Snow much fun for the holidays at Mammoth Mountain

By Jerry Rice

It was a merry Christmas and it’s shaping up to be a happy new year at Mammoth Mountain, where 224 inches of snow has fallen so far this season. Should Mother Nature continue her generous ways – more white stuff is in the forecast for today and Sunday – last winter’s total of 263 inches may be eclipsed sometime in January.

That’s great news for the resort that boasts the most open terrain in the country. And it couldn’t come at a better time than now, when many skiers and snowboarders are out of school and off work for the holidays.

“It’s a big part of our business, that Christmas to New Year’s break, because we can have high visitation over a seven or eight day period, instead of seeing that high visitation just on the weekends,” said Joani Lynch, spokeswoman for the Mammoth Mountain ski resort.

With that, here’s a look at some recent action at Mammoth, set to the music of Professor Kliq’s “The Most Beautiful Day.”

Santa sightings on the slopes

By Jerry Rice

Santa Claus has a big job to do come Dec. 24, so if the Big Guy wants to have some fun before the Big Day it’s probably best to cut him some slack — otherwise you may find coal in your stocking on Christmas morning. The Jolly Old Elf has been visiting several ski resorts during the last several days …

Santa offers a helping hand to the snow-making crew at Mountain High. (Mountain High photo)

One cameraman caught him making snow at Mountain High ( The Wrightwood getaway was in big need of the white stuff, as there was none of it on the slopes as recently as Dec. 12. That was just before a storm moved through and dumped 6-12 inches of snow, and also brought with it the below-freezing temps that were desperately needed for the resort to turn on its extensive snow-making system.

Santa carves up some fresh powder at Snow Summit. (Snow Summit photo)

Elsewhere in Southern California, Santa parked his sleigh for a fun outing at Snow Summit (, where he pulled off a maneuver that yours truly has never attempted — at least not on purpose.

At that Big Bear Lake resort, St. Nick found favorable conditions — 12-18 inches of snow, with a surface that ranged from machine groomed packed powder to hard pack — to perform all sorts of acrobatics.

We’re not sure how Santa landed a second or two after this shot on the right was taken, but we would like to see how it scored with the judges.

We recall last winter when the ski/snowboard season got off to a disappointing start at resorts throughout California. Mammoth Mountain (, for example, didn’t receive its first significant snowfall until late January. By then, much of the lucrative ski/snowboard season was lost.

Santa jumps for joy at Homewood Mountain Resort. (Homewood Mountain Resort photo)

This winter, thankfully, has been different. Mammoth has a base of 7.5 feet, and since early November it has received nearly 13 feet of snow — with more on the way tonight and Saturday.

Snow also is in the weekend forecast at Lake Tahoe, where Homewood Mountain Resort ( reports as much as 45 inches of it has fallen this winter on the slopes at the higher elevations. That news apparently has Mr. Claus, at left, really excited.

We figure there will be Santas galore at Whistler Blackcomb ( on Saturday morning. That’s when the resort will be giving a free lift ticket to the first 75 people who arrive at the Garibaldi Lift Company in full Santa or Mrs. Claus attire. They will be invited to ride up the hill at 8 a.m., then board or ski to the bottom of the Emerald Express for a group photo.

At Whistler Blackcomb, lots of Santas will be checking their lists while riding the lifts. (Whistler Blackcomb photo)

It’s an annual tradition at the Canadian resort. A cameraman for the local Pique Newsmagazine captured last year’s festivities, and some of the highlights were edited into a cute 48-second YouTube video. It shows a sea of red suits and bushy white beards moving down the mountain, some more gracefully than others.

With that, we offer Santa this important reminder: There are only three more skiing/snowboarding days left until Christmas.

Out for a morning thrill in the chill on the hill at Mountain High

Snowboarders take the Blue Ridge Express chairlift to the top of Borderline at Mountain High’s West Resort on Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2012. (Photos by LaFonzo Carter)

By Jerry Rice

Our intrepid photographer, LaFonzo Carter, was out and about this morning riding the slopes at Mountain High, and he reports that it was “crowded, windy and cold.”

Snowboarders jam the Blue Ridge Express liftline.

That last part will continue to be true through the end of the week at the Wrightwood resort, where daytime highs are expected to be in the mid- to low-40s, according to The Weather Channel. Nighttime temps — 24 degrees tonight, 27 on Thursday and 30 on Friday — will be prime for making new snow.

Carter, a team rider for the apparel maker Virus, was getting in a few runs before an afternoon shift at The Sun in San Bernardino.

When it comes to handling a frigid morning on the hill, his advice is similar to what Mom might offer: “When you’re out there, you really have to bundle up — wear a face mask and everything,” he said.

Mountain High eager to get back in the snow business

Snow guns at Mountain High

Cold, dry air is expected to arrive with the incoming storms, and Mountain High has its snow guns all ready to go. (Mountain High photo)

By Jerry Rice

The excitement of little children as Christmas morning nears is often only exceeded by the excitement of skiers and snowboarders as a storm approaches. So, with a potential snow-maker dropping out of the Gulf of Alaska and heading toward California, this might as well be Christmas Eve.

“We’re crossing our fingers, doing the snow dances and praying – whatever we have to do,” said Kim Hermon, Mountain High spokeswoman.

Presents may be delivered by tonight in the form of 6 to 12 inches of the white stuff. Even better, the forecast calls for it to arrive with frigid conditions that will allow the Wrightwood resort to crank up its extensive snowmaking system.

This storm can’t arrive soon enough. After a promising start to the ski and snowboard season, it’s been rough sledding the last few weeks at Southern California mountain resorts.

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Mammoth Mountain is all in for skiers, snowboarders

Four to 6 feet of new snow make for some spectacular conditions at Mammoth Mountain.
(Photo by Peter Morning/Mammoth Mountain)

By Jerry Rice

This is what winter is supposed to look like.

After an average start to the snow season, a series of storms slammed into the Sierra Nevada late last week and dumped up to 6 feet of snow at Mammoth Mountain. That bounty will allow the resort to open the entire hill — all 28 lifts and 150-plus trails — on Friday.

While the storms were too warm to do much good for resorts in Southern California, it was a different story elsewhere in the state. In the Lake Tahoe area, Squaw Valley reported 48 inches of snow and Mt. Rose-Ski Tahoe welcomed 45 inches. Sugar Bowl received 44 inches, allowing the Donner Summit resort to re-open on Thursday.

Back at Mammoth, after receiving 113 inches of the white stuff since October, the resort is operating on a base of 50 to 70 inches. It’s a much improved story from last winter, when the resort didn’t see any significant snowfall until Jan. 20.

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Storms to improve snow conditions

Snowboarders and skiers at Bear Mountain’s Chair 1 on Wednesday, Nov. 28. (Bear Mountain photo)

By Jerry Rice

Three storms are lined up to drop snow — lots of it, in some places — in the California mountains during the next few days.

The top of Mammoth Mountain may get a total of 4 to 5 feet of fresh snowfall by Sunday night, according to

In the Lake Tahoe area, the National Weather Service was predicting heavy snow Friday (with accumulation up to 20 inches), Saturday and Sunday. It may add up to 7 feet of new powder by the time the weekend is over.

But resorts in Southern California weren’t expected to fare as well when it comes to the white stuff. The snow level was forecast to only drop down to 8,000 feet, which means Bear Mountain was in the best position to take advantage. Its four mountain peaks range from 8,000 to 8,805 feet.

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