In general record high temperatures in L.A. are scattered across the entire period of measurement but record low temperatures tend to be a long time ago.

Few places have more volatile precipitation data than southern California. It will take a very long time to validate jojo_obrien's hypothesis.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby jojo_obrien » Fri Feb 05, 2016 2:51 pm

Tony, I've watched the snow / rain line in Lake Arrowhead for many years..........it hardly snows in Lake Arrowhead anymore...........
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby snowave » Fri Feb 05, 2016 6:01 pm

It's something that has been predicted by many that the "fringe ski areas" are doomed with global warming. - many of the lower elevation and/or latitude ski areas could be in serious trouble in the long term-. Some already are. It's not just a question of if it's rain or snow... (Maybe that's not entirely what you meant, TonyC)...

While it's all relative, drought and other effects of warming are just as significant signs as rain vs snow.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Fri Feb 05, 2016 7:23 pm

I have zero confidence in the climate models to predict drought at the local/regional level. That's why I focus on the rain/snow line. Lake Arrowhead is only 5,106 feet, lower than Mt. Wilson, and I certainly buy that there is more rain/less snow at that elevation that when I was growing up. At 7,000+ feet the evidence is far from conclusive.

SoCalSnowfall.png

The R squared of 0.025 means that trendline is essentially meaningless.

snowave wrote:many of the lower elevation and/or latitude ski areas could be in serious trouble in the long term-. Some already are.

Yes, and it's absolutely due to marginal elevations getting more rain/less snow. In western North America, where I have data going back to the 1970's for a very large number of areas, I am seeing scant evidence of any decline in snowfall. For inland areas in the Rockies, I'm seeing zero evidence.

Going forward I agree that 7,000 feet in SoCal is far from ideal. The "safe" altitude where rain is rare is about 9,000 (see Arizona and New Mexico ski areas) at this latitude. The good rule of thumb trading off altitude for latitude is 1,000 elevation for 4 degrees latitude. So 7,000 in SoCal is like 3,000 at Whistler, 4,000 at Mt. Hood or 6,000 at Tahoe. All of these are elevations which should concern us with further warming.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby egieszl » Mon Feb 08, 2016 11:05 am

Tony, interesting observations. There has been a lot of growth in Orange County and the Inland Empire in the past 20 years. You may be correct about the urban heat having an impact. I would love to see the return of some good winter snow in Southern California.

For the record I grew up skiing So Cal, so I've skied Mt. Waterman, Mt. Baldy, Kratka Ridge and all of the rest of the ski areas many times. Mt. Baldy is still a piece of s**t, but even I have skied there on some ok days. Aside from Mt. Baldy I don't think the ski areas in the region usually lie in their snow reports.
2014-15 ski season stats- Vertical: 1,154,634, Days: 42, Lift rides: 729, Top day vertical: 45,444;
Total past nine seasons as of 1/22/16- Vertical: 10,344,359, Days: 407, Lift rides: 6,541;
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Mon Feb 08, 2016 12:33 pm

I think SoCal ski areas, like most areas in challenging regions, put the positive spin on, won't mention words like "rain" at gunpoint, etc. It's not necessarily any "lies" they say, it''s mainly what they don't say.

I ignore all the verbiage. What I want to see is an enumerated list of runs open or closed. Those are concrete facts that can't be fudged. If Baldy had such a page (as Mt. High and Big Bear do) and you see that Beginner Gulch and Fire Road/Bonanza are the only runs open, that's all you need to know. At Mt. High you can see that East is closed and barely half of West is open. Again, that's all I need to know. Meanwhile both Big Bear areas are 95+% open with their unlimited snowmaking resources.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Marc_C » Mon Feb 08, 2016 6:04 pm

-marc
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Feb. 1, 2016

Postby Admin » Mon Feb 08, 2016 6:07 pm



That article was referring to hiking trails, not the ski area.
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