Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

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Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:28 am

Mammoth has had no snow in December after just 30 inches in November. The 19 inches that I skied October 7 melted out completely. This is the driest start to a season since 1999-2000 and no snow is expected for at least the next week. When I was working, and certainly before MVP when I was buying day tickets, I would never drive to Mammoth under these conditions. My primary motivation for this trip was to demo boots. Gory details here: viewtopic.php?f=8&t=9890

So this is the first time I've seen Mammoth in an ongoing process of covering terrain exclusively with snowmaking. If you go you will be skiing exclusively on groomers. For those of you tempted to explore, Here's a typical overview of the upper mountain from Thursday morning.
IMG_1713.JPG

The Drop Out side has some natural base. However we know the first big dump after an extended drought will generate tons of avalanche activity.

Out towards Scotty's/Paranoids Mammoth is pretty much starting from square one.
IMG_1704.JPG


Same with chair 5, Climax in far background
IMG_1708.JPG


On Thursday they were blowing snow on upper Solitude so the new high speed chair 5 could open Friday.
IMG_1709.JPG

Dave's in far background has a solid base on top with some exposed ice.

The chair 15 area is lower and more sun exposed. But note there is some snow beneath the chair while there is almost none on the steeper sunny side of Lincoln Mt. in the background.
IMG_1730.JPG


I make the title comment about Big Bear because I'm familiar with the priority of blowing snow there, and it's interesting to see the same process at Mammoth. Most of the runs between chairs 1 and 2 are open. The steepest open runs are the race course runs, which are in use by racers all morning and maybe one of them in the early afternoon. Patrolmen's was not open yet but they were blowing snow on it Friday. Saddle Bowl is open from the back of 3 and Cornice from the top. Wind was strong only at the very top and I did get sandblasted in the face dropping into Cornice. According to Staley Mammoth has been blowing snow on the face of 3 for a week as seen here.
IMG_1724.JPG

It's a lengthy process up here as much of that snow ends up in Saddle Bowl and upper St. Anton.
IMG_1726.JPG


Canyon/Eagle opened Wednesday Dec. 14, and on the next day I would describe the trail network east of chair 2 as skeletal. As in the early stages at Big Bear, basically one run was open to serve each chair: Rollercoaster for chair 4, Downhill for chair 16, Roundabout/Little Bird for chair 17, Swell for chair 8 and Bridges for chair 15. Holiday/Pumpkin (very flat) were open to access the bases of chairs 9 and 25. They blew snow at the base of 25 and also on the ridge above Gold Rush's top station, so I think they may want to open 25 by Christmas. Chickadee is open to get from Eagle to Canyon and only Easy Rider is open to get from the Canyon side of the mountain to Chair 2. Also, when exiting Gold Rush the only open trail is around the knoll to Solitude. When 5 opened Friday with only upper Solitude, lower Solitude was pretty intense for skier density combining all of the traffic exiting 2 high speed chairs.

The good news for snowmaking is that Mammoth's weather is very reliable to do it 24/7, so a couple of new runs may open each day. In addition to Solitude, Avalanche between chairs 4 and 16 plus a small connector trial opened Friday. The South Park terrain features were getting final touches Friday and will probably open this weekend. They are blowing snow on the beginner chair 7 so it should be available for the holidays.

Surfaces were at least 75% "normal" packed powder. There were scattered firm spots, inevitable with skier traffic over manmade, but with Mammoth's midwinter temperatures and exposure nothing anyone could call a melt/freeze. Temps were below average, probably upper teens most of the time, but the one time I got up top midday Thursday it was 8F.

We were teased with a few flurries around 2PM Thursday and there was a trace of snow overnight. This did nothing to improve coverage but certainly made the upper mountain look nicer.
IMG_1723.JPG

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In the early morning thin clouds and perhaps snowmaking mist contributed to a sunbow.
IMG_1719.JPG

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The official opening of the new chair 5 was at 1PM Friday. People start to gather as we ride Gold Rush.
IMG_1732.JPG


Lots of us there by the time it opens.
IMG_1735.JPG


Woolly giving High Fives (the official name of the new lift) at the top.
IMG_1742.JPG

The new location at the base of Dry Creek/Coyote will offer better fall line skiing plus Coyote as alternate access. You better be there when 5 opens on a powder day, because it will be pillaged in about half an hour though. When chair 3 went high speed, increased traffic seemed to reduce the late season (mid-May onwards) coverage some. 5's terrain is more expansive so I expect less of an issue there. Time will tell.

This report perhaps overemphasizes the negative. There are 450 acres of skiing, far more than anywhere else in California, and surfaces are good. Without snowmaking Mammoth would not even be open, as was the case in Decembers of 1976 and 1986. The mountain was empty Thursday and only a few spots like that Solitude merge were congested Friday, and of course 5 had just opened and was temporarily running at full capacity. It's fun skiing for a couple of days, although for more than that I would find it a bit repetitive since it's all groomers. I'll make my usual editorial comment about early vs. late season by noting that last July 4 (or an average Memorial Day) offers far more diverse, challenging and comfortable skiing than what's up there now.

Going forward I think Christmas "zoo week" will be horrendous when you put huge crowds on ~500 acres of manmade. But based upon the last bad season in 2006-07 I expect ongoing snowmaking will fill in the entire lower mountain by mid-January. There were 38 inches natural snow between Dec. 9-21 that season, which also means this Christmas will be worse. But January 2007 had only 11 inches, and I was pleasantly surprised by the lower mountain coverage and surface conditions over MLK weekend that season.
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby jtran10 » Sat Dec 17, 2011 3:33 pm

Looking like I'll be moving to socal this spring. Thanks for the Mammoth report Tony, fun to learn about a new mountain from afar.
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby Admin » Sat Dec 17, 2011 6:32 pm

jtran10 wrote:Looking like I'll be moving to socal this spring.


Really? Do tell.
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby Marc_C » Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:31 pm

jtran10 wrote:Looking like I'll be moving to socal this spring.

That's too bad. My condolences. :wink:
Last edited by Marc_C on Sun Dec 18, 2011 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby Tony Crocker » Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:29 pm

Where does jtran10 live now?
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Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby skibum4ever » Sat Dec 17, 2011 11:49 pm

Excellent report and photos, Tony.

We were up at Mammoth the weekend before, and are now in CO where conditions are also minimal. Doing some skiing and some work on the condos.
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby jtran10 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:37 am

Admin wrote:
jtran10 wrote:Looking like I'll be moving to socal this spring.


Really? Do tell.


The company I work for opened a small office in Carlsbad about a year ago. I was given the opportunity to go live and work out there, so my girlfriend and I are gonna go and try something new. Almost 20 years in VT is enough for me right now, and I'm ready for a change (but don't want to leave this job).

Parents and I will be in UT first week of March. I lucked out and am taking a work trip in February to CA so I'm going to tack on a couple days and visit some friends from UVM that are working at Mammoth this year too.
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby SoCal Rider » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:27 am

jtran10 wrote:
Admin wrote:
jtran10 wrote:Looking like I'll be moving to socal this spring.


Really? Do tell.


The company I work for opened a small office in Carlsbad about a year ago. I was given the opportunity to go live and work out there, so my girlfriend and I are gonna go and try something new. Almost 20 years in VT is enough for me right now, and I'm ready for a change (but don't want to leave this job).

Parents and I will be in UT first week of March. I lucked out and am taking a work trip in February to CA so I'm going to tack on a couple days and visit some friends from UVM that are working at Mammoth this year too.


A new Baldy (CA) skier!
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby egieszl » Sun Dec 18, 2011 2:15 pm

Finally, a Baldy comment. Maybe he can join their lifetime pass (oh, I meant scam) program to take advantage of the awesome conditions and fine Baldy amenities.

Tony, great trip report from Mammoth. I really enjoy reading your analysis of the mountain. Seems to me that Snow Summit and Bear Mountain have Mammoth beat at the moment for conditions and terrain open.
2018-19 ski season stats- Vertical: 1,328,039, Days: 55, Lift rides: 814, Top day vertical: 53,363;
Total past 12 seasons- Vertical: 14,120,078, Days: 557, Lift rides: 8,869, Top day vertical: 64,867;
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Dec 18, 2011 3:40 pm

egieszl wrote:Seems to me that Snow Summit and Bear Mountain have Mammoth beat at the moment for conditions and terrain open.

I would say skiable terrain and surface conditions are essentially the same. Since Big Bear is a daytrip and Mammoth a much longer drive requiring lodging, I agree Big Bear is the better call for 95+% of SoCal skiers at the moment. My circumstances were different, mainly the need to test boots and get them fitted by someone competent.

a small office in Carlsbad about a year ago... Almost 20 years in VT is enough for me right now

We've :dead horse: on this comparison quite a bit. If you're flexible to take off powder days on short notice you will get far more of them in Vermont than in SoCal. If you have to plan ahead you'll appreciate Mammoth's consistency, this year's slow start notwithstanding. The longer spring season is what you should enjoy particularly out here. Also, when you take a week's vacation Tahoe and Utah are within reasonable drive distance.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby jtran10 » Sun Dec 18, 2011 4:58 pm

jtran10 wrote:a small office in Carlsbad about a year ago... Almost 20 years in VT is enough for me right now

Tony Crocker wrote:We've :dead horse: on this comparison quite a bit. If you're flexible to take off powder days on short notice you will get far more of them in Vermont than in SoCal. If you have to plan ahead you'll appreciate Mammoth's consistency, this year's slow start notwithstanding. The longer spring season is what you should enjoy particularly out here. Also, when you take a week's vacation Tahoe and Utah are within reasonable drive distance.


I have the flexibility to take off time for the most part, but at this point I'd rather use the limited time to do other things (than ski another "normal" VT storm. Call me spoiled if you want).

I like the prospect of surfing before/after work, skiing a couple days at Baldy/Waterman spur of the moment when conditions are worth my $50, spending a long spring at Mammoth, and caching the quick flight to SLC throughout the winter.

I'm sure there's a way I could work out a couple different value passes and make this happen. Does Mammoth offer a spring pass like the Bird?
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby Tony Crocker » Sun Dec 18, 2011 6:14 pm

No spring pass at Mammoth. If you get buy a season pass in April for the next season it is also good from late April of the current season. MVP break even is in the area of 9-10 days, a couple more days if they don't reopen MVP.

skiing a couple days at Baldy/Waterman

Do not put yourself in the position of being dependent upon this. In ~30% of seasons there is never enough snow to be worth skiing those areas at all. In another 30% there's maybe only one good month. The most economical arrangement is to set up a pass and ongoing lodging arrangement at Mammoth like Staley or my son Adam.
http://bestsnow.net
Ski Records
Season length: 21 months, Nov. 29, 2010 - July 2, 2012
Days in one year: 80 from Nov. 29, 2010 - Nov. 17, 2011
Season vertical: 1,610K in 2016-17
Season powder: 291K in 2011-12
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Re: Mammoth = Big Bear, Dec. 15-16, 2011

Postby egieszl » Mon Dec 19, 2011 6:15 pm

Tony, I'm glad you went to Mammoth. I enjoyed your photos. It reminds me of 1986.

I just arrived in Snowmass. There is a shortage of snow here as well. Actually, it looks about the same as it did over Thanksgiving.
2018-19 ski season stats- Vertical: 1,328,039, Days: 55, Lift rides: 814, Top day vertical: 53,363;
Total past 12 seasons- Vertical: 14,120,078, Days: 557, Lift rides: 8,869, Top day vertical: 64,867;
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