This week I decided to take my first trip of the season on a short drive 3 hours South to Mammoth Mountain to take some turns and check out the conditions.
If you can, I suggest taking the Interstate 395 route to Mammoth as the views of the lakes and mountains along the drive are as enjoyable as skiing the mountain once you are there. With the new Carson City bypass, you actually save an extra 10 min. and can be there in 2:45 from the Reno airport.
I did a two day trip with the family coming along so that we could relax and take in the sights on the way there. On the drive, there are several lakes, lookouts, and parks to check out. One of the more fun stops, if the snow isn't too deep, is the old Bodie Ghost Town where you can walk through the town and see what life was like in a mining town 75+ years ago (the population dropped to 3 in 1942).
Another 30 minutes down 395, staring at the majestic snow-covered mountains towering in the background, and 15 min up the scenic loop road, you arrive at the Main Lodge at Mammoth Mountain.
We settled into our hotel room in the late afternoon and then headed into the town of Mammoth Lakes, which sits at the base of Mammoth Mountain. The mountain is towering behind the town with the main mountain village tucked into the edge of downtown. There is a mix of more modern ski village buildings with plenty of the charming old mid-century Bavarian influenced ski town buildings mixed in.
We had a delicious dinner in a quaint little A-frame cabin in town at a place called Ramenya. Then it was off to bed after a long day of adventures with the kids.
The next morning I ventured out onto the mountain early knowing that the wind forecast was for winds to pick up through the day. The skies were clearing and it looked like it was going to be a beautiful morning on the mountain!
My daughter has a broken arm so while I was taking the gondola to the top gearing up to ride, my wife took the kids to the top for a science lesson in the cool Interpretive Center room at the Summit (11,053').
Once at the top of the 2,100' rise in elevation, I hopped off the gondola and saw the current weather conditions. 28 degrees with winds of 10-30 mph. It was good to see cold temperatures and some wind along with the drier air that had moved in. I knew that would help to dry out 11-18 inches of heavy wet snow that fell 2 days prior. Looking out at the peaks before you drop in from the top is always breathtaking.
You also see some interesting things up top as well, like snow and rime ice that accumulates sideways making cool looking shapes from the clouds strong winds that occur at the summit.
Taking a look over the edge down Dave's Run the snow looked fresh thanks to some fill-in from the wind the day before.
The first 1,000 feet of vertical was full of fresh tracks and in untouched stashes from the storm. The 18" report seemed accurate with over a foot of settled fresh snow on the upper mountain to carve in. It wasn't quite "powder" but it was fresh and untracked.
By the time you hit mid-mountain you hit the groomed runs where the snow was chalky and the temperatures were about 10 degrees warmer. It was mid-week so there was hardly anyone on the trails and plenty of room to make wide sweeping carves down the hill. As you descend towards the base, you also were descending your coat zipper as temperatures at the base were in the 40's and the snow was very soft.
I made several runs working my way from the East side of the mountain across to the left. There seemed to be close to a foot of natural snow in the trees near the base so I stuck to the trails on the lower mountain, but there was enough natural snow that most of the trails were open. A big mountain with no lift lines and 28 lifts meant that I easily got my legs worth, going from the fresh tracks at the top to big carves down the bottom.
The winds did pick up later in the day and since I had turned my legs into spaghetti it was time to say goodbye to Ol' Woolly for now.
But I plan to be back again this season. The overall experience of the conditions on the mountain was good, especially considering the lack of snow in the CA mountains so far this season. With a majority of the mountain being above 8,300' in elevation, Mammoth has not had the amount of rain to the base that many of the other CA resorts have had so far this season. Snow on the ground at the base was a welcome sight!
This may not be the record-breaking January of 2017 when 250+ inches of snow fell on many of the mountains in CA, but the snow is there and the skiing is a lot of fun. I like this quote from professional skier Cody Townsend the same day...
The storms are lining up for the 2nd half of January, and big snows will return. Mammoth has had all of their top 5 snowfall seasons in the last 13 years, and they are impressive amounts!
One of the things I like is that Mammoth reports the snowfall amounts from the Main Lodge near the base, so you always know there is deeper snow to be found as you go up the mountain. So far this season Mammoth has recorded 65 inches of snow at the Main Lodge, with over 100 inches at the Summit. The season is less than 1/3rd over so there is a lot of skiing and hopefully big storms with feet of fresh powder to look forward to over the next few months!
I'll be back for one of those storms, and I'll be sure to do another trip report to document it. If you have not made the trek yet this season to Mammoth Mountain, you are welcome to join me!
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Daily Snow: Mammoth
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