We had planned to go to Mammoth late last week, but were dissuaded by the weather forecasts. The storm was quite substantial, dumping 43.5 inches and severely limiting lift operations Thursday to Saturday. So we drove Sunday and started skiing Monday. My expectations were very high and fully met by Monday’s skiing. These intense and windy storms don’t produce much deep powder, but on the other hand they also don’t leave behind churned Sierra Cement that’s tough to ski for several days. Anywhere the snow was smooth it was quite soft and edgeable.
It is spring break for most California public schools, but with full operation liftlines were minimal. The chair 2 parking lot was full when we got there at 8:45 but the road beside it still had room. Crowds are in evidence mostly in the lodges and we needed to plan for dinners.
Monday was crystal clear with a light steady breeze. This was fortunate because less than half the mountain softened in the sun. High temps were in the 30’s. Snow coverage is even more impressive than our last tip Feb. 13-14. Here Gravy Chute is closed because it had to be excavated to let chair 1 pass through.
We warmed up first on Broadway, then up to Cornice. Often the groomed Cornice is firm at the top, but with the recent storm it was buttery smooth. We skied Face of 3, then to the bottom gondola. Riding the gondola I noticed overhanging cornices on Dave’s Run with some debris below but the thee was smooth line looker’s right of the cornices.
After that we skied Gold Hill to 9 and 2 runs out Ricochet. As we had skipped breakfast we thought we better get an early lunch so we skied to Eagle and had grilled burgers there. Back out by 12:30 we skied over to Canyon, then 16 to 22. While skiing on 22 looked good, I thought it best to concentrate on the top for the afternoon due to high wind predictions for the next two days. For my run on 22 I headed down Avy2 but veered skier’s left to a new line exposed by this year’s snowpack. Soft snow and windsift were outstanding as few people found this line from above. Riding chair 4 backup the view of the Avalanche Chutes from below is clearer.
Avy2 is at center and Avy3 is the shoulder at right. Today’s line, call it Avy 2.5, is between them. Note also how wide Avy1 at far left is.
I took a run on Face of 5, overview from lift here.
Dry Creek is still not as deep as 1983 but most of the trees on Triangle are buried and a long strip between Sanctuary and Sliver is roped off because the chair is too close to the snow.
I then went to gondola mid-station and up top I skied Huevos.
The entry is still tough, but below the fracture line snow is excellent.
I skied Triangle, down to 2, then to the gondola at Main where I rejoined Liz, who had skied from 22 back to Canyon, then moved across the lower mountain. Skiing from the top toward Cornice Bowl, there’s an impressive view of cornice buildup from there over to the Drop Outs by the top of 23.
Snow has drifted up to the roof of 23’s exit building on the Drop Out side.
Liz skied off the edge of Cornice while I skied Hangman’s.
Hangman’s has an easier entry this year coming from skier’s left. Snow below the throat was soft and smooth as it gets.
We met for a ride up 23. Liz skied Scotty’s then to the Main Lodge area. I skied Drop Out 2 and paused below the steeps here:
The snowpack has merged upper St. Anton, Gremlin’s and World Cup into one wide open snowfield. Gremlin’s is about 30 feet deep, so that’s why it will still have some snow in August/September as in 2011.
Next time up 23 I headed for the Paranoids. Skyline usually has some wind polished sections but this time the entire slope was frozen solid. Liz said it was icy even by eastern standards. View from top of Paranoid 3:
There were some chunks below me here but there was a smooth line dropping in skier’s right then moving to the center. Farther down a view back up:
At upper right is P4, which I have never skied as snow nearly always looks worse than the other 3 routes.
Below the rocks I traversed over to Bark Bowl and had this view up Philippe’s:
I went back up 1 and 23 to ski more hero snow on Wipe Out. Riding 23 I noticed people traversing across MJB to get into Varmint’s Nest, so I went that way. The soft turns in there yielded wind blown face shots.
I met Liz at chair 1 and we went up 1and 3 to ski Coyote for the final run. We passed the fumarole, which patrol keeps exposed to prevent a repeat of the 2006 accident.
There must be 25 feet of excavation this year.
I finished with 31,100 vertical. Monday was Exhibit A of Mammoth’s April finest and why it’s my most skied month there.
After skiing we drove out to Tamarack Lodge to inspect Hole-in-the-Wall from below. Even though it was 4:45 we saw some people come down.
Hole-in-the-Wall is at lower left. One approaching skier is circled at upper right.
Here two skiers have just come through Hole-in-the-Wall.
Weather is likely to keep me out of there the rest of this trip, but maybe I’ll get there next week. I last skied Hole-in-the-Wall in January 2011.
Tuesday’s weather forecast was for ”less than an inch of snow starting 11AM.” That forecast was accurate but so was the warning of 40-50mph winds. When I saw that chairs 1,3,5 and 22 were on wind hold, we decided to have breakfast before heading out. We got on the hill 10AM, rode chair 2 to ski Broadway then took chair 6 to Gold Rush, heading for the presumably more sheltered part of the mountain.
But 10:30 was when the weather really went nuts. The ride on Gold Rush was the windiest I have had in a long time, easily a steady 40mph in your face for the upper half of the ride, which of course was not at full speed. The exit run on Spook was in a blowing snow whiteout. We skied down to Canyon where I put on glove liners and goggles. Chair 16 was now shut, leaving 10+ minute lines on 8 and 17. We took 17 to 4, then the Follow Me trail around past top of 8 to get to Eagle, where we went in for a thaw break.
The most severe weather let up when we went back out at 12:30. Canyon/Eagle actually had some sun, which also resulted in the snow softening up in that region. The upper mountain remained socked in. We skied 2 runs on Eagle, then to Canyon via Blue Jay. When we got there Chair 16 was open so we rode that and skied trees near its liftline where we had seen good winter snow riding up. Up 16 again we went in to the trees between Wall Street and Lost in the Woods. We skied the cut of the original chair 10 that was removed when Gold Rush was built.
This was the only place sheltered enough for me to be motivated to get the camera out Tuesday.
We rode 2 and were pleased to see than chair 1 had opened. We skied a couple of the race course runs before Liz went to the Mill as she was getting cold. I took another run through the slope between Powder Bowl and Broadway that’s normally full of trees, most of which are buried now. My last 3 runs were Rodger’s Ridge (dust on crust, not recommended), a traverse from Gold Rush to the bowl below the Avy Chutes (bad vis, but windsift so deep it didn’t matter), and another run through the old chair 10 trees. Total was 17,700 vertical, a marginal morning but some interesting spots in the afternoon with more lifts open.
The town of Mammoth has been considerably warmer than the mountain so the snowbanks are shrinking. But this is what a vacant property (formerly the Chart House restaurant) looks like after the winter of 2016-17.
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