We had planned to go to the SIA demo at Mammoth last week, but the intense storm cancelled the event. We looked at the weather forecast and decided to get up here for a couple of nice days before I leave for Canada and the next big storm rolls in later this week.
Overall coverage is similar to the prior benchmark seasons of 1983, 1995 and 2001. But with Mammoth’s wind every season has different deposition patterns so there are some places that have more snow now than I have ever seen here before.
Some overviews, first the chair 23 area:
There’s just one rock barely separating Drop Outs 2 and 3, which I have seen buried a couple of times. What’s different this year is the big drift of snow above those runs. When you come out of the chair 23 building you have to sidestep up about 10 feet to get on top of that. Then it rolls over convex, quite intimidating when I skied that around 2PM.
Scotty’s through the Paranoids:
The good news is that the rocks on top of those runs are buried. The bad news is that there are overhanging cornices so just a few clean entries.
Weather was clear with light winds. It was 10F on top at the beginning of the day but warmed up quite a bit midday, probably hitting 40F on the lower mountain. With the big storms there has been a lot of control work. Fracture lines were not nearly as big as on our last trip but there were sections of firmer than normal chalk where the top layer had probably slid. There was not much chunky debris but there were sections of irregular snow. The storm ended Friday, but the top did not open until 10AM Sunday due to high winds and the control work. As skiers in Utah and Idaho know, this was a very warm storm, so it was probably to our benefit that the new Sierra Cement got skier packed by the weekenders on Sunday.
We started early at Main Lodge as Liz had a rain check ticket from an ugly weather day Jan. 5. We had breakfast there and were at chair 1 not long after 8:30 opening bell. We warmed up on Broadway, Stump and face of 3. It was great to have autopilot fast groomers on soft natural snow after many days of mostly manmade in Austria. While riding 3 we saw the first guinea pigs ski Hangman’s.
The skier at right of the bottom of Hangman’s was moving very fast on his runout and exploded in quite a yard sale just after I took this pic.
Late here's a skier in Varmint's Nest.
We went up top about 9:30. Liz is at the sign which now needs to be excavated after each storm.
Note the drift of snow behind here which you must now climb over to head skier’s right on Climax.
Farther down there’s a notch entry to skier’s left Climax with an overhanging cornice in between.
Some are inspecting the drop but I missed the one boarder who tried it.
I then skied Hangman’s. While it was as wide as it’s ever been it was still intimidating. The upper part was 45 degrees of very tight chalk in somewhat flat light. One-at-a-time turns would have a silent chatter at the end as I regained grip. Once through the crux the snow became softer and was great skiing as it usually is.
Next gondola I skied Huevos Grande from the top for the first time since 2006. Entry there:
Next I checked out Cornice, which lived up to its name for only the second time since they started grooming with a winch cat in 1983. For SoCal skiers of my generation the Cornice was a rite of passage in the 1970’s, often with this result:
I too fell on my first try in 1978. The other time Cornice reformed was in March/April 2006 when it snowed 280 inches in 40 days. Johnnash fell on the entry too, but I didn’t get any pics because the wind was howling that time.
I rode 23 and went out to the Paranoids. I thought I might try something new but I could see that the steep entries to P3 and 4 had the same stiff snow as Hangman’s did. P2 had a soft layer on top and overall was the best skiing I did off the top today.
I rejoined Liz at the gondola and we headed for Dave’s, which now has along overhanging cornice and must be entered from far left or right. Liz did the right side of Dave’s while I poked my way along Dragon’s Back hoping to find something I had not skied before. Starting with the Head Chutes there were mostly overhanging cornices, and I got as far down Dragon’s Back as the top of my path drawn in red before I could get in comfortably.
Liz and I regrouped at chair 25. It was about noon on direct south facing so we skied its liftline, Sunshine.
Next we went to chair 22, first skiing Shaft.
I next skied Avalanche Chutes 1 and 2, which probably had the softest snow of the day. We then needed a water break at the Mill just before 2PM.
Now we moved on to chair 23. Incredibly, the Hulk figure glued to a prominent rock in 2015 has survived the violent storms and 300+ inches of snow over the past 6 weeks.
I skied the Drop Out 3 to 2 run mentioned earlier now, then rode 23 again to ski off the backside. At 2:30PM this was a bit sun-softened so fairly easy skiing despite a few chunks here and there. I had heard that the not often skiable runs near the top of chair 14 were open this season.
At left under the lift is Dos Pasos. The chute right of the big rock is unofficially named No Pasos due to its extreme rarity of skiable coverage.
It is somewhat difficult to get to these runs because chair 14 near the top was buried in a snowdrift, and the clearing process left behind chunky debris. Nonetheless I persisted as I’ve only skied No Pasos once before.
There are few odd rocks and ice chunks to avoid in there, but at 3PM it’s in direct sun and thus skied well.
Next time up 14 I hiked up and skied Monument, excellent for the top half but irregular with slide deposition lower down. I followed skier packed lines to make it easier.
I finished up with a couple of race course cruisers and 28,800 vertical for the day.
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,323K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12