A snowboarder cruises Upper Road Runner, a smooth groomed trail along the ridge line at Mammoth Mountain.
By Marlene Greer, Correspondent
“I’ve never seen snow like this,” said an East Coast native on his first ski trip to Mammoth.
“The snow is incredible,” added an Australian couple on a three week ski holiday to America.
“With this snowpack, we’re going to be skiing in July,” declared a Southern California regular, who described himself as a diehard Mammoth ski fanatic.
December’s record snowfall at Mammoth Mountain, more than 10 feet in four days, followed by another 3 feet one week later, made for some fabulous skiing the first week of January.
For Dave from New Jersey, it was his first time skiing at Mammoth, and he was awestruck at the amount of snow.
“It’s not comparable” to any other place I’ve been, said the blond 30-something, self-employed entrepreneur.
Overall, 209 inches of snow dropped on Mammoth Mountain in December, setting the record for the most snowfall in any December at the mountain and the most snowfall (22 feet) in a season to date.
According to Bob Sebald, our mountain guide on a sunny Wednesday after New Year, it took the ski resort and town three days to dig out from all that snow.
And the work continues. He pointed out a dump truck full of snow and explained that the resort was filling the trucks with excess snow and dumping it offsite a few miles away.
All that snow brought large crowds to Mammoth over the holidays. From Dec. 27 to 31, the mountain averaged 18,000 skier visits per day with a high of 21,227 on Dec. 30.
But by the first week of January, the aprs-holiday slopes were feeling deserted. Skier visits per day dropped to an average of 9,400.
A couple times, I was amazed to find myself the sole skier on a perfect, packed-powder run. And the most I waited in a lift line was five minutes.
One of the downsides of Mammoth has always been its crowds. Eighty-five percent of skiers at Mammoth are from Southern California, and most of them drive up on the weekends.
Weekends are always busy at Mammoth. You will have a much more enjoyable experience — and pay less — if you plan your trip for Monday through Thursday.
That was certainly true midweek after the New Year. With few people on the slopes, the sun shining, no wind and 40-degree temperatures, John and Gigi, a young couple from Las Vegas, called it “the perfect week for skiing.”
The skiers, rock climbers and all-around outdoor enthusiasts make the drive to Mammoth once a season. He hits the hard stuff — Hangman’s Hollow, Wipeout Chutes and Cornice Bowl — while she prefers the more mellow groomers.
“He has a lot more testosterone,” the petite brunette said.
Finding something you like is easy at Mammoth. The mountain definitely lives up to its name. From its 11,000-foot-high summit, skiers and boarders can drop down all sides into a maze of intermediate, advanced and expert terrain. The few areas for beginners are mid-mountain and lower.
Guy, the 60-something Mammoth fanatic, likes to slice and dice through the trees.
“My favorite place is off Chair 8. Not too many people know about it,” the retiree said.
A Mammoth season pass holder “from the beginning,” Guy frequently makes the five-hour drive from Orange County by himself.
“I’m a diehard. I get up at 2:30 in the morning and drive to Mammoth. I get here about 7, and I’m first in line.”
Joe, who made the seven-hour drive from San Diego with friends, was on his fourth day of skiing at Mammoth when he found his perfect spot.
“The first day, I took every lift just to get a feel for the mountain,” he said. “The second day, I did the Cornice, the Wall and everything on that side. The third day, I stayed at Chair 25 and loved it. So that’s all I’m doing today. There’s runs going everywhere and the pitch is great.”
Joe bought a two-year season pass and was planning on getting his money’s worth in one trip.
“In a couple hours, I’ll break even. After that, it’s all gravy.”
And with December’s mega storm, a base of 10 to 17 feet and three months remaining in the season, he just might be enjoying that gravy in July.
Marlene Greer is a La Verne based freelance writer. Contact her at email@example.com