Mammoth, CA Nov. 10 and 11, 2021


Active member
Wednesday 11/10/21
I left San Jose a little before 7 and drove to South Lake Tahoe Tues PM. Without much traffic and even with 40 miles of lowered to 45 mph speed limit on US-50 from well before Caldor Fire burn zone to Meyers, and waiting for passing lanes to get by a couple of people going 35, I was in SLT not much after 10:30. Wednesday morning, I left SLT about 6 and stopped for gas and fast food in Gardnerville. Sunrise on way there.

After gearing up and riding shuttle from not running chair 2 parking, I was on chair 1 by 9:30. I skied it once to warm up and Liz spotted me in line on my 2nd lap so I waited at top for her. Tony Crocker soon joined us and rode upper gondola to the top and skied Dave’s.

They reported 7-9” new on previous day when it was still storming (and we heard it may have ra—ed to the top) and storm total of 9-11”. Upper gondola was a little late opening and Climax and chair 23 were both open for first time this year. Our run of the day was Dave’s which we repeated 4x and had great wind-packed powder. Random skier on Dave’s.

After lunch, we skied Drop Out 1 and 3 and Wipe Out 1, entering from 2 to avoid rocks at top. All had good snow, but it was a lot of tough skiing for my first day of the season. Will wear less clothes tomorrow as I was too warm all day even after removing vest and only wearing shell jacket. Tony and I quit a little after 3:30. My watch showed over 19K. Besides walking dog, my only recent workout was walking up 120 steps from parking lot to our unit in Cabo a few times most days for a week, often after eating or drinking too much.

Thursday 11/11/21
I skied 830-230 without taking a lunch break, then did the long drive home via Gardnerville and Kirkwood from 3-9. Monitor Pass re-opened Thurs. which saves 10-15 miles and minutes, but means going from 5,000' by Topaz Lake to over 8,300' pass then back down to 5500' Markleeville (plus 8600' Carson Pass before KW). And going through Gardnerville ($3.79) saves on gas ($4.59 on Lockeford E of Stockton, CA) and gave me a few poor, slow choices for fast food. Gas prices in Lee Vining and Bridgeport are some of the highest in CA.


Snow was better on previous day, with groomed Cornice and World Cup being the exceptions. Thursday Mammoth was running chair 11 for beginner terrain. They have been grooming Solitude on chair 5 which probably won't open until you can ski down to base of chair 2 which they have only been using for uploading on busier days (Fri-Sun).

I skied Dave's 5x, Rock Garden once and Cornice at least twice. Snow on Dave's was not as good as yesterday as there was some upslope wind, but it was still good enough to make the slog out there and back. Pictures are Tony Crocker (last two) and Liz (first three) skiing Dave's.





Liz always went through the narrow part skiers right of rocks while Tony and I usually went left of the rocks where entry is steeper and more exposed although I did the right a couple of times on Thursday and Tony went further right to Roma’s once. My watched counted almost 22K.

Tony Crocker

Staff member
We opted for our second ski trip of the season once we saw that Mammoth got 9-11 inches from 2-10AM Tuesday. This was a small but still high water content storm and it ended with the rain/snow line rising to Main Lodge level at least. Patches of icy snow led some to believe it rained all the way up, but I saw ample evidence otherwise. With the thin base, snow near large rocks will melt/freeze, and some wind exposed locations get polished to hardpack. But anything with decent pitch and an adequate snowpack above 10,000 feet is all winter snow and likely to stay that way in low angle November sun.

We did not get out that early Wednesday, but the top did not open until after 10AM. We headed up there after a couple of warmup groomers on Broadway and Andy's. Since the October storm, snowmaking opportunities have been limited, and I'd say Broadway got most of the attention in terms of coverage. The race course runs had a shiny gloss before Tuesday's storm, and even with the new snow and grooming were firm packed both Wednesday and Thursday. Fascination's lower section is diverted over to Broadway because the lower part burned off during the two weeks between storms.

Above 10,000 feet very little of October's snow was lost, and there were places where you could see the base had increased vs. two weeks ago. This view from top of chair 1 is of the West Bowl and the face of 3.


West Bowl has fairly wide coverage now and you can also ski a tighter line down the chair 3 lift line that didn't have enough snow before. The sign at the top of the mountain is now at 5 feet vs. 4 on Oct. 29.

The new snow on the upper mountain was generally described as punchy, which means there was a wind crust that was often not supportable.. Having had that experience Oct. 29 on Scotty's I wanted to avoid it Wednesday. Out first upper run was Cornice, which had mostly the softer new snow down the middle. Riding the gondola we could see the wind crust first hand on Climax, which opened Wednesday for the first time this season.


This pic is from Thursday morning and note no one is skiing it.

Word of mouth on the gondola was that Dave's had the best snow, so we went there next.


View from top of Dave's across Rockgarden with McCoy station and snowmaking pond at distance:


Dave's had soft and smooth windbuff so we took two more laps before taking a lunch break in Main Lodge.

Meanwhile chair 23 had opened for the first time this season at noon. Mammoth Snowman was out Wednesday and did not ski the top at all, waiting for skiers to break up the crusty areas. But when we rode chair 23 around 1:30, I saw several skiable lines had already been broken up into soft skier pack.

Here's tseeb at the tip of Drop Out 1.


Halfway down:


We saw this big group of snowboarders inspecting Drop Out 2 from above.


I'm not sure you can get through that yet without taking air.

Up top again it's still clear skies, no wind and in the 40's. There are low clouds at distance in the San Joaquin Valley.


We next skied Drop Out 3, which is usually favored for sheltered wind deposition. Since the skiable lines are constrained by rocks in early season, it was nearly all skier packed by the time we got there. Lower down there was a lot of loose snow where Gremlin's converges with upper St. Anton. Lower St. Anton is not yet deep enough to groom, so Liz said the snow in there was choppy much like Oct. 29. Tseeb and I avoided that by crossing Gremlin's to World Cup and returned to chair 23.

We then ventured to the Wipe Out side of 23. The direct entry to Wipe Out 1 is still rocky so we traversed across Wipe Out 2. Wipe Out 2 and the Hump had not yet been skied enough to break up the wind crust but Wipe Out 1 was good.


Skier packed snow continued partway down the apron.


Eventually we traversed under the lift so we could exit via World Cup. On that last 23 ride we saw the crescent moon over Saddle Bowl under the gondola.


Tseeb and I took a final run on Dave's and finished up with face and back of 3. I skied 18,500 vertical.

Thursday we packed and got out early but took over 45 minutes to get on the hill due to shuttle bus logistics with chair 2 remaining closed. Chair 2 looks about the same as on Oct. 29, meaning most of the October snow melted out.

Second day after a storm Mammoth usually does a lot of grooming. But that's very constrained on the lower mountain with the thin snowpack. So we started with Saddle Bowl behind 3, then Cornice. Groomed Cornice was mostly soft and smooth, so we took two more laps.


By mid-afternoon some rocks had been exposed at the skier's left entry. There was also some localized upslope wind.

View of chair 23 and the Minarets from the gondola:

Mammoth moved enough snow around to reopen the beginner chair 11 Thursday.


This was some of the prep work Wednesday.

We took 4 laps out Dave's.


It was still good but not quite as much loose snow on top as on Wednesday. I explored variations Thursday. Far skier's right Roma's had a glazed though supportable crust, not recommended. Rockgarden around 1PM had spring snow from midway on down but unlike Oct. 29 remained hardpack on the upper part.

We usually traversed back to face of 3 past the fumarole, but once we skied China Bowl, which in early season has this choke point.


We were getting tired but still had to check out chair 23. Drop Outs 1 and 3 skied as well on Thursday as on Wednesday and the packed out lines were a bit wider so more forgiving. World Cup had spring conditions but had been improved by grooming Wednesday night.

By mid-afternoon the warm weather and traffic had developed clumps of spring snow on Broadway. Andy's was the best way down the hill then even though upper steep part was still somewhat firm. I skied 21,400 vertical before we caught the shuttle bus and got on the road home about 3PM.

This must be the most unusual early season I've ever experienced. Most early seasons start out with manmade groomers. Last season I started with 5 days of 100% groomers and did not touch ungroomed snow until Jan. 27. These three days at Mammoth had varied and interesting off piste skiing off the top but groomed skiing is limited and with lesser snow quality.

So skiing groomers as a way to pace oneself at the start of the season was not much of an option. Even Energizer Bunny tseeb was getting tired by early afternoon Thursday. These conditions will persist through the weekend with ongoing warm weather. That also means no snowmaking to repair or expand lower mountain runs. That should change next week with several days of cooler weather forecast. Perhaps that means chair 2 can be skiable by the weekend of Nov. 20-21. This weekend chair 2 will be avaible for upload only as on opening weekend.

This is only the fifth season where I've skied as many as three days by the end of November, and Nov. 11 is the earliest date for day #3.
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Tony Crocker

Staff member
We noticed grooming of Solitude, but speculated that chair 5 would not run until you could ski the Comeback Trail down to chair 2. I was wrong about that: chair 5 is listed open today. It looks like you can only get there via Dave's Run or Coyote and must exit via Christmas Bowl and face of 3. Solitude is the only listed open trail on chair 5 though I'm sure some people will explore.

Tony Crocker

Staff member
Yes completely sure. With deep snowpack Drop Out 3 becomes continuous from the Cornice, the area which is labelled Drop Out 1 in Snowman's picture. He has Drop Out 3 labelled in the apron well below any of the defined chutes.


Active member
Surprisingly to me, Sonora Pass, which saves about 40 minutes and 50 miles between San Jose and Mammoth compared to taking Carson Pass and Gardnerville, re-opened on Mon 11/15. My drive home would still be 5 1/2 hrs according to Apple maps without stops. (Google maps still sends me past Kirkwood). If I go again, I'd probably only use it on return as I spend night in South Lake Tahoe then get up early enough to be at Mammoth near opening and fill-up on less expensive Nevada gas. Seems like it could be open for a while as no big storms are in prediction until near end of month. There are some colder nights coming soon which should allow snowmaking.


Thanks for reports, including some beautiful pictures.

Tony C: "This must be the most unusual early season I've ever experienced. Most early seasons start out with manmade groomers. Last season I started with 5 days of 100% groomers and did not touch ungroomed snow until Jan. 27. These three days at Mammoth had varied and interesting off piste skiing off the top but groomed skiing is limited and with lesser snow quality."

Just before I read the statement above I was thinking: wow, considering it was mid-Nov, Mammoth is skiing far, far better than a standard early season WROD!

Never been to Mammoth. Thinking about going there for a few days in late spring 2022.

Tony Crocker

Staff member
George Skelton in the LA Times yesterday published a breakdown of California gas prices:
Crude $2.00
Standard Refining $1.00
Distribution $0.40
Taxes $0.85
Anti-smog refining plus cap-and-trade $0.56
The above add to $4.81 which is about right for regular in urban SoCal today.

The excess vs. an average US state should be the 56 cents plus 29 cents of the taxes.

As for the remote places, when my son Andrew lived in Eureka he learned that small tanker trucks are needed for some secondary roads, and the limited supply of those trucks results in a healthy markup. Humboldt County prices are typically about 50 cents more than urban California. Mono County is worse, close to $1 more than even down the road in Bishop. Big Sur is probably the worst case scenario for road delivery. We were there in the Tesla but I read shortly afterwards of gas there being well over $7.

jimk: wow, considering it was mid-Nov, Mammoth is skiing far, far better than a standard early season WROD!
That is still true, and a couple of weeks of snowmaking on the lower mountain should restore a more normal balance of terrain.
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Active member
Story on Bridgeport and Lee Vining gas prices in Wall Street Journal at - behind paywall for me. Picture is Lee Vining, but person in story must live in Bridgeport which is about 80 miles from Carson City. Lee Vining is about 25 miles further and more expensive in my experience and in photos posted above (except for diesel).

I saw chair 2 is now open and Mambo trail allows skiing back to it. I'm thinking about returning to ski Mammoth Tues/Wed 11/30-12/1 and have already booked a cancelable room. On way there, I will try to get to South Tahoe well before dark this time to check on cabin and pickup some pine needles. I'm counting on Sonora Pass staying open. If I don't go those days, I would not be able to until the next mid-week.

Tony Crocker

Staff member
Mammoth Snowman predicted that Mambo would be open in time for Thanksgiving. He's now predicting a run to chair 4 also to alleviate the parking situation. Nonetheless I would avoid weekends/holidays until more terrain opens. Normal December weather should allow most lower runs to open on snowmaking before Christmas.

No natural snow is expected through the end of November. We aren't available to ski again until Dec. 14 in any case.