Mt. Baldy, CA, Apr. 20, 2019

Tony Crocker

Staff member
This is the last weekend of SoCal skiing. April snow in SoCal is usually the consistency of Mammoth snow in June/July so flat terrain (Snow Valley) or congested slopes (Big Bear) are not a good idea.

Add in the convenience factor and Garry Klassen's favorable review two weeks ago, and I decided to check out what was left of Baldy. I called first as most of SoCal was under a thick marine layer all day. But the mountains were above it, as is common in spring here.

While I was confident of a decent afternoon spring snow surface, I knew coverage might be limited. The Notch area and sun exposed slopes beyond were to no surprise bare of snow.

Beginner Gulch had also melted out. Here's the view of Thunder from the top of Chair 1.

Long time employee Nick drove a 7 passenger van between the above location and the base of Thunder. My timing wasn't great as I had to wait 15 minutes for it. I got to the base of Thunder at 12:45PM

The main open runs to the Thunder base were Emile's (left) and Skyline (right).

Higher up Liftline has lost too much snow over the past two weeks to be skiable any more.

But upper Emile's at right had two wide open fall lines plus more north facing variations through the trees.

Shortcut passing under the lift had quite smooth corn.

The reason was that lower Robin's had lost most of its snow.

There were two short sections down there where you had to take your skis off and walk.

The trees between Liftline and Robin's were good too.

This run required the same short walks. Thus I skied just those two runs ending in Robin's.

So my other 10 runs were on Skyline, Emile's and variations. After 3PM the bottom pitch of Skyline was developing a thin area, but 2/3 of the way down Skyline, the Tortilla Flats cutoff to lower Emile's remained well covered.

I decided to finish my day on Goldridge, where I noticed continuous coverage while waiting for the van.

The Fire Road was covered to Goldridge's entry, but few people skied it due to the gulch at the bottom being bare. Thus big suncups had formed at its entry and some smaller ones lower down.

As it was 3:30PM the snow was forgiving even when not that smooth here.

I thought the grunt work of hiking the upper half of Beginner Gulch would be better than waiting for the van shuttle again, but I got lucky. Another employee was driving a golf cart up the gulch just as I was starting to walk and gave me a ride.

Overall this was a worthwhile ski day. I left home at 11AM, was home by 5:30PM and got in 12,500 vertical of skiing on good terrain and decent spring snow.
This was on the late side for a SoCal ski day, but overall 2018-19 was nothing to write home about here. We still have not had an overall good season by my definition since 2009-10: Note that from 1976-2010 we averaged a good season here about one out of three years.

2018-19 was similar to 2016-17 with above average snowfall but excessive rain. 2018-19 had 12 days of rain instead of snow in the SoCal ski areas, just shy of the record 13 rain days in 2016-17 and well beyond the prior record of 9 days in 1996-97. 2018-19 was slightly better than 2016-17 due to a cooler March with some new snow to extend the spring season longer. Personally 2018-19 was much better than 2016-17 for SoCal skiing because we were home when it was best this year but not in 2016-17. Liz also got to ski Mt. Waterman's opening powder day Feb. 23 when I was in Canada.

If you want to see what spring skiing at Baldy is like during a good year, check out this TR from April 16, 2005: viewtopic.php?t=973
Thunder still had wall-to-wall coverage including South Bowl, and Chair 4 was still open to ski while waiting for Thunder to soften in the morning.

Nonetheless Baldy is still worth skiing when only Thunder Mt. is open once the snow has settled to spring corn. Garry skied there 8 days in late March and early April. Most of these were similar to the day he and I skied March 20, 2017: viewtopic.php?t=12365

Since it's so deserted midweek, Baldy cut back to Friday-Monday for April 4-8, then Saturday-Sunday the past two weekends. Due to schedule conflicts or weather I couldn't ski any of those until yesterday.

Since Thunder Mt. faces NW, much ungroomed terrain can remain firm to 1 or 2PM. In late March this year Baldy extended its closing time on Thunder to 5:15PM. That's a positive move which I'll be looking for in future spring seasons.
Was there a lot of 4/20 action on the mountain? I remember seeing a fair amount of it up there on regular days before it was legal, so I'm guessing legal and 4/20 would be a hazy combination for Mt. Baldy.
There was a platform with speakers set up near the top of Thunder. There were always a handful of people hanging out there. They started playing music around 3PM and the number of people was gradually increasing but I left at 3:30. With Thunder spinning until 5:15 I'm sure the festivities became livelier later on. I smelled something up there maybe once in 13 lift rides, but I'm sure baldyskier's premise is reasonable. Sunday was closing day so maybe there was more celebration then. Shifty Rider would know more than I do.
Playlist after Tony bailed...

Styles P - Good Times
Notorious Thugs - Notorious Thugs
CSNY - Wooden Ships
Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit
Pink Floyd - Wish You Were There
Jason Aldean - Dirt Road Anthem
Nice pic. It's easy to spray powder but takes more talent to get heavy spring slush that high in the air.
When I telemark in velvety slush it comes down on top of my head the whole way down. For powder, I recall the last or second to last season of Mammoth's old Chair 5 the snow piled up real deep under the lift and you could spray the liftriders if you weren't careful...