In the April 1998 Inside Tracks Mammoth Resort Guide I wrote: "Mammoth is not an ideal mountain for powder because its best terrain will be closed during storms. When the top finally opens, sometimes the new snow will be windpacked or avalanche blasted rather than deep powder. The deep snow will be in the protected parts off Chairs 9, 12 and 14, plus Chair 22 for experts." The past week is a perfect illustration of this point. The snow was even denser and more wind-affected Tuesday than on Sunday.
I awoke 5:30AM in Bishop, called Caltrans to determine the road was open and headed up immediately. After a big breakfast at the Stove I was parked at Chair 2 and ready to go by 8:30. While the lift was moving they did not let anyone on until 8:55. Although the storm had ended about 10PM Monday, there was still lots of work needed to open lifts after 95 inches in 31 hours. From dawn through most of the morning the skies were clear. Unfortunately the wind was howling at unloading areas of the lower lifts, and it was clear that upper (G2 and 23) and outlying (9, 12, 14) lifts would not run, and probably not even the middle ones (3, 5, 22)
Chair 1 was open, but its steeper terrain was off-limits, so I took 3 runs in the Roger's Ridge area, returning to chair 2 and waiting for chair 10 to open so I could move to the more sheltered (and I hoped powdery) Canyon Lodge side of the mountain. I was actually in the right place, because delayed openings of chair 10 (11AM) and 16 (noon) meant horrendous lift lines on 4, 8 and 17 near Canyon Lodge. On my 3rd lap of 10 I went off the back and skied some low angle stunted trees near chair 25. Here the wind had created waves of snow that were often an ordeal, so I after a couple more runs I was beat and went into Canyon Lodge for an extended break.
I came out at 2PM, and it was now completely overcast and the wind was even stronger. But to my pleasant surprise I saw chair 22 start running at 2:30 (just like Sunday, also in foul weather). So I got in 4 runs, Shaft, Viva, Grizzly and Avalanche 1, before they closed the lift at 3:45. Chairs 3 and 5 never opened.
North facing steeps like the Avalanche Chutes were windpacked and firmer than Sunday. The only powder was on some east aspects, and if you didn't get there first the chowder was heavy enough to bounce you around quite a bit, even on fat skis.
So I was not tempted to hang around for the top to open today. Given the exposure to 80-100 mph winds up there I don't think many face shots were had today.
I was obviously disappointed given the mouth-watering view from afar as I drove into town at dawn. But storms like this are the reason we are still skiing in July, so I'm not really complaining.
I didn't take many pics as I didn't want to stop much while skiing, and in the wind it was not pleasant to take a glove off to mess with a camera.
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