We timed this trip just after a moderate storm, continuing the unsettled pattern of the past 2 weeks. The storm was fairly warm, snowing 17.5 inches at the patrol site near Main Lodge but also including .62 inches of rain. Lono was visiting from Montana, skied Tuesday and said it was rather miserable, wet with most upper lifts closed for wind and/or visibility.
Winds were predicted moderate Wednesday also but they were fairly light in most places with just a slight pickup late in the day. The issue in getting the upper mountain open was snow stability. There were shallow but wide fractures from the two feet of new heavy snow on Climax and Monument, with sluffs in several other places.
We had clear skies all day and so got started on chair 3, which had been closed Tuesday. The new snow was dense but soft and skied similarly to a week ago. Again we skied skier’s right, center and West Bowl, then Coyote to Gold Rush, then chair 5 once we saw it had opened. We had a great run on Triangle but I wanted to show Lono chair 22 once we saw it was also running. Liz chose to stay with the bird in the hand on chair 5 for a while.
Chair 22 had been open a few hours on Tuesday, so its east facing front side was well churned, now in blazing sun and we saw no one skiing it. The north facing Avy Chutes were another story. Snow as soft and forgiving so Lono tore up both Avy 1 and 2.5 at a swift clip. He got separated and ended up at Canyon. I explored between Avy 1 and 2 and found too many hard spots that had been wind stripped. From the top of 22 I could see that chair 9 had not opened, and the numerous sluffs from the Head Chutes and Dragon’s Back were the likely reason.
When we regrouped at the top of 22 we could see that the gondola was finally open. We skied an encore of Avy 2.5, then cut hard left, traversing through some snowplow debris to get to chair 5. At the top of 5 we had this rare view:
The 2 skiers are on either side of the cliff band in Balls-to-the-Wall. This is the only time I’ve seen an opening in that cliff. I’ve been up there only once, on my best ever day at Mammoth April 9, 1999 and I took the bailout looker right of the cliff band.
We skied to McCoy Station, but the gondola line was a maze, so we skied down to chair 1, then to 23. Lono lives in Whitefish,which has almost as much ski acreage as Mammoth but ¼ of the skier visits. Thus he likes his fresh snow untracked like admin. 23 got us up top faster than the gondola, so we had a soft and steep run down Drop Out 2 similar to what had in the Avy Chutes. Our second top run was out to the Paranoids. There was just one clean line down P1&2, now a continuous face as the spine between them is no longer discernable.
The Monument fracture zone is looker’s left of P1&2 and there was sluff debris on the lower part of Paranoid 3.
It was now past 12:30 so we got to the bottom and loaded the lower gondola in less than 5 minutes. We had heard chair 14 got buried again and was being cleared. However someone in the gondola had skied down there, exiting via chair 13. Lono was interested in a long pristine run like that, so we looked over the edge to inspect. There was a steady wind from the backside, and when a snowboarder dropped in, he was spraying no snow so I knew the surface was firm. Nonetheless Lono went that way and there was a layer of new snow on top once you got ¼ of the way down.
I had observed people skiing Hangman’s and Varmint’s Nest fluidly, so I knew it they would be softer than last week. View down Varmint’s Nest:
View down Hangman’s from the same spot.
I skied Varmint’s Nest first, then texted Andrew and Liz to meet at the Mill for lunch. We got there at 1:10, and I headed back out at 1:50 to get some more runs off the top. I took a look at the top of Balls-to-the-Wall. While the same exit as in 1999 was available it had been scraped down enough that I was not comfortable with the narrow line at that pitch. The top of Huevos was just around the corner, and it was loaded with windsift plus its entry was more filled in than last week, a great run.
I skied upper and lower Dry Creek to 2, then to McCoy Station for one more gondola. The next run was Hangman’s, also with refilled windsift. From below, skiers’ in Hangman’s (left) and Varmint’s Nest (right):
Farther down is a wider view of the top:
Climax fracture line is clearly visible at far left. The rocks at center define Hangman’s, Varmint’s Nest and MJB the steep open face extended toward Cornice Bowl. In average years Hangman’s is an hourglass chute and Varmint’s Nest is a cliff band that has a skiable opening not much more than one season per decade.
I skied to chair 23 and took a run on Wipe Out 1 of comparable quality to the ones in Huevos and Hangman’s. Next up I skied off the backside and took 2 runs on 14. The new snow was more cut up than when Lono was there but still decent. My second time down it was past 3:30 so I had to exit via chair 13. I skied to Main Lodge, took a race course run, then Mambo/Patrolmen’s to the car at closing bell. 31,700 vertical with a fair amount of hard to define fresh snow, definitely one of the best days of the season. But April at Mammoth routinely yields a few days of this quality most seasons.
We tailgated awhile at Lono’s truck. Here’s the view of a few cars still in chair 2’s lot at 4:45 with the snowbank in the background.
Lono is on a nice road trip that included Alta’s closing weekend. I wonder if anyone else on this forum was there?
He’s returning home via Mt. Bachelor, another spring skiing Mecca.