Mammoth Memorial Day Weekend

It's no secret 2020-2021 wasn't exactly California's finest winter, but that didn't stop Mammoth from offering excellent top-to-bottom skiing this past Memorial Day/closing weekend.

I have never seen Mammoth's snow crews so aggressively move snow around the hill. Not only did they build and maintain an extensive network of White Ribbons of Death, they actually created legitimate ski runs on what otherwise would have been bare ground.

Combine that effort with three days of flawless weather, and the result was a spring skiing bonanza of sunshine, steeps, and silky-smooth snow.

It was, for me and my family, a healing trip as well—like stepping back into Normal. God, how I have missed normality over this past year+. I can happily but also somewhat cautiously report that I started sleeping again in Mammoth.

This is kind of interesting: normally I sleep poorly in Mammoth because of the altitude. I expect poor sleep and lots of awakenings and weird dreams. And so when I got into bed, I had no expectation of anything happening and I felt no responsibility to do anything. And I slept! It was incredible. I have not known anything like a normal night of sleep since the end of February 2020.

Sleep at night plus the magic on the hill by day seemed to help stich my mind back together. There is a long road—and many challenges—ahead for me, I know, but for the first time I actually believe recovery is possible. I'm back in my body. God bless you, Mammoth Mountain. And thank you, all of you, for your encouragement and support. It's really been extraordinary.

Is our skiing season over? I don't want it to be over.

Driving the 395, the Southern Sierra looked about as bare as I've ever seen it this time of year. Birch Mountain is virtually snow-free from base to top on most aspects. Onion Valley looked dry. Even the Palisades-area glaciers and permanent snowfields looked diminished.

No doubt there is snow to be had for the hardy Sierra prospector, but beware of suncupping and ice. Tioga Pass Road is open but I heard the snow is gone. Dana has snow on its north ridge ramp, which implies snow on the couloirs as well. As for Shasta, I saw this photo and my heart just about stopped.

Seeing how dire the snowpack is throughout the Sierra really shows how extraordinary Mammoth Mountain's weather window is. Even a few miles away the Sierra looks bare (the Ritter glacier looked thin!), yet somehow Mammoth's upper mountain has snow.

It's a kind of magic.

I wish you all a happy, safe, and peaceful summer. I will be hiking and climbing as much as I possibly can, maybe traveling a little bit, and hopefully rebuilding as best I can, here and elsewhere. There's a lot of work to do.

— June 3, 2021

Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents

Joe G. June 3, 2021 at 2:28 pm

Man, I feel like CA is just getting drier and drier. We had good snow in '11 and '15 but short of that, I feel like snow has been drying out consistently since '05.

milo June 3, 2021 at 3:31 pm

Andy, so glad to hear you got some good mountain medicine. Those sentinels stand guard for us and I've always felt a certain rebirth when I go see them. All the best for healing of both mind and country.

Matt D June 3, 2021 at 8:44 pm

So glad to hear you are feeling a little better and were able to get up to Mammoth for closing weekend. I've been watching the McCoy Station webcam enviously and didn't realize the heroics Mammoth was doing to keep the lower mountain open. I guess it looks better than 2015... which was supposedly a 1 in 1000 drought.

I really don't want ski season to be over but I can't do anything other than day trips... so on the bright side I've got an extended season to explore the San Gabriels on foot :)

Dan Conger June 3, 2021 at 9:05 pm

So glad to see you getting out there. Looking forward to many more stories to come. Keep on keeping on, Andy, and we’ll be right here supporting you.

Charles June 3, 2021 at 10:02 pm

Thanks for another piece of great writing. So good to hear you speak with such clarity again, and in long form. And the video is calm, mesmerizing, beautiful- plus those kids are rippers...

I was there the previous week- 50MPH cold winds and new snow made for resort and backcountry havoc but also intermittently good skiing. When the "corn" is icy, just get out the crampons, and laugh about it later at the MoMart LOL!

Looking forward to 2021/22 snow, and hopefully more of your excellent reporting, cheers!

John F June 3, 2021 at 10:30 pm

Glad to see you and your family made it up there. We were up at Mammoth last weekend, but for hiking and resting, having completely passed up on the 20/21 ski season....this was our first trip up there, and it felt good to be back in the area. We watched the cats push snow up Stump Alley late Sunday afternoon, and we thought they might just spin out in the slush....they really worked hard to make it to the end of May.

We'll be back up in the Mt Shasta area this summer for awhile, I hope that the springs on the mountain are still flowing, and that the lakes in the Trinity Divide have enough water to get a good swim in.

I read about the hiker death on Mt Russell over the weekend,and your trip report (http://www.sierradescents.com/climbing/russell/east-ridge.html) was like the 10th story. What a scary climb to read about.

Brad Brown June 6, 2021 at 9:30 pm

Andy,
So good to see you and the kids up there. Owen is killing it between race style turns and dropping the cornice, next gen of skiers is secured. Ramps of death indeed…the week before I crowded in with the race team on the ramp skiers right of chair 23 loading station, hit a death cookie and landed on my back and hip some 4 feet below…on dirt, whomp!?!. Nice hip bruise but still skiable. New M6’s took a beating the last couple of weekends despite grooming heroism per rocks etc but still a joy to ski the last day of fricken May!!!. And the 2 pm closing allowed some training hike above the lakes, glorious season end/season beginning transition.

Couldn’t agree more with the SD clan’s remarks, so glad to see your recovery. As you have inspired others, self included, the headline here is your return to the mountains and their healing powers on the afflicted…you answered Muir’s call. For you,sir, this is definitional Karma.



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