Mammoth, Dec. 12-13, 2016

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Mammoth, Dec. 12-13, 2016

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:45 am

We had a nicely timed opening day of the season Monday. Saturday’s storm was 2+ feet up top but only 7 inches with occasional rain at Main Lodge. Adam was up there for the weekend and little skiing was done Saturday with upper lifts closed and wet weather on the few that were open. He did get 3 runs from the upper gondola Sunday after waiting an hour for it to open. However chairs 3 and 23 did not open Sunday, resulting in some chokepoints.

Monday the lift issues were fixed so you could ski bell to bell with no waiting. It was overcast all day with some flat light but the clouds never lowered onto the mountain all day. Once up top they covered the Minarets though.
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The storm patterns this year have led to unusual levels of snowpack across the mountain. The very top has a near winter like snowpack as shown by the top of chair 23 here:
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The Paranoids are not as deep but there is still enough cover to get in from the top in a few places.
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And finally Hangman’s looks very wide for December.
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Patrol said it remains closed due to a lurking ice layer. In this case the ice is probably the mid-October snow that melt/froze in early November.

We got on the hill by 8:40 and headed for chair 3 which had been closed Sunday. Nonetheless much of its terrain had been accessible, and the part I tried under the lift had varied snow with ice patches. Most of these were rime ice from freezing fog which I had seen widespread over the upper mountain in November 2008. Fortunately this time the rime ice was in isolated patches usually near rocks we would be avoiding anyway.

Word of mouth was that Dave’s had the best snow so we headed that way our first time up top. On the way I noticed that upper Rockgarden was well covered, a rare event as it’s usually wind scoured. So from the top of Dave’s we dropped that way skier’s left as Liz had never skied there before. The lower section looked sketchier, but we traversed farther left to Lower Huevos, which I knew would be good. Liz there:
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We traversed out below Climax, where lots of boulders remain on its lower apron.
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Liz had some minor knee and foot pain and decided to take a break. I continued down Sliver past chair 5. Since nearly all the new snow was wind-packed I went to the car and swapped out my Head Jimis for the Apache Recons which are much easier to turn on packed snow. The face of 5 area just got adequately covered in the last storm and it’s still low tide skiing to some extent. Snow quality was mostly good, as the mixed precipitation on Saturday was generally below 9,500 feet.

We regrouped and skied Cornice, which was soft and carvable despite a fair number of skiers.
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Liz went down to Main while I worked the top some more before lunch. Traversing past the top of Cornice led to a great line down Drop Out 3. I then rode 23 and skied Drop Out 1, great at the top but I strayed too close to the chair line lower down, hit the rime ice and continued over to the Wipe Out side until the snow improved. Next time I went to the Paranoids, took a fairly easy entry above P1, then cut back to ski P2. View from the entry:
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P2 was a bit more irregular than other top runs but still good on the upper steeps. View back up:
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On the apron below the Paranoids there is still a lot of shrubbery poking through the snow, so I followed a skier packed line into St. Anton, which was also opened just recently and had snowmaking guns on the side of the run.

I got down to Main before noon and we had lunch. Both of us had “beach foot” in the morning, tight boots first day of the season, undoubtedly exacerbated by spending the whole month of November in sandals in Thailand. No surprise this bothered Liz more than me (she also had some knee pain), and also no surprise our feet fit into our boots much more comfortably the next day. We both think Liz’ boot soap opera will not resume after the fixes made at Footloose last April, after which Liz skied 7 more pain free days last spring.

My perspective was different. The top was in fine midwinter windbuff form and the next day’s weather forecast was not favorable. So I figured I should seize the day and persist up there as long as my legs could take it. We took 3 cruisers after lunch together before Liz decided she shouldn’t go back up top. I headed for Dave’s Run, which indeed had the smoothest carvable windbuff on the hill as advertised by Adam and Mammoth Snowman.

I skied to chair 5 and took another run there. Here’s the view of 5 with early season coverage.
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From there I skied down to 2 and then to 23, where I hit Wipe Out 1, Drop Out 1 and Wipe Out 2, all in great shape. The smooth snow extended down into the apron areas where it’s sometimes variable and on each run I only stopped once for a breather, fairly rare for the first day of the season and definitely a testament to snow quality.

I timed my last run on 23 to make a final bottom-to-top gondola ride, but when I got up there they had roped off the road to Dave’s. I asked patrol why and he said they were removing marker poles because they did not expect it to be open until after the next series of storms. So I returned to Drop Out 3, probably second best line of the day to Dave’s, then cut across Gremlin’s to reach Chair 3. I skied Dry Creek to 5, then Solitude down to chair 4 just before 4PM. Roller Coaster was mostly scraped off hardpack as lots of intermediates had been skiing there all day.

I finished the day with 27,400 vertical and 11 runs (9 different) off the top. This would be an above average day mid-season, but for an opening day it’s definitely in the top echelon.

Our expectation for Tuesday was low and that was about right. Snow conditions on lower runs were better than late Monday due to fewer people, and the wind was manageable by Mammoth standards. The problem was pea soup fog above 9,500 feet. Chairs 3 and 5 were running but I never saw anyone load either. Many of you know I have fairly high tolerance for bad vis, but I was not tempted this time, particularly with early season coverage which I had observed in adequate light on chair 5 Monday.

We skied Mambo, Broadway and Andy’s Double Gold, then used chair 11 to get to 12 rather than the more direct route via St. Anton which would have been total vertigo. Today was supposed to be the season opening of chairs 13 and 14. No surprise 14 was closed, but the runs to 13 were closed too even though the chair was moving. We skied 2 runs on 12, the last being our only venture off the groomed into the trees and bowl under the lift. There was surprisingly a surface crust which we had not seen Monday at similar elevation on 3 or 5.

So we reverted to the usual bad weather strategy and crossed over to Gold Rush and chair 4, skiing 6 groomers there. So it was fortunate that surfaces in that sector had improved. Nonetheless we called it a day at 12:15 having skied 12,300 vertical and nearly every open run where you could see where you were going. While Tuesday's skiing was sometimes a chore, Liz had minimal issues with feet or knee, so she was glad she got out and saw some improvement.
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Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Tony Crocker
 
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Location: Avatar: Charlotte Bay, Antarctica 2011
Location: Glendale, California

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