Prior to our arrival Mammoth had not had snow in about 16 days and had had some warm days during that period, but a storm was forecast to hit the evening after our first day of skiing.
Day 1 - I booked a private lesson for the family and we had a fantastic instructor, Kevin Maxwell. Kevin spent day one showing us around the mountain and taking us to the good snow. We stayed at the Juniper Springs lodge which is adjacent to Chair 15, a high speed six pack. This side of the mountain faces east so it gets a lot of sun during the day. With no snow in the preceding two weeks, the conditions first thing in the morning were bullet proof ice and it was extremely windy. The winds pretty much howled all day prior to the arrival of the storm that night. Kevin quickly got us over to the right side of the mountain where the snow was much better due to its northern exposure and there was a lot of wind blown snow that made the conditions very soft and great to ski. Mammoth has great intermediate runs and Kevin quickly found some blues like Wall Street, Stump Alley, and Broadway to warm up our legs. After the warm ups, we went up Chair 3 and skied Center Bowl a good blue/black to get things a little steeper and get us ready for the top of the mountain. After a few good laps on some nice wind blown on Center Bowl we headed down to the main lodge and rode the Gondola to the top of the mountain. Here's where Mammoth set itself apart from the most other places we've skied. The top half of the mountain is above tree line and a ridge line runs for a least 2-3 miles (probably more). You then go along the ridge and drop into a number of single or double black open bowls or chutes. It can be as gnarly as you want, or you can choose one of two single black runs the resort grooms all the way to the top. The wind was gusting 50-60 mph when we reached the top and we headed over to Cornice Bowl, a single black. The ridge line was wind scoured so you had to be careful as you could literally be blown off the ridge. Due to the high winds the first thirty feet of Cornice was scoured and very icy so you side slipped in and once you got out of the wind the run was great. Due to the windy conditions at Mammoth the wind takes the snow off the backside of the mountain and deposits down into the runs which creates and lot of soft wind blown pockets and some very creamy goodness. We ended up doing laps down Cornice Bowl the rest of the morning and Kevin had us traverse skiers right after the drop in to underneath Hangman's and MJB's. There we found after 6-8 inches of windblown untracked snow that was fantastic for some turns.
The boys going down Cornice following Kevin
Great snow under MJB
We had some of the best corn snow I have ever skied at the end of the day on our way back to the lodge. Nice and soft and no slurpee or suction action. After skiing that, I can see why some people love the corn.
Day 2 - the forecasted storm arrived with a vengeance. The snow report said 5 inches of fresh but based on the conditions you were never going to enjoy it. They recorded a wind gust of 129 mph on the top ridge line and the entire top half and right side of the mountain was shut down due to the winds. We skied the runs based off the Eagle and Canyon lodges but this day was more about survival from the bitter cold and wind.
Day 3 - The mountain reported 16 inches of powder Wednesday morning. Combined with yesterday's 5 inches that meant almost two feet of freshies to be explored. Mrs Illibuck, our two younger sons and I headed out into the powder. The depth of the snow quickly overwhelmed our 11 and 8yr old.
The boys went back to the condo with their teenage brother and my wife and I headed over to Chair 25. Chair 25 goes up Lincoln Mountain and gives access to some very fun single black runs with some very nicely spaced trees. The snow was deep and soft and the turns to be had were fantastic.
Off of Chair 25
Mrs. Illibuck and I did some laps off Chair 25 and then retrieved our younger two after lunch, the sun had come out, and some of the snow had been skied off and things were a bit more manageable for them. Our oldest was still down for the count with stomach flu. It was back up chair 25 for some laps off the other side of the lift. There a great single black called Sunshine with a nice consistent pitch and nicely spaced trees. Great for the intermediate/advanced skier to get some steepness without getting in over your head.
Luke on Sunshine
Day 4 - On Thursday the whole mountain opened up again as the top half was closed the previous day. I assume it was for control work but don't know for sure. We headed over to Chair 9 to hit the east flank of Mammoth. This area has been closed up until this point due to winds and control work. I headed over with my oldest and middle sons. It was like a feeding frenzy as the powder hounds were in full froth to get at the over than two feet of powder which was untracked. But the time we got there the snow was pretty chopped up and it was like an expressway on the traverses to get to the still untouched.
Chair 9 and the East flank of Mammoth
The runs were steep, the pow was deep, and my quads felt cheap so after a few runs I turned things over to the wife and she and my oldest son hit a double back called Wazoo off of Chair 9 and then skied the Avalanche Chutes off of Lincoln Mountain. The Chutes are off chair 22 and are a set of three western facing double black chutes that you wouldn't want to fall in. Also off chair 22 on the north facing side of Lincoln are some steep tree lined double blacks that don't have huge vertical but are plenty steep.
Connor in Wazoo
Day 5 - On day 5 we skied off the top in the morning and then headed over to the west side Mammoth. The west side is serviced by chairs 12, 13 & 14 which are old fixed doubles. We headed back to an area called the Outpost. By this time a new storm was coming in and chair 14 was shut down. There was some manageable blues back in this area and some very steep (at least to my eye) bowls called Hemlock Ridge and Hemlock Bowl. By mid afternoon the storm had arrived so we worked our way back to the condo and got ready for the last day.
Day 6 - the snow report said six new inches of fresh but it seemed like much more. We headed off to the gondola to get to the top of the mountain and ski Climaxx, a double black in a bowl that runs right under the gondola. What a great run. My wife and oldest son ski double blacks no problem, but they are still relatively new terrain for my two younger sons and myself. The great thing about this run was there was about a foot of fresh in the bowl so you had nice soft snow to work through. The run is plenty steep but since its a wide open bowl, you can make nice turns and it is so big that it really hadn't got bumped up yet. Everyone skied it no problem and my 11 and 8 year olds high fived after their first double black with no falls.
After Climaxx it was back up the gondola and then over to Dave's Run. Dave's is a single black that has a big cornice you can drop in from. The top of Dave's was wind scoured and icy so we worked our way over to Roma's (which is unmarked on the trail map) and skipped the cornice drop. Watched a woman getting a private lesson lose control on the icy top section and she proceed to slide down right past us almost the entire run. About a third of the way down the yard sale commenced and her skis and poles went flying. The instructor retrieved her ski and my son retrieved the poles. After the ice at the top we side slipped into the run and then worked our way back over to Dave's. It was awesome snow. The new snow plus the wind blown gave the run the consistency of very soft cream cheese. It felt great to get the Watea 94's on edge and carve that type of snow.
Getting ready to slip in
Dave's run (notice the pole in the bottom corner of the picture, didn't notice at the time the picture was taken but I'm pretty sure this is the pole of the woman who wiped out above us as she is going by)
A couple of other items. The lodging was fine, the isn't a whole lot of slopeside lodging at Mammoth but there are plenty of condos within a short distance of the main lodges. The public transportation was fine, we didn't need a car. The town itself, Mammoth, isn't Vail, Breckenridge, Aspen, or Steamboat. The village seemed to consist of shopping area, I realize this is probably being unfair, but if you go to Mammoth looking for a jumping nightlife I think you will be sorely disappointed. There is a development call the Village at Mammoth that has a gondola that goes to the Canyon Lodge area. This area is kind of what you expect in modern resort development. It has some lodging, shops, restaurants etc. The issue is it isn't very big and once you spend a couple hours there you have pretty much seen everything there is to see. The restaurants were OK, once again, if you are looking for world class dining, I don't think Mammoth is your place. We ate at a Mexican place called Gomez's which was good, an Irish pub called Auld Dubliner which had decent pub fare and a barbecue joint called The Smokeyard which led me to believe that people in California don't know BBQ. It seems like 90+ percent of the people are from SoCal. They seemed amazed when we told them we were from Chicago. There is a large boarder population at Mammoth as the place has some huge terrain parks. I have never boarded but Mammoth seems like it would be an ideal place for boarders with its wide open bowls and huge number of runs that are groomed.
It was the mountain that most impressed me. It has a huge number of great wide open cruisers where you can really let it go and the top of the mountain blew me away. It was like the back bowls of Vail, only steeper, that faces north so the snow remains in great shape and it has some chutes and other runs that would seem to give experts all they were looking for and more.
Edited by Illibuck - 4/13/10 at 11:25pm