Mt. Baldy, CA, Feb. 11, 2024

Tony Crocker

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On a very rare SoCal weekend with ski areas in full operation with winter snow conditions I decided to brave potential crowds.
1) Conditions rated to be optimal as Friday was cloudy and Saturday windy, so the usual SoCal melt/freeze was unlikely.
2) Liz has lots of doctor/dentist appointments scheduled between our Euro and Canada trips, so this was one of her few free days.
3) Maybe Super Bowl Sunday would cut down the crowds.

We arrived at Baldy just before 8AM. I dropped Liz in the ticket line, then parked and we took turns booting up. We got tickets at 8:25 same as I did Thursday. Chair 1 started loading at 8:33 but at about 1/3 capacity for about 15 minutes before the loading became a more normal 3/4 capacity. Liz took a short break from the chair 1 line.
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You can see the chair 1 line going down the hill. The second level of parking is nearly full and a line of arriving cars is on the third level.

We loaded Chair 1 at 9:20 and then Thunder at 9:40. This is definitely a win on a Baldy weekend with good conditions.

Mountain Report: Sunday 2/11​

Clear skies, 10 to 15 mph NE winds gusting to 35. Temps with wind chill down to 10 degrees. ALL LIFTS EXPECTED TO OPERATE. Dry wind packed powder conditions with excellent coverage. This is about as good as Baldy gets right now.
This was accurate except for the ALL LIFTS EXPECTED TO OPERATE. Thunder blackboard:
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Chair 4 never opened either Saturday or Sunday due to unclear mechanical issues. Overview of well covered Thunder Mt:
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With no chair 4 I feared that Thunder's liftline would get bad by 11AM or so. But it remained in the 5 minute range most of the time we were there, with a peak about 10 minutes around 12:30. I think a significant part of Baldy's crowd (parking, ticket line, chair 1) was sightseers.

We warmed up on well groomed fire Road/Bonanza and irregularly groomed Shortcut/Robins.
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The grooming did not matter because the snow was soft packed powder with scattered windsift, better than most of our recent days in the Alps.

Saturday's wind has closed Thunder for part of the day. It also left a lot of sastrugi at the top of Emile's.
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This discouraged some people from skiing it, but past it there were a couple of narrow fall lines of smooth windbuff.
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Boundary sign near top of Thunder has a considerable load of rime.
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Skyline was not groomed. Snow built up in waves but it was very soft and forgiving.
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Toilet Bowl variant path to Robin's:
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Looking down the steep bottom pitch of Goldridge at the beginner gulch:
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Idle chair 4 and its terrain are in the background.

I ventured through skier's left set of trees into South Bowl, view up:
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View down South Bowl with Baldy Peak in background:
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Snow in South Bowl was ~70% smooth windpack but not continuous. I did not return due the grunt work return traverse and that there were other places I wanted to check out. Tube, skier's left halfway down Skyline, did have continuously smooth windpack.

Our 13th and last run on Thunder was Liftline.
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Short steep pitch from Liftline into lower Robin's:
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Liz took a short break at the Notch and then skied Sugarpine to the bottom. I took two laps on chair 1.

I was going to ski Nightmare first but I noticed this chute before it.
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I have probably skied that only once or twice before as it needs a lot of coverage. The upper section was narrow and usually one turn at a time. The lower part widened and was perfectly smooth.
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My last run was Bentley's. The north facing pitches on its skier's left had been good Thursday but Saturday's wind left lots of sastrugi. I bailed into the main drainage of Bentley's which was so good I could ski it nonstop even at age 71.

We left at 2:55, got down to Claremont for radio reception just before Super Bowl kickoff and were home at the end of the first quarter. To no surprise the snowplayers were out in force. What was surprising was the traffic going up the hill at that hour was worse than our traffic going down.

I skied 16,400 vertical. This was another milestone for Liz' knee replacement. She never skied Baldy last season to avoid inflaming that knee and potentially interfering with our destination trips. This was a rare occasion where I predicted Baldy's snow conditions exactly right. The only disappointment was no chair 4. With current coverage and today's conditions, Eric's might have been a very impressive final run.
 
I love your report. Thank you for sharing. The conditions look pretty epic for Southern California's worst ski area! The pictures almost look like a Photoshop job and too good to be true! It's also unforgivable that you'd skip Snow Valley's Slide Peak for this place. :p

It's disappointing to see Mt. Baldy struggling with mechanical issues with their lifts. The "mountain report" said they had an issue with Chair 3 before the weekend, but Chair 4 would be ready to go. I have to wonder if they borrowed parts from Chair 4 to fix Chair 3.

Congratulations to Liz for her successful day. We're hoping to get my mother back on skis in a month after her knee replacement this past Fall. It's not an easy recovery.

Hopefully, the snow remains good and you can make some more turns at Baldy.
 
Thanks for this report, Gary! I just got back from a great Monday at Baldy and knowing what I was getting into snow-wise was very helpful.

Quick question: I did 3 Face runs down to the bottom of chair 1, but I can’t tell exactly which trails I skied. I’ve attached pics from my tracker app, one wider area one, and one zoomed in on the runs I did. With your Baldy knowledge, can you tell which ones they are?

Thank you!
 

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#14 and #16 are variations of Bentley's. #21 under the lift is Sugarpine. The other steep run looks like the trees skier's right of Nightmare. Looking up while riding chair 1, that area had smoother snow Sunday than the wide open part of Nightmare.

Congratulations to Liz for her successful day. We're hoping to get my mother back on skis in a month after her knee replacement this past Fall. It's not an easy recovery.
Liz would have been able to ski if it were the season by mid-October when she was climbing cliff dwelling ladders in Mesa Verde. And probably earlier if not for the setback of the July infection after the May 24 original surgery. If you were in decent shape before the surgery, the recovery is remarkably fast in terms of functionality. Liz was walking 3/4 of a mile around our block starting 3 days after surgery. So you don't get much of the muscle atrophy associated with injuries where the leg has to be immobilized for several weeks. But no question the pain during the first month after the replacement is intense. In addition to pain meds, Liz had an electric ice bucket that circulated cold water through a wrap around her knee.
 
#14 and #16 are variations of Bentley's. #21 under the lift is Sugarpine. The other steep run looks like the trees skier's right of Nightmare. Looking up while riding chair 1, that area had smoother snow Sunday than the wide open part of Nightmare.


Liz would have been able to ski if it were the season by mid-October when she was climbing cliff dwelling ladders in Mesa Verde. And probably earlier if not for the setback of the July infection after the May 24 original surgery. If you were in decent shape before the surgery, the recovery is remarkably fast in terms of functionality. Liz was walking 3/4 of a mile around our block starting 3 days after surgery. So you don't get much of the muscle atrophy associated with injuries where the leg has to be immobilized for several weeks. But no question the pain during the first month after the replacement is intense. In addition to pain meds, Liz had an electric ice bucket that circulated cold water through a wrap around her knee.
Thank you, TONY. And sorry for brain-farting your name wrong earlier. I really appreciate what you do here.
 
Skiing at Baldy looks quite good. I guess you timed that right.

Impressive Liz can handle everything with 'new' knee.

Were conditions better this year? Or late last year? Or very similar?
 
Chair 4 opened Feb. 14. But it's clear from today's report (highlights by me) that the storm of Feb. 18-20 did more harm from the two days of rain than good from any snow at the end.
Conditions:
Lift #1 - Very thin coverage, CLOSED until noon after the snow softens. EXPERT Skiers and Riders Only. Walk out required
Lift #2 - Excellent coverage groomed packed powder with terrain park features
Lift #3 - Excellent coverage, Bonanza, Short Cut to Robins and Skyline groomed. Look for southern exposures for best conditions on the Off Piste terrain otherwise firm.
Lift #4 - Good coverage, Turkey Shoot and Roller Coaster groomed look for soft snow in the Off Piste areas with southerly exposure. Firm in the shade.
One of Garry's friends skied Baldy yesterday and confirms that Thunder's ungroomed is crusty and unpleasant. That's a shame considering the outstanding surface conditions Liz and I enjoyed Feb. 11. If relegated to groomers, we might as well ski Mt. High or Big Bear. But note Mt. High East is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Sorry I missed ChrisC's question. Last year had better powder when fresh. But the windpacking this year made surfaces over the ensuing week much more pleasant.
 
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What’s with ‘social distance’ on the whiteboard? I haven’t heard that term since 2022.
My only contact with Baldy is through pix posted here but it seems to fly the olde-school flag defiantly -- and makes places like Vermont's Magic Mountain or Mad River Glen look up-to-date. Can someone remind me why neither of the duopoly ski corporations have bought the ski area and retrofitted it with new infrastructure?
 
Can someone remind me why neither of the duopoly ski corporations have bought the ski area and retrofitted it with new infrastructure?
This chart should answer that question. Most of the C's in that chart are due to Big Bear and its lake water source; Baldy is barely if all open most of those weekends. Note again that the last strong season in SoCal was 2009-10. This year won't score that high either because there were no weekends worthy of even a C score until the second weekend of January and the first major natural snow event (admittedly very major, 75 inches over 3 storms) was during the first week of February. There have already been 8 days of rain in the SoCal ski areas this season, and after the two last week Baldy is currently relegated to groomer skiing, which defeats the purpose of going there IMHO.

Baldy does not have enough water to even consider using on its steeper terrain. They only have enough for the tubing park, beginner gulch and two groomers on Thunder. Could they extend it to the two groomers on chair 4? Maybe, but those runs face south and in SoCal don't last long with sustained sunny weather. But again, if it's all groomer skiing, who is going to go there rather than to Mt. High or Big Bear with many more groomers? You can throw $$$ at lift infrastructure but you can't make water for snowmaking materialize out of thin air. This is not the Northeast or the Alps.

I remain convinced that the vast majority of Baldy's revenue comes from year round sightseers and secondarily from the tubing park.
 
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