Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

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Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Dec 28, 2019 8:19 pm

On Dec 25 I wrote:The next 3 days will be the perfect storm of urban chaos in the SoCal mountains.

I was right about that. My historic plan on Baldy powder days is to get there about 7:30. Garry said that's not good enough this time. We got there a little after 7AM, maybe 30 cars back in line below the gated parking lot, which they opened at 7:30. The ticket line was a little disorganized but we had ours at 8:09. We were soon in line for chair 1, maybe 50 people back. Garry, who has a season pass, was about 10th in line and Powderchaser Steve and his friend Luke were second.

Patrol skicutting the bottom at 9:27:
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Chair 1 opened at 9:30. Here's the line down the hill and about 65 people deep into the parking lot then.
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Chair 1 is old, moved slowly and they occasionally have to skip a chair so the cable won't sag too much. Therefore we boarded the chair at 10:05. Those people down the hill had a 2 hour wait.

While this was disappointing ski day I did get lots of pictures. As we were riding chair 1, the first people were coming down.

Bentley's:
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Nightmare:
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A patroller skiing under us said something about the snow on Nightmare. Liz thought he said "best snow" or "best run." That was certainly true last February 6, so that was the plan for my first run.

Sugarpine under the lift, where Liz skied first:
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Windslab, often stripped of snow by the funneling wind into the Notch:
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Approaching the Notch:
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As Steve had found out yesterday, the storm did not generate the usual widespread rime. But the slabby snow on the tree in the foreground was in retrospect a sign of what to expect.

The traverse entry into Nightmare did not have the ice like last year, but the snow on its upper half was both slabby and surprisingly shallow. I could see exposed gravel in spots and I heard grating noises from the two patrollers skiing below me. As usual I did not think about getting the camera out when I had to descend 700 vertical of 36 degree low tide snow in survival mode. I'm fairly sure we didn't hear that first patroller right.

Powderchaser Steve had a similar experience. His friend Luke and Garry independently skied Morgan's Grove, the widely spaced trees between Nightmare and Bentley's, battling the slabby snow some but with better coverage. That lower terrain is always an adventure. Last February Morgan's had a thin ice glaze while Nightmare skied quite well so you never know.

With the big crowd and disappointing snow Powderchaser Steve and Luke bailed, as did Garry and his friends Karen and Marty. When Steve left at 10:30 the line was even longer than at opening, approaching the far end of the parking lot.

Liz and I persisted, independently as there is no cell service at Baldy except the top of Thunder. Liz later discovered there is free WiFi at the lodge in the Notch. After that first run there was no question in my mind that I should wait for Thunder, even though its opening time was vague. I got there at 11:45 with about 50 people in front of me. First patrol on Thunder:
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Thunder opened at last at 12:40.
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The broken clock is showing 4:20, not an accident I suspect. :lol:

I took a few pics on the first ride on Thunder. Skyline was so obviously wind hammered that very few people tried to ski it.
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Thunder liftline:
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Two snowboarders putting the first tracks on Herb's Hollow:
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That looked good, but it's in partial sun and about half of Thunder's 1,000 vertical including the fire road to get there and the runout on lower Robin's.

So I opted for Emile's trees, a longer continuous fall line where I skied first on some other Baldy powder days.
IMG_5192.JPG

My Baldy experience worked against me here. The snow in Emile's was slabby, I fell twice and had to ski most of it very deliberately.

I reviewed my prior Baldy powder day reports and I have never seen first day snow as widespread difficult as this before. What probably happened is that there was wind after the storm in the opposite of the prevailing direction, from the NE rather than the SW. Thus the deepest snow was not on the NW exposures of chair 1 and Thunder as usual but on those south and west facing drops off the fire road.
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After a typical storm this area tends to be both wind affected and thin, but not this time. My best run on Thunder curled around far lookers left of the above pic and dropped down to the beginner area just past the base of chair 2. I also had a nice run in the trees between Herb's Hollow and Andy's Alley.

I have occasionally made disparaging comment about clueless SoCal snowboarders sideslipping/scraping snow down runs way beyond their ability. I saw little of that this day. Some of these guys were very good, ripping up that slabby snow in an impressive manner.

Thunder stopped between 12:55 and 1:10PM and its line lengthened. Liz arrived shortly thereafter. I sent her down Andy's Alley as I realized the error of my first run. We boarded Thunder at 1:40. After that people started bailing and I got in a run every half hour. The area in that pic got tracked out and past 3PM it also started to form a zipper crust.

From the top of Thunder there is a good view of I-15 in Cajon Pass and the snow covered high desert beyond.
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For my final run I had to try South Bowl. Normally the trees are best there, but the open part has the same exposure as Herb's/Andy's so that's what I skied.
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At 4PM there was zipper crust but it still skied fairly well being untracked.

Few people had skied there but a traverse line exit had been set.
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10,000 foot Baldy peak is in the distance.

Farther around was a good view at top of the picture of the chair 4 terrain which never opened.
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Lower down there are two tracks in Holumac, direct south facing which leads to the bottom of chair 1. It's a 300 vertical hike from the Notch to ski that way.

After the long traverse I had to sidestep up to chair 2 and got back to the Notch at 4:15. Liz skied just two runs on Thunder and skied Sugarpine again down to the car. I skied the road out to Morgan's Grove, viewed here in the alpenglow about half an hour before sunset.
IMG_5206.JPG

The slabby snow was cut up and it was one turn at a time skiing, aiming for untracked patches. But at least I wasn't hitting any rocks.

Liz and I left Baldy's parking lot at 5PM. We got down the hairpins fairly easily as it was getting dark so most of the snowplayers had left. But then the road ground to a halt and we did not get past Baldy village until 6PM and then home about 7PM.

Due to the delayed openings, huge crowd and difficult snow I skied a modest 9,500 vertical. In terms of the problems of the day, these are my opinions.
1) The crowd issue was obviously going to happen; we got there early enough to get on the hill ahead of the vast majority.
2) Delayed opening of lifts on Day 1 after big storms is a fact of life at Baldy. I have to live with that because there isn't likely to be any powder worth skiing on Day 2. Steve had scouted on Thursday, seen chair 1 spinning to send employees up to dig out the Notch. So I had some confidence chair 1 wouldn't be THAT delayed, and 9:30AM is not bad at all based on past experience. Steve had also been told there was minimal rime during this storm, so that gave me some optimism about Thunder also. But no work had been done on Thunder Thursday so the lift had to be excavated Friday morning. Chair 4 never opened.
3) The difficult snow was the biggest disappointment. Baldy gets a lot of wind effect, but often it's windbuff that skis like packed powder. This time it was breakable slab over drier snow underneath.
4) There was negative synergy of the above factors. I've seen Thunder screwups before but it's not that big a deal if skiing on chair 1 is good. The get on the mountain crowd problem is often an issue, but once on the mountain nearly everyone was at Thunder instead of being dispersed over 2 or 3 lifts.

Powderchaser Steve's take on Mt. Baldy yesterday:
He and I chatted several times before he flew down here as well as while he was here and a post mortem today. He's not unhappy he made the trip. He could see Baldy's terrain quality even though he really saw a rather limited part of it. I emphasized that he's not going to get the dry powder he gets at Jackson, Snowbird and even Crystal (he's won't go there unless the rain/snow line is below 3,000 feet). Baldy skis very nicely in packed powder or spring corn when its snowpack is adequate. Even though the snowpack on Thunder is already fine (as it was during parts of the 2016-17 and 2018-19 seasons) the lower mountain is not there yet and really hasn't been for any length of time since 2009-10.

There are two relevant comparison days after big storms in December.

Dec. 30, 2004
This was the closest analogy. It was during Christmas break, there was a big crowd and Thunder did not open all day due to rime on the lift cables and towers. But the coverage on the lower mountain was good and the snow was smooth windpacked powder. I only skied 12,500 but quality was excellent. Twice I hiked that 300 vertical up from the Notch, once to ski Holcumac and late in the day to ski Eric's to the back of the parking lot. 2004-05 was a very good overall SoCal season, so Garry skied 86 days at Baldy.

Dec. 18, 2008
This time I skied the bottom once before Thunder opened at 9:30. But then Thunder had a mechanical problem from 11AM-2PM. There was a reverse NE wind like yesterday but the wind packed snow was supportable not breakable. The lower mountain was not as well covered as in 2004 but better than yesterday. Chair 4 opened at noon. With it not being a holiday and getting in a lot of skiing after Thunder reopened, I skied 21K vertical. It rained twice by Christmas that season and Baldy was not good again until a couple of decent storms in February. The overall season was above average and better than any season since other than 2009-10.
http://bestsnow.net
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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Re: Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby reefuss12 » Sat Dec 28, 2019 11:03 pm

Dec 30 , Monday , could be some good storm skiing and the following Tuesday may be the day for redemption.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby CWV » Sat Dec 28, 2019 11:34 pm

Hoping to get a ski day at Baldy this week... I bought a $299 pass last Feb that is good through 4/30 of this year. I had 5 days on it last year -- a couple of which were excellent by any standard -- and I'm hoping for a similar number this year. The lift served terrain at Baldy is by far the best in Southern CA, IMO.

On the other hand, I understand the frustration with the lifts, the reliability of the snow,the road, etc.

I try to pick my days carefully and am just happy there is a place I can do some 'real' skiing less than 2 hours drive from home when nature sees fit to provide.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby jojo_obrien » Sun Dec 29, 2019 12:43 am

Great trip report Tony thanks. Beautiful photos .... Views from baldy always impressive on a bluebird day.

I won't ski baldy anymore ... Skiied it most of my life but refuse to subject myself to the lift operational issues and crowds.

It's not worth the headache on the hill and down the hill (drive home ).
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Dec 29, 2019 1:30 am

jojo_obrien wrote: I won't ski baldy anymore ... Skied it most of my life but refuse to subject myself to the lift operational issues and crowds.
It's not worth the headache on the hill and down the hill (drive home ).

Perhaps you have forgotten this one: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... php?t=8731
That was a moderately busy Sunday, still good for 24K of high quality skiing.

As for yesterday, a bluebird day after 3 feet new during Christmas zoo week was asking for it.
reefuss12 wrote:Dec 30 , Monday , could be some good storm skiing and the following Tuesday may be the day for redemption.

Yes we are watching the weather closely on that. It's still Christmas zoo week though. Let's hope we can get to January 5 without any rain to screw this up.

CWV wrote: I bought a $299 pass last Feb that is good through 4/30 of this year. I had 5 days on it last year -- a couple of which were excellent by any standard -- and I'm hoping for a similar number this year.

A rare example of a Baldy pass paying off, though odds weren't bad doing that timed with the early February storms last year.

25 of my Mt. Baldy reports over the years are linked here: http://bestsnow.net/vft_scal.htm
http://bestsnow.net
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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Re: Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby ShiftyRider » Tue Dec 31, 2019 3:49 pm

Great report!

I haven't read pugski in awhile, whoever mentioned "shovel guy" is awesome...
https://www.pugski.com/threads/19-20-so ... 913/page-7

Tony, did you arrive at Chair 3 via Beginner's Gulch?
P.S. I went on Sunday too and the snow on Thunder was better. Also this whole time of the popular face runs you want the main gully of Bentley's.
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Re: Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby Tony Crocker » Wed Jan 01, 2020 12:16 pm

I arrived at chair 3 via Beginner's Gulch at 11:45 and waited for the opening at 12:40.

There is no question that enough skier traffic would break up that crust on Thunder and improve it. Nonetheless with chair 1 not quite ready for prime time I'm having no part of Baldy until next week when the holidays are over.
http://bestsnow.net
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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Re: Mt. Baldy, Dec. 27, 2019

Postby Big Tim » Wed Jan 01, 2020 8:28 pm

Great having a chance for Chris and I to chat with you in line. Chris and I were one and done like your friends. Great story yes that snow was interesting
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