I decided to return to Mammoth for Memorial weekend rather than sometime in June. Mammoth runs both the gondola and chair 23 for the holiday weekend, while 23 was closed from April 20 - May 22 and the gondola is down for annual maintenance starting today. Chair 2 is also done for the season starting today even though it has enough snow to run another week or so. So there are some signs of the economy dictating fewer lifts running than is some past late seasons, but I'm confident this will not apply to Memorial weekend. There were lots of people there, as some of my pics will show, and while I never waited for more than a couple of minutes in a line, there were few empty chairs going up the hill.
The other question was how much damage a week+ of sustained heat had done to the snow. In terms of surface conditions the smooth packed surface of 2 weeks ago held up quite well. The aprons below the top runs were still decent though they would of course soften faster than the steeps above them. There was not much suncupping on the upper mountain. The face of chair 5 did get suncupped except for one skier packed fall line down Sanctuary.
The heat has taken down the snow depth quite a bit though. The sign at the top of the gondola has lost 3-4 feet of base in the past 2 weeks. The choke of Hangman's is now blocked, somewhat surprising as I've skied it in mid-June or July a few times. They groomed Scotty's and maintained Roadrunner through this past weekend to reach it. But the direct route from 23 to Scotty's down Skyline ridge has lost its snow, and the entrance to Hump/Wipe Out 2 was getting rock-exposed yesterday. So from now on Wipe Out 1 will be the only access to any upper runs on the skier's left of chair 23. So even though this weekend's skiing was great, I see almost no chance for July 4th this year.
The heat wave as predicted moderated some going into the weekend. But some of that was due to thunderstorm activity Friday and Saturday. I heard that on Friday the storms got going midday and forced the mountain to close around noon. On Saturday there were some clouds near the ski area, but the storms were farther southeast, where Andrew and I encountered them on an afternoon hike above Rock Creek Lake.
Saturday morning I was on the mountain before 8AM and the NE exposures had already softened. I hit Cornice at 8:30 and Climax to face of 5 just after 9AM. Then Dave's/5 again and another Cornice before meeting SoCal while I was skiing chair 23. I tried Monument about 11AM but it was already past its prime. Since this was the first day in over a month for chair 23, most of those runs started out smooth, with Drop Out 1 and Wipe Out 2 skiing nearly as well as 2 weeks ago. Drop Out 2 was somewhat unconsolidated Saturday, but skied better Sunday after some skier packing. Wipe Out 1 had the most bumps up top Saturday. I finished at 11:30AM with 20,800 and then left for the Rock Creek hike.
With the opening of chair 23, quite a few people skiing Drop Out here:
Also both Wipe Outs:
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