Resort and backcountry skiing and snowboarding in the western US and Canada, including our famous reader-submitted No-Bull Snow Reports.
Fri Jan 24, 2020 1:16 am
Liz is gradually improving, but it is a gradual process. Sleep is the most difficult as the shoulder is uncomfortable when in one position too long. So at night she needs to alternate between the bed and a lounge chair.
But at the two week mark I was good to take a daytrip. I returned to Mountain High as both East and West claimed 90% open and overall it was the right choice. It was warmer than two weeks ago but not by quite as much as I expected. View from East parking lot when I arrived at 9:15:
Olympic Bowl is at left, Goldrush at right.
Similar view on a photo in the lodge from the 1950's:
Holiday Hill was a separate area until Mountain High bought it in 1981. It was the only place in SoCal Liz skied when she was at Pitzer College.
Mid mountain on the lift, similar to two weeks ago:
The best maintained run Goldrush has a few thin spots now, and there are a few more on Sundance/Wildcard. The rollover where the latter runs split off skier's right is going to become a problem area.
But the main fall lines are still excellent.
Mountain High East midweek is Exhibit A of the value of low skier density for groomed skiing. Most of these runs still showed corduroy grooves when I left at noon. It did not freeze as hard overnight as two weeks ago, so anything in the sun loosened and some of it was quite good corn. I never encountered sticky snow or the clumps formed by skier traffic in spring conditions on my 11 runs at East.
For my final run at noon I ventured off the groomed. I tested Colt 45, which had been teeth rattling Jan. 8 but was manageable this time. So I descended Olympic Bowl at the bottom.
Again "manageable," but I hadn't skied that for almost 9 years so had to check it out.
The Grand View restaurant and the Discovery chair at the top of East were closed. View of idle chair with Mt. Baden-Powell in background:
Nonetheless I skied down the Discovery terrain and took the same fire road over to West as before.
I skied into West via Borderline, then returned to the scene of Liz' accident, Headwall.
One hour earlier in the day and two weeks later, most of the run is illuminated. It was shaded after 2PM.
Gunslinger was all shaded last time but has some sun this time.
Both of these runs are direct north facing and probably skied the bast of the steeper runs at West. The snow was firmer on west facing Vertigo, Calamity and Silverspur.
West of course had more people though both areas had slightly fewer than on January 8. Popular blue runs at West had some soft clumpy snow from skier traffic. I skied two Inferno Ridge runs from the slow Conquest chair. Inferno Ridge was roped off so the sunny run on top of the ridge had perfect corn. The steep runs dropping off to the right were crunchy with a few bare spots at the top. From the top of the Conquest chair is a good view of the NW face of Mt. Baldy.
Palos Verdes and Catalina are visible through a gap in the mountains.
I skied 18,100 vertical at East plus 14,200 at West by 2:45. I had noticed a sign at the base of West that the bus shuttle between the two sides wasn't running. Mid week with even West's parking lot less than half full I guess they figure you can move your car easily if you want to ski both mountains. But I had not noticed any sign at East before I left via the fire road. Fortunately the lady in Guest Services radioed an employee who took me back to East in his truck.
The driver said East will be closed midweek after the upcoming weekend. I suspect it will not reopen without some help from the weather. While most of the runs were good, the base area at East is very thin and recently it has been too warm to make snow at night. The driver said that Mountain High's reservoirs are full so they can make snow if it cools off enough.
Fri Jan 24, 2020 7:43 pm
Seems pretty good for so close to home. I've been at Squaw the last three days, but not sure when I'll be able to post.
Going here over the weekend? https://www.latimes.com/travel/story/20 ... esort-open
Fri Jan 24, 2020 8:09 pm
Impressive that they haven't replaced or modified the lodge since the 1950s.
Sat Jan 25, 2020 8:39 am
Tony, we'll be very disappointed if there isn't a TR from Waterman by Monday.
Sat Jan 25, 2020 9:45 am
Not a chance. Ungroomed skiing in SoCal hasn't been any good since New Year's. There's one groomed beginner run of 400 vertical up top at Waterman, similar to the Discovery chair at Mountain High East.
This is the reason my last two ski days have been at Mountain High not Mt. Baldy. If Emile's, Liftline, Goldridge, South Bowl had good skiing I would have been at Baldy. These areas can soften into good corn with stronger sun, as I skied them in March 2017 and April 2019. But for now Baldy ungroomed is all partially and irregularly frozen crust.
As it is now, you have three groomed runs at Baldy: Bonanza, Robin's and Skyline. Quality is similar to the above TR, but that would be a bit repetitive for a whole day vs. Big Bear or Mountain High.
One of the curses of Mt. Waterman is that the Angeles Crest Highway is above 4,000 feet for 20 miles before Mt. Waterman. It seems not to have high priority for snow clearance. Thus when the powder is fresh, the road is not often open. And the better quality powder comes with lower snow levels, increasing the length of road that needs to be plowed. The Dec. 25-26 storm had a quite low snow level of 3,500 feet, so Mt. Waterman was not accessible for over a week. They lost two more weekends to "equipment problems" and finally opened for MLK weekend, 22 days after the storm.
Sat Jan 25, 2020 6:32 pm
jamesdeluxe wrote:Impressive that they haven't replaced or modified the lodge since the 1950s.
Mountain High East is currently a stepchild operation. I've recorded SoCal ski history since 1996-97 (Scroll down my bestsnow.net Site Directory to Southern California Detail). Here are the number of weekends Mountain High East has been open during that time:
Mountain High had new management in summer 1997 and that was good timing as their first season was the record 1997-98 El Nino. My comments from that season mention that the new management was improving East.
During ensuing seasons Mountain High prioritized West but made the effort to open at least one of the 1,600 vertical top-to-bottom runs on East by Christmas with snowmaking if possible. This was evidenced by East being open 12 weekends in both 2000-01 and 2001-02. The latter season was dry but cold enough for East to open on snowmaking Dec. 16. The former season had a warm December but abundant natural snow after New Year's with East opening Jan. 12. It is likely in 2002 that Mountain High had an above average supply of well water from the big 1997-98 and 2000-01 seasons.
Mountain High continued to make the snowmaking effort to open East by Christmas and maintain East for 2+ months if possible through 2010-11. But the drought years eventually induced a change in policy. In 2011-12 and 2012-13 East was opened on snowmaking by Christmas but abandoned in a month or so when January weather was unfavorable. The next season 2013-14 was the second worst to 1983-84 in my SoCal experience so East never opened then or the next year that was only marginally better.
By this point Mountain High's wells had dried up a lot during the drought so nearly all snowmaking priority was given to West. Since 2015-16 East has not opened until there was natural snow, and snowmaking is used mainly to keep its base area accessible. I was told Thursday that the well water was replenished from the wet 2018-19 season, but I remain skeptical that East will reopen after this weekend (5th one open this season) without favorable weather next week. The LA Times this week shows Wrightwood temperatures being 20 degrees warmer than Big Bear. That's extreme but I have always believed that Big Bear has more snowmaking opportunities than Mountain High.
Sun Jan 26, 2020 1:51 pm
I remember the 'good ole days' when I would ride east midweek all by myself when I lived in WW. It's just a shame that they've never been able to get people to go over there and/or give it more attention. Reminded me of this discussion I started way back in 2011 when I lived there. http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... ving+money
Thanks for sharing the report and pics.. hope Liz continues to heal well.
Sun Jan 26, 2020 6:16 pm
That's a very interesting thread snowave started back in 2011: http://www.firsttracksonline.com/boards ... f=3&t=9392
During my working years I never really picked up on the trend of Mountain High running East only on weekends. I will take snowave's word for it that MH East's stepchild status began a bit earlier than I thought. But it has gotten worse since the drought that began the next season. I'll bet snowave is REALLY glad he got out of Wrightwood when he did.
Here's a quote from that thread:
Tony Crocker wrote:I have a decent estimate of how often Baldy is 80+% open, which means at least some of chair 1 and all of Thunder are skiable. Of the past 33 seasons:
11 were wipeouts
6 had 1-4 weekends of 80+%
8 had 5-9 weekends of 80+%
8 had 10 or more weekends of 80+%
1978-79 was tops with 15 weekends.
The 9 seasons since then:
6 were wipeouts
3 had 1-4 weekends of 80+%
The latter half of that thread compared SoCal to Northeast areas. SoCal's relative standing has declined some IMHO since 2011:
1) The weather of the last 9 years. During that time the Northeast had 2 awful seasons in 2012 and 2016 but even those were probably not as bad as 2014 and 2018 in SoCal.
2) Liz came on to the scene with her Northeast experience. She would agree with the favorable comments rfarren made about Whiteface in that thread, though she's not impressed at all with Gore.
3) We had another Northeast ski trip last year, visiting some of what James calls "Tier 2" areas.
Baldy is still the equal of the best of the Northeast (Stowe, MRG, etc.) in terrain quality. But Baldy's already bad reliability has taken an ominous turn for the worse in the past decade.
Liz has commented that Big Bear is a notch below Hunter in terrain quality. I suspect Mountain High is a notch above but Liz did not see enough of West to form an opinion yet. At any rate both Big Bear and Mountain High are in the eastern Tier 3 range for terrain, though Big Bear is a strong Tier 2 in snow reliability. Mountain High is probably low Tier 3 for snow by Northeast standards because it's snowmaking is clearly deficient to the vast majority of NE areas. FYI I thought Stratton's Ursa chair groomers were very comparable to Mt. High East, but I never saw 2/3 of Stratton.
The other thread referred to Mountain High's 500K skier visits being more than most eastern ski areas. I believe Mountain High only hit the 500K mark in 1997-98 and 2000-01 and possibly 2004-05. I'd be surprised if Mountain High has averaged half that much the past decade.
Mon Jan 27, 2020 4:33 pm
Tony from my perspective Mountain High has sadly suffered from the drought, but also there is a different attitude with the ownership changes in 2017 and the prior mix up.
I really liked the years when Brad Wilson was Assistant GM from 1997-2002. They were very aggressive operators during those years making snow whenever possible, even in March and April, operating both mountains whenever conditions allowed regardless of crowd levels, and they made a lot of capital improvements on the mountain- Blue Ridge Express, relocation of Mountain High Express, grooming improvements, and lodge remodels. During this period they introduced their lower-priced season pass product and were aggressively marketing the resort as the best in Southern California (debatable), plus opening first and closing last was something they tried to do. It worked!
In recent years the drought has really taken its toll. The lack of water for snowmaking has hurt the ski area. They've become a more conservative operator scaling back operations at night and at the East resort. They make snow less frequently, in part due to the lack of water. This is the first time in I believe 5 years that they've had enough water to make any significant snow at East. I'm also disappointed and surprised that they didn't even bother to open the North resort for skiing during the holidays and on weekends in January. Not offering a shuttle between East and West during the week isn't helping anything either. I was shocked to read that.
The mountain really needs more upgrades. They invested some money this past year in snowmaking improvements and now use a fleet of stick guns and Techno-Alpin fan guns for energy savings. The beginner area on West could really use a chairlift replacement and upgrade and I'd really like to see the ski area revisit building a new lodge at West. They had spectacular plans to demolish the existing lodge and build a new one parallel to the ski slope just west of the magic carpets. It would've been built over the existing cabins that run between the restrooms and Bull Wheel Saloon. They also should explore a chairlift connection between East and West. A shuttle is not the solution.
Mon Jan 27, 2020 11:50 pm
Brad Wilson was indeed a great guy for MH. Funny you mentioned him, as just about 2 weeks ago I was reading an article on Bogus Basin and saw his name pop up, as he is the GM there. I have a free ticket for there, so if/when I get down from McCall to ride, I will make an effort to stop in and say hi.
Mt. High did change ownership in 2017, but Karl Kapuscinski is part of that new ownership, and is still running the show, so I doubt much has changed for the good. He had quite the reputation for being a schmuck on several fronts.
Yes, I am glad I left WW. Fortunately, my wife and I have had the opportunity to live in some great places since leaving Wrightwood. Leavenworth, WA, Driggs ID, Whitefish MT, Pagosa Springs, CO, and now McCall, ID. I think we saved the best for last, and hope we will be here for a long time.
Tue Jan 28, 2020 4:18 pm
I need to get to Mountain High, it definitely looks fun!
Ungroomed skiing in SoCal hasn't been any good since New Year's. There's one groomed beginner run of 400 vertical up top at Waterman, similar to the Discovery chair at Mountain High East.
This is the reason my last two ski days have been at Mountain High not Mt. Baldy. If Emile's, Liftline, Goldridge, South Bowl
had good skiing I would have been at Baldy. These areas can soften into good corn with stronger sun, as I skied them in March 2017 and April 2019. But for now Baldy ungroomed is all partially and irregularly frozen crust.
To ski these surfaces too slow wouldn't work at all, otherwise it's like a railroad track and the liftriders all enjoy the show. Every time in January there's at least one good sunny ungroomed run and several in the shade.
P.S. Which vid formats work for upload? MP4 failed.
Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:26 pm
I remain skeptical about the ungroomed. I was at Big Bear yesterday and it was warm but anything that stayed in the shade remained firm. I tested a few ungroomed places and I could ski them but it was a chore.
At Baldy Herb's Hollow and Andy's Alley get some sun even in January, but I question how much cover remains on those runs now as they were far from robust on January 7.
Last Thursday at Mt. High East was by far the best local conditions I've skied this month. Absence of traffic was a big reason for that though. MH website says East will be open this weekend. If you're a SoCal weekend warrior I'd recommend that for the upcoming weekend which could be its last hurrah.
Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:38 pm
Tony Crocker wrote:I was at Big Bear yesterday
Look at all the days Tony is getting in locally -- going back to his roots!
Tue Jan 28, 2020 11:17 pm
Look at all the days Tony is getting in locally -- going back to his roots!
Yes it's reminiscent of my formative seasons in 1978 and 1979 and when Adam was a baby in 1985. Those were much better seasons than this one so far though.
The 7 local days this season are the most since I skied 9 in 2000-01. But I may be done with SoCal for this season unless the weather turns cooperative. Starting Feb. 9 I will be at Mammoth, then in Canada, then at Iron Blosam for most of the next 5 weeks.
Tue Jan 28, 2020 11:23 pm
Monoskiers are starting to show up, yikes...https://photos.app.goo.gl/VaUCZB586Xp9q6UE8
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