Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the western US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.
Thu May 30, 2019 8:02 am
Mammoth got 28 inches snow May 16-24, more than twice as much as from April 1 – May 15.
On Saturday I got on the hill just after 8AM, took a warmup run on the face of 3 as the top was in a cloud.
I then took Gold Rush to check out chair 9, which had not been open for the past 4 weeks. I traversed out Ricochet twice to get on the snow before it got chewed by traffic and/or May sun.
The upper chute was windpacked winter snow. The open area below had a thin zipper crust which was manageable as it was smooth with few tracks. Farther down the surface was softening in the morning sun.
After a third smooth chair 9 run on Gold Hill/Slot I noticed the cloud had lifted off the top so I got to McCoy Station about 10AM and took one run on Climax before the upper gondola line got out of hand. I skied to Main Lodge to this view.
The lower gondola line extended down the stairs and across the snow to chair 1, probably the first time I’ve seen that. Notice that chairs 1 and 11 are also busy and the Main Lodge sundeck is full too. The snowpack no longer reaches that deck as it did 2 years ago and 4 weeks ago, so Main Lodge snowpack is down a couple of feet in May.
So I used the chair 1 singles line of less than 10 minutes to head for 23. View of Scotty’s and the Paranoids:
This is probably the busiest Memorial Day I’ve seen at Mammoth but the line at 23 never exceeded 5 minutes. I skied all 3 Drop Outs and Paranoid 1 in snow somewhat unique in my extensive late season experience. The upper mountain was clearly winter snow at the start of the day, not surprising with 8.5 inches new at the patrol site May 22-24. Usually that is a recipe for mashed potatoes when the sun gets on it at this time of year, but not this Saturday. The new snow was wind packed, so when the surface softened a bit it skied even easier.
A ride on 23 had commented that the backside had skied beautifully on Friday, so I gave that a try just after noon.
It was indeed smooth and buttery. There had been a big park event down there, and I skied past one of the huge jumps and found myself below the Roadrunner switchback, which I needed to each as chairs 13 and 14 were not running. I remembered that I could slog a long traverse from that area and eventually reach Roadrunner. I bootpacked a few minutes up to the top of chair 12 and skied to Main Lodge.
By this time I needed a breather so I waited 15+ minutes for a base to top gondola ride and got a nice run on Hangman’s. By 1:30 the single’s gondola line at McCoy was short but that’s the weather clouded over. The cooler weather and wind gusts stiffened the snow some on Dave’s Run. Here’s profile view of Huevos Grande from Dave’s.
I moved to chair 5 where the snow was more forgiving. I skied 4 runs there and once rode the lift just after these costumes.
I skied down to 2 and then got one more run on 23, Wipe Out 1.
The top of Mammoth has somewhat more snow than 4 weeks ago. The entry to Wipe Out often has deep ruts but was mostly smooth Saturday.
The cloudy afternoon prevented slush from forming in the Main Lodge area. I skied Gravy Chute and the 3 race course runs, finishing about 3:30 with 30,600 vertical. With Sunday a likely storm day with possible lift closures, I decided to make the most of an ideal Saturday of spring skiing.
Kudos to Mammoth management for staying open to 4PM due to the crowds and snow conditions. Open lifts Saturday and Monday were the gondola and chairs 1-6, 9-12 and 17, the last as over Memorial weekend 2017 to allow parking and mountain access from Canyon Lodge as well as Main and chairs 2 and 4.
Mammoth tries to take care of their spring customers while some other areas don’t.
Once again Snowbird only has one lift out of its base on a powder day with an obvious predictable crowd. Mammoth is somehow able to run 5 extra lifts on the holiday weekend than midweek.
Sunday had been predicted stormy for several days. A strong north wind delayed the opening of chairs 1&2. After they opened I drove to chair 4 and got on the hill just after 9AM. The top, 5, 9 and 12 remained closed all day.
I worked my way over to chair 3 where I met Ben Solish and a couple of his friends. Chair 3 was less windy than 1 or 2, and visibility though not ideal was adequate. I led them on a Braille run off the back of 3 towards chair 5. I intended to stay near trees in the Triangle area for better orientation, but the snow near the highest trees was a windswept coral reef. We skied down upper and lower Dry Creek which had enough blown-in snow to bury most of the hardpack.
We rode 2 into the intensifying wind about 11AM, so Ben and fiends went into McCoy for a break. I persisted as I was getting off the hill in time for a 2PM gathering of Mammoth Forum people. I skied Andy’s, then rode 1 and now windy 3. That wind made the back of 3 a complete whiteout, so after skiing Terry’s I went into a packed Main Lodge.
The only seating open at noon was in a conference room at the far eastern end of the building overlooking chair 6. I visited with Lonnie and several of his friends, then left at 12:45. I had seen enough of the weather to leave via chair 6, then Gold Rush. I rode chairs 17 and 4 before departing and even those had strong winds by 1PM. I skied 12,000 vertical on Sunday.
From Sunday’s weather Monday looked like a potential powder day, but there was surprisingly only 3 inches of new snow. I got on chair 2 just after 8AM and had this view near the top of 2.
Judging by the parked up road and Saturday’s experience I was headed for 23 rather than the gondola. With only 3 inches I first thought a less steep pitch would be best and so skied Drop Out 3 rather than 1 or 2. The new snow was not heavy which meant nearly every turn hit the subsurface, most of which had softened Saturday and then frozen solid. On the next chair ride, my seat partner commented favorably on Drop Out 2, so I realized that the steepest slopes had not taken enough sun to melt freeze. So I skied skier’s right of Wipe Out 1, which did not have the icy subsurface next to the sheltering rocks. Below those rocks, here’s the deceptive view.
That powder is just a couple of inches deep over the frozen subsurface. I next skied Paranoid 3 into 2. That area tends to collect more snow, so it was deeper but still not enough to avoid the hard subsurface. I traversed under Philippe’s to Bark Bowl, where I could ski relatively fast through mellow pitched untracked. My legs were worked by those 3 runs, so I didn’t mind waiting 15 minutes for the gondola at the bottom.
By the time I got up top it was overcast. Nonetheless I opted for the steep Huevos rather than Dave’s due to the conditions on 23. The entry was tight and the steep skiing below had irregular thick snow, but minimal contact with hard snow until the pitch eased off. I headed for chair 9 but first stopped for a couple of pics, first of Dave’s Run.
Most of these people were not moving and the ones in motion were generally traversing. When someone made a turned down the fall line, it was typically just one or two turns before stopping or traversing. This told me I was not alone in finding the hard subsurface challenging.
I should mention that more skilled skiers like Ben Solish got out there early and commented favorably about Climax and some of the chair 23 runs. But Ben was race trained and spent his college years in the Northeast. Lonnie also had a good morning with an assist from his 120mm powder skis.
From the same spot below Dave’s, here’s the view of the upper gondola.
These people are mostly traveling from chair 9 to chairs 3 or 5.
Upper Gold Hill had some irregular chunks but the lower half was well groomed and softened a bit by its SE exposure. Riding chair 9 I considered a traverse out Ricochet as I had done twice on Saturday. But the skiers on Ricochet were all motionless or zigzagging, so I decided to pass on that.
I skied to Dry Creek, which as on Sunday was well covered in packed powder. I tested Solitude/Sanctuary and found the wind had blown off most of the new snow. But China Bowl to Waterfall had good coverage of the new snow like Dry Creek.
I skied from 5 to 3, then off the back to Terry’s. I needed a 30 minute break in Main Lodge before my final run up top. Woolly at the 19-foot sign:
That top run was Hangman’s, which skied as well as it did on Saturday.
In skied face of 3, then off the back to the lower race course runs via World Cup. World Cup had smooth corn, so I repeated that. I finished at 2PM, skiing from 3 to the base of 2 via Coyote.
I skied 21,600 vertical, and obviously this was overall impressive skiing for May 27. It has now snowed 31 inches at Mammoth since May 16. Nonetheless I find an ideal spring day like Saturday to be usually the better skiing at this time of year. If you get new snow, there needs to be a lot of it because it’s a lot of work to be skiing a few inches over a refrozen subsurface.
Tuesday was a fail for the Mammoth weather forecast. It was supposed to be mostly sunny with some wind and maybe a few afternoon showers. What we saw arriving at 8:15 was no wind but thick fog above 9,500 feet. The heavy overcast overnight meant minimal freezing, so the chair 1 and 2 groomers were good from the start. Liz skied 3 of those to claim her 50th day of the season. She has a sore knee from a non-ski fall two weeks ago so she did not ski the weekend days. But there are many things to do here at this time of year, such as Mule Days in Bishop where Liz spent Saturday.
I skied nice runs on Andy’s, Fascination and Terry’s, hoping for weather to improve up higher, but in fact it dumped snow heavily for about 20 minutes. Lonnie called me as it was 40F and pouring rain in town so he was hesitant to come up. Upon my report he did come up and I met him and his friends Lenny and Leslie by 10AM. By that time the cloud layer was rising and I had skied the face of 3 and Coyote.
The 4 of us went to 3, skied both face and back and we finally got a sunny break. We took advantage and skied Dry Creek to 5.
5 probably ran because the top was closed. By this time all of 5 had good spring snow, unlike the hardpack of the previous two days.
So by noon we skied Sanctuary, Sliver and Triangle and I had skied 16,000 vertical by then. We met Liz at the Mill at noon for a break. Lonnie and friends went back out, but Liz and I got on the road by 1PM and relaxed in Keough Hot Springs on the way to a dinner and charge stop in Lone Pine. I later heard that 23 opened briefly before the 2PM closing.
We drove to Stovepipe Wells in Death Valley by 7PM. We hiked the sand dunes and saw Ubehebe Crater and the Wonder Mine Wednesday on the way to Las Vegas and get home on Friday.
Thu May 30, 2019 4:32 pm
Amazing looking conditions for what is nearly June.
I missed a US trip this past winter but will be there next winter. Even if the Rockies get half the snow of this year I will be sure to have a good time at the end of Feb/start of March 2020.