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Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Sun Apr 28, 2019 10:00 pm
by Tony Crocker
On Friday we got on the hill just after 9am and our warmup runs on Stump Alley were already soft. It was a breezy morning with midday highs in upper 40’s, but the overnight freeze was light.

So we moved to the sunny side of the mountain which will be closed starting April 29. By 10AM the chair 25 groomer was good but slightly past its prime. Liz and I skied the liftline of 25 as on our last trip.
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George and Buffy Tang drove from Las Vegas and we shared a 2BR condo at Snowcreek. They joined us at 25. Moving to chair 9 we skied its liftline and a traverse out Ricochet.

George had brand new touring equipment he was skiing for the first time, Technica boots and 112mm Voile skis and Dynafit bindings. These skied very well in the east side spring snow, so it was time to test them on the upper steeps around 11:30AM. Cornice and Climax were good, so I stepped it up to Huevos Grande. With quick turns required on its upper 40 degree pitch, the touring skis chattered quite a bit. Here’s George lower down on Huevos.
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He went to Footloose after skiing to get the boots tightened some.

We regrouped and skied from 3 to 23 on the smooth corn of Word Cup after the racers were done. From chair 23 I skied Drop Out 2, the steepest line3 on that side requiring a big snow year, and the spring snow was probably the moist forgiving I’ve ever skied on that run.
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Riding 23 here’s the view across the Wipe Outs to Monument and the Minarets beyond.
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The Hulk lives on in his fifth season now.
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Liz wonders about the V shaped cracks in his rock though.

I skied Paranoid 2 down to Main Lodge where George and Buffy were having lunch at 1:30. Liz and I shared a pizza slice and went back out. After a lap on Fascination we took 23 up top to check out the backside. The entire skier’s left side is roped off for park construction, and at 2:30 snow was quite heavy in the afternoon sun. Liz returned there at noon Saturday and skied prime corn then.

From 14 we skied Scotty’s and Liz called it a day. But Tseeb had just arrived from Heavenly and I met him at chair 23 about 3:15. This was perfect timing to ski Wipe Outs 1 and 2, which are among the last runs to soften in spring.
After chair 23 closed, I skied to the car by 3:45 with 26,100 vertical for the day.

I wanted to be fairly lively for Saturday with Tseeb and Adam there. We were also joined by Matt from Boston, who ski bummed across all the western US Ikon areas starting at the beginning of February. Needless to say he couldn’t have chosen a better season for that timing. Matt had been at Mammoth most of the week and Saturday was the last day of his 3 month ski safari.

So Liz and I were in line for the 8:30 opening of chair 2. After 2 Stump laps we moved to Gold Rush and met Adam, Tseeb and Matt there at 9AM. This was perfect timing for 2 butter smooth corn laps on chair 25. We moved to 9, skiing Gold Hill and an occasionally groomed line under the lift. The Ricochet traverse line was set higher today, so we could reach the last chute at the end of the traverse with the smoothest and steepest snow.

We left Adam at 9 where he was awaiting his late sleeping friends and returned to 25. But this time we traversed to the east face near chair 22 and skied Shaft. Tseeb in upper Shaft:
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Liz and Matt lower down:
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We rode 22 to 5 and skied to McCoy Station, where there was a considerable line. It’s been awhile since I’ve been at Mammoth during a “regular season” weekend. Liz took a break there while Matt, Tseeb and I skied to the lower gondola line at its 12-minute peak around 11:30.

We went to Huevos Grande. Matt had been there before earlier in the week and skied it with authority.
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We skied through chair 5 via Sliver, then took 2 to 23 and Drop Out 2. Our second lap on 23 was to Paranoid 3. Tseeb there:
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Matt:
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We then loaded the lower gondola in less than 10 minutes and skied Climax.
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We continued through Triangle to the Mill. Due to the Solitude area park construction, Gold Rush was the way we needed to get back to chair 22.
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This was probably the last day to ski the Avalanche Chutes by lift and they would have been frozen when we skied Shaft earlier. Matt on Avy 2:
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Tseeb on Avy 1:
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We used chairs 4 and 2 to return to a last gondola via Andy’s Double Gold. Hangman’s was an expert run Matt had not skied earlier, so a suitable grand finale to the 3-month road trip.
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After Tseeb followed Matt, another skier got hung up for a while. This allowed Liz to ski Cornice and get below Hangman’s by the time I dropped in.
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I finished with 28,400 vertical, qualitatively one of my better spring ski days. Friday’s skiing taught us exactly when and where the snow would be prime corn and we navigated accordingly in similar weather Saturday.

Another reason for an energetic Saturday was that Sunday’s weather forecast was problematic. A modest storm is on the way from the SW starting as rain and its arrival could have been as early as Sunday afternoon.

We were lucky that there were blue skies for the entire ski day Sunday. However the winds were strong early Sunday morning. The upper gondolas were on their cables as we drove to the mountain but not in motion. We were at chair 2 at 8:30AM again but its opening was delayed so Tseeb, Liz and I started with Gold Rush.

It may have frozen a bit harder Saturday night, and softening was also delayed by the wind. Before 9AM the south facing back of 25 was bulletproof, so we turned east into the more direct early sun, finding corn that early only in the liftline of chair 15. By the time we returned to chair 25, the lower ¾ of the groomer was in ideal corn mode.

We moved to chair 9, which skied the best of the three days. We started with the groomer skier’s right of the lift, then took traverses out Ricochet. The steeps were as good as Saturday but the aprons below were more supportable and skied better Sunday. On the final Ricochet run Tseeb and I went beyond the big rock at the end of the high traverse to ski Wazoo.
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The rest of the day we were all on our own. Tseeb skied a couple of upper runs and left just after noon to return to Tahoe. Liz took a break at Eagle, then had some pristine corn laps on the rarely skied Sunshine skier’s left of chair 25. Riding 22 she noticed that Superman there is the latest superhero addition at Mammoth.
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Wonder Woman is no longer on the Gravy Chute rock near chair 1 though.

I tested first Cornice, which skied a bit better than Friday with the delayed softening. Climax was less successful. The surface was OK but the loose chunks were still hard vs. being able to blast through them on the past two days. Lower down much of chair 5 was still firm so I traversed to the groomed Sanctuary.

Returning to the top I needed to ski runs that had taken on morning sun, first Monument and then skier’s left of Drop Out 1. Both of these runs fed into lower St. Anton, which had perfect corn from being roped off for the racers until noon. On the Wipe Out side of chair 22 some boarders are forming a course, perhaps to compete with the zipper line moguls in West Bowl.
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I rode my final gondola to Dave’s Run at 2PM. This was late enough to soften any chunks so it skied as well then as most of the upper runs had on Saturday.

I finished with 23,100 vertical Sunday.

Re: Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:06 am
by jamesdeluxe
Looks nice. You usually mention Mammoth salting runs in the spring (for racing teams?) -- when does that begin?

Re: Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 10:43 am
by Tony Crocker
Salting usually starts in May. During a couple for the drought seasons I saw it earlier. I do not know whether the runs used for racing this weekend were salted during the overnight grooming.

Lower runs were getting heavy in the afternoons, especially with weekend traffic. This was of little consequence to me as that's when the upper mountain was best, but groomer skiers probably had a hard time finding any smooth snow past 2PM.

Normally the third weekend of April is the closing date for the Canyon/Eagle side of the mountain, so I have rarely skied Mammoth during the last week of April. They pushed it a week this year with the deep snowpack but also because Easter was late and a few schools get the week after Easter off.

Snow conditions were like a week or two into May, but skiing was better because you could ski early corn on the east/south exposures that are closed starting today.

Mammoth has lost 30 inches of base (now at 120 inches) at the patrol site in the last two weeks. The July 7 closing will be considerably leaner than in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 or 2017. Snowfall incidence in 2019 was similar though slightly more than in 1986. On July 4, 1986 the only skiing was on chair 3 and Cornice/Climax. My guess is that a strip will be maintained on Broadway, but it's a closer call IMHO whether lower St. Anton will survive as an exit from chair 23 though the Drop Out side of chair 23 should be skiable.

Re: Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 5:02 pm
by Sbooker
That does look like fun skiing.
I've never skied that late in the season.
Humour me a bit if you wouldn't mind. For average intermediate skiers would you describe skiing off the top of Mammoth in this time frame to be be just as 'easy' as it would be for the same skiers in winter conditions? Or is a lot more skill required?
Thanks.

Re: Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 8:17 pm
by Tony Crocker
Personally I find properly timed spring snow to be the most forgiving in steep terrain. One could argue that deep powder is easier, but terrain as steep as Hangman's/Huevos is often not open immediately in fresh snow due to avalanche risk.

There are caveats in my observation:
1) If you get the timing wrong, frozen snow or deep slush is much more difficult.
2) I have decades of experience in spring snow from the SoCal locals as well as late season Mammoth. So my relative proficiency in spring snow is highest vs. other types of skiing.

The snow in Australia is often quite similar to the SoCal locals. However that can also mean no overnight freeze. Flat terrain is most unpleasant when slushy; it can grab your skis and you get the feeling of being thrown over the handlebars. Gravity is your friend; on steep terrain it will overcome the resistance of the spring snow.

The above explains why experienced skiers are generally more enthusiastic about spring skiing than beginners and intermediates. Mammoth is one of the rare areas that salts its groomed runs in late season, sometimes in late morning as well as overnight, to expand the hours when groomed intermediate skiing is pleasant.

Since Aussie skiing from what I read is more of the pitch of Big Bear than Baldy, I suspect it's not the best place for spring skiing. Mammoth is one of the best places in the world for spring skiing. There are many places that are much sloppier at the end of March than Mammoth is at the end of April.

Re: Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Mon Apr 29, 2019 10:08 pm
by Sbooker
Tony Crocker wrote:Personally I find properly timed spring snow to be the most forgiving in steep terrain. One could argue that deep powder is easier, but terrain as steep as Hangman's/Huevos is often not open immediately in fresh snow due to avalanche risk.

There are caveats in my observation:
1) If you get the timing wrong, frozen snow or deep slush is much more difficult.
2) I have decades of experience in spring snow from the SoCal locals as well as late season Mammoth. So my relative proficiency in spring snow is highest vs. other types of skiing.

The snow in Australia is often quite similar to the SoCal locals. However that can also mean no overnight freeze. Flat terrain is most unpleasant when slushy; it can grab your skis and you get the feeling of being thrown over the handlebars. Gravity is your friend; on steep terrain it will overcome the resistance of the spring snow.

The above explains why experienced skiers are generally more enthusiastic about spring skiing than beginners and intermediates. Mammoth is one of the rare areas that salts its groomed runs in late season, sometimes in late morning as well as overnight, to expand the hours when groomed intermediate skiing is pleasant.

Since Aussie skiing from what I read is more of the pitch of Big Bear than Baldy, I suspect it's not the best place for spring skiing. Mammoth is one of the best places in the world for spring skiing. There are many places that are much sloppier at the end of March than Mammoth is at the end of April.


You're right about the slush skiing in Oz. It's not as enjoyable as (for example) slush skiing I've done in April at Whistler. Interestingly I found Whistler held cold dry snow up in the Alpine area and nice spring snow a little further down but there was a definite 'line' at about mid mountain where the nice slush turned into another substance that absolutely fatigued my legs. I observed this twice in the same time frame in different seasons.

The bowl up the top of Thredbo seems to hold snow that is enjoyable to ski even late into September but again there is a very definite line just below the top station of the Kosciusko Express lift where the snow gets very heavy. That makes for a tiny amount of vertical but it's a great place for beginners to log hours on snow. It's a gentle pitch, has good snow most of the season and in September is almost never too cold.

Re: Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Tue Apr 30, 2019 1:04 pm
by Tony Crocker
sbooker wrote:Interestingly I found Whistler held cold dry snow up in the Alpine area and nice spring snow a little further down but there was a definite 'line' at about mid mountain where the nice slush turned into another substance that absolutely fatigued my legs. I observed this twice in the same time frame in different seasons.

Yes, Whistler gave you a very accurate picture of the range of conditions in early spring (late March/early April). Mammoth is basically the upper half of Whistler's vertical in terms of spring snow conditions, with the low and east-facing Eagle chair being the only area with much of "another substance." It sounds like some of the above tree line skiing in Australia is decent in spring. What you need here in SoCal is a consistent steep fall line, mostly north facing, and Baldy has much more of that than the other SoCal locals.

Technique

PostPosted: Fri May 10, 2019 3:31 pm
by ShiftyRider
tl/dr there's 3 ways for a ski to turn (edging, pressuring, and steering) but beginners (make a pizza w tips together tails apart), terminal intermediates, and folks who tend to choose runs where you ski ON the snow instead of IN the snow only practice edging.

Edging: since skis are narrower at the middle, all ya gotta do is tip the ski and it forms a C-shape on the surface of the snow. The reason make-a-pizza works is both skis are C-shaped toward each other, so by weighting one more than the other you turn either way. Edging stops working when you're IN the snow.

Pressuring: using your weight and the bending of the ski to form an angled berm in the snow. When you first learn powder it usually helps to bring your feet closer together than normal cuz riding as if there's two berms is trickier.

Steering: if edging is 1-D and pressuring is 2-D, then steering is full 3-D. It's not used for the whole turn. Combine pressuring with steering in slush.

Re: Mammoth, Apr. 26-28, 2019

PostPosted: Sat May 11, 2019 9:07 pm
by snowave
Stay gold, Shifty... Stay gold.

Re: Technique

PostPosted: Sun May 12, 2019 9:54 pm
by ShiftyRider
Right ski pressuring
Left ski steering...
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Same idea
Right foot pressuring
Left foot transitioning from pressuring to steering...
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Combination edging and steering can be found in any halfpipe competition. Also elite slalom ski racers, where the upper body always faces downhill but the knees, ankles, etc torsionally spring back and forth about the body's vertical axis.