Is Mt. Waterman Circling the Drain?

Tony Crocker

Staff member

Mt. Waterman website post is a lie:
News Update
The roads are still closed up to Mt. Waterman. We have not been able to get up there to get the mountain ready to open.
The lifts are closed this weekend.​

That Facebook post has 120 replies, few of them complimentary. On the way back from LAX Thursday I went into the downtown L.A. Caltrans office to bitch about the Angeles Crest being closed two weeks after a storm with 5,000 foot rain/snow line. I was given a public affairs phone number to call, which I intended to do tomorrow. This afternoon I looked up the Caltrans website, which says Hwy 2 was open to Islip Saddle. Then I guessed that there might be a Waterman Facebook page, which led me to the link above. A couple of people have skied Waterman this weekend via earned turns and one poster said the road has been open since Feb. 21.

Obviously it is difficult to staff an operation as erratic as Mt. Waterman. But posting an outright lie on your website that someone will surely refute can only antagonize your by now meager customer base.
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Update from Mt. Waterman website:
The roads are open through to Buckhorn by way of forest highway to upper big Tujunga to highway 2. We were able to get up there yesterday and there is 4-7 feet of snow, we are working on getting the lifts dug out to open soon.​
Two years ago there was snow in late December, it took them almost a month to get organized, and by the time they did the snowpack was diminished so they never opened. The early February 2024 storms dumped twice as much snow as in December 2021, so it will be interesting to see what happens this time.
Mt. Waterman is even more dependent on the quality of ungroomed skiing than Baldy. Grooming is only a couple of 400 vertical low intermediate runs on chair 2. I skied Baldy Feb. 8 & 11 in winter conditions. Waterman's road did not open until Feb. 21, which was after the heavy rain of Feb. 18-19. With more rain Feb. 26 and this past Friday night, and with rain/snow line near 7,500 feet yesterday, Mt. Waterman will not be worth skiing if it opens next weekend. Could there be good spring corn snow later? I doubt it without more snowfall as the base of chair 1 is 6,900 and the sidecountry runs end another 400 feet lower.
I can't believe the USFS hasn't yanked their permit.

Oh wait, yeah I can. I use to work for this goons down there and know how inept they can be.
I still place more of the blame on Caltrans. Baldy's road is open immediately after storms, though it may take another day or two to dig out and de-ice the lifts. If Caltrans won't open Highway 2 until 2 weeks after a storm, no one will ever ski powder at Waterman again. So that leaves spring skiing in the infrequent years with a super deep snowpack as the only times worth going there. And after the 4 days of rain since the first week of February dump, that's unlikely to happen this season.

Is it worth opening Mt. Waterman considering today's Baldy report (emphasis NOT mine!)?
We received 4" to 6" of new solid snow pack via an ICE STORM. Fluctuating snow levels played a big part in this past storm along with high winds.
  • Groomers - Stay on groomed runs. As always our state of the art grooming fleet will put a prime packed powder finish on our groomers with excellent coverage.
  • Off-Piste - MOST AREAS CLOSED, the majority of Off-Piste Terrain is wind scoured, firm and icy from the ICE STORM.
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You have a point, but it goes both ways.

I seem to remember the years I worked in the high country/Chilao (2003- 2006) was about when waterman starting consistently being closed due to all the permit/owner/ sporadic snow years, etc. Then, the big winter of 2004/5 started a whole new precedent with road damage/ repairs, viability, safety, cost, etc... with that section of road beyond the 6,000 ft gate all the way over to Vincent gap.

The Cal trans guys (some of which I knew fairly well at the time) had some not so subtle directives to stop plowing past the 6,000 ft gate since "waterman was never open". I'm sure some of that carried on for years to come. Once that stuff happens, sometimes it take a lot to change back.

So yeah, some of its definitely cal trans, but waterman really doesn't come across as being all that interested in reopening, either.
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The Cal trans guys (some of which I knew fairly well at the time) had some not so subtle directives to stop plowing past the 6,000 ft gate since "waterman was never open". I'm sure some of that carried on for years to come. Once that stuff happens, sometimes it take a lot to change back.
The years you cite were the Stubblefield ownership years, when they were having trouble with permits and running occasionally privately. After the Metcalf takeover I did get good powder at Mt. Waterman Saturday of President's Weekend in 2009. That was before the Station Fire and the never open drought years of 2012-2015. But Liz got powder at Mt. Waterman late February 2019 while I was in Canada. In both of these instances there was 2-3 feet of snow midweek and the road was open for the weekend.

I keep detailed records of SoCal skiing and have put season summaries on Mt. Waterman's wikipedia page since the Metcalf takeover. Starting 2019-20:
  • 2019-2020: Mt. Waterman received adequate snow from the Christmas storm but its road was closed for several days and there were further equipment delays. So it opened for the last two weekends of January but then closed. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic there was no possibility of running lifts after the March or April storms. But Mt. Waterman and the upper Angeles Crest was quite active with backcountry skiers after the April 6-10 storm until the heat wave hit a week and a half later.
  • 2020-2021: Mt. Waterman did not open in 2020-21 because Hwy 2 was closed for Bobcat Fire cleanup plus the fires damaged phone lines to the ski area.
  • 2021-2022: Mt. Waterman's road was closed for a week after the December storms and it did not have staff and equipment ready until February, when snowpack was inadequate to open.
  • 2022-2023: Mt. Waterman did not have enough snow to open until 8+ feet fell in late February. For several weeks the Angeles Crest Hwy was not plowed, and it was damaged by additional storms in March. The Angeles Crest Hwy reopened via upper Big Tujunga in October 2023.

Of those years, you can really only blame the 2019-20 and 2021-22 delays on Waterman's management, but if they had been timely they would only have been open 2-3 extra weekends. The road was legitimately closed for Bobcat Fire cleanup in 2020-21 and probably legitimately closed last season since it did not reopen until October. There is no question whatever the reasons, after 9 out of 17 years never opening at all, there is a prevailing impression that
waterman really doesn't come across as being all that interested in reopening
So when Mt. Waterman makes a blunder like the one in my first post, they get flamed fast and repeatedly.

Last weekend's weather was not kind to SoCal skiing as noted by the Baldy report I posted from yesterday. In addition, Slide Peak at Snow Valley and Geronimo at Bear Mt. were closed for at least a day while ice was being cleared from lift cables. There were pictures online of a big lift line at Snow Summit Monday waiting for its top-to-bottom lift cable to be cleared. In this context I would not be surprised if Waterman does not open unless there is more snow, and nothing significant is forecast anytime soon.
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Mt. Waterman was not open March 9-10 because the phone lines were down. This announcement was greeted on Facebook with derisive comments like, "The dog ate my homework."

But Today:

News on Opening SAT.
There is a delay in opening on Saturday 3/16 due to the winds this week. We will be opening Half day on Saturday 12:30pm
3/16 SAT. 12:30pm- 4:30pm
3/17 SUN. 9:30am-4:30pm​
There was 2-5 inches of new snow over a firm base. Reports on FB were surprisingly positive in view of this from Baldy:

Mountain Report: Saturday 3/16 - 7am​

Weather: A 20 percent chance of snow showers. Some thunder is also possible. Partly sunny, with a high near 40. Wind chill values as low as 20. North northwest wind around 10 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph.
Operations: All lifts are all expected to operate on time. Lifts 2, 3 and 4 for skiing and riding.
Conditions: Expect firm icy conditions in the Off Piste areas. Much of the areas known to be prone to ice conditions will be CLOSED. Venturing off the groomed runs will be unfun today unless the sun comes out and we are able to get some thawing on the sun exposures like on the West Side Chair #4.
Waterman is much less windy than Baldy, so perhaps that helped.
I have been on the road since March 7, not returning until about March 30. Waterman opened March 16 and my first full weekend home will be April 13-14. I’m not sure I’d be up for March 31 right after a likely long drive home from Colorado.
News Update


We will ONLY be open this SAT. 3/30 9:30-4:30
We will be CLOSED Easter Sun. 3/31​
WTF???? OpenSnow forecast is 14-24 inches from Friday night through Saturday.

Baldy will be closed Saturday during the storm, open Sunday with the expected new snow. Baldy will likely be a crowd junkshow Sunday with Chair 1 likely not skiable due to minimal base under the new snow, and who knows when Thunder Mt. will open? So Sunday is THE PERFECT SCENARIO FOR A WATERMAN POWDER DAY. And Caltrans will keep the road open DURING the storm Saturday? I keep wanting to ski Mt. Waterman again sometime but this backwards plan is an example reason it might not happen.

There is of course consternation on the Facebook page. The most reasonable explanation is that key employee(s) don't want to work on Easter Sunday.

We are driving home from Vegas today after 3 weeks of skiing. Only a nutcase would go skiing the next day at home but a Mt. Waterman powder day would be well worth it. Alas!
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I don't know if it had anything to do with the decision for Waterman to close, but I had heard the LA county roads were closing Angeles Forest Hwy (and probably Upper Big T) due to snowfall/severe storm potential. It has become a habit of theirs over about the last 20 years due to the massive amount of commuter traffic using the AFH section from the AV to LA, and the liability with so many people not knowing how to drive in snow and fear of rock/mudslides.

Of course, CalTrans (owned by the state) is responsible for the Hwy 2 portion of the Crest Hwy, so who knows if either of those had any bearance on whether or not that's why Waterman decided to close. It could have just been entirely Waterman being Waterman!
What I'm trying to say is, you might be blaming the wrong people (CalTrans) for the closure on Saturday. According to posts on the Waterman FB page, LA county had "county roads" Big T and AFH closed on Saturday, but State Hwy 2 might have officially been open... at least that's what some people said when they got to the barricades and told LA county they were going to Waterman, and were allowed to go past.

Of course, who knows the real truth. The communication between these jurisdictions (and the USFS, as well as business') was notoriously poor when I worked up there.
Mt. Waterman was open Saturday! Caltrans had nothing to do with Waterman being closed Sunday IMHO, had to be not enough employees.
News Update

We will be open Sat. 4/6/24 9:30-4:30
Closed on Sun. 4/7/24​

So now we have a one day-a-week ski area. This has to be a staffing issue. Before anyone asks, we will be in Mazatlan April 6-11.

I believe Waterman's situation has become more difficult with no caretaker on site. IMHO this is why there were delays due to equipment in 2022 and the phone line this year.
where are the eclipse photos from Mazatlan??
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This weekend April 13-14 Mt. Waterman is open Sunday but not Saturday as there is a storm Saturday night. It's not a big enough storm to get me up there after the week we were in Mexico was warm. We are also going to Mammoth next Wednesday-Friday during the last week before Canyon/Eagle close.