Mammoth in May
Here was my thought: what if I could pretend I was skiing in August, instead of May? Today's conditions would be pretty spectacular, I reasoned, if we were skiing in August, and we'd all be super stoked. So I tried to adopt an Awesome-August mindset instead of a Malcontent May.
It didn't work.
It may all be mental, as they say, but the sight of such a bare Mammoth Mountain just kept bumming me, and I was starting to get that tragic-depressive feeling you get when you know you're chasing something that's already gotten away. Plus I was dizzy and blurry-eyed from a 4am road trip plus the sudden altitude pop.
Time for an early lunch.
I hit the lodge for some pizza and a coke, plus a hearty custom salad piled high. And wouldn't you know it, after that the sun looked a little brighter and the snow a little whiter. The upper mountain softened up nicely, and suddenly I was doing power laps on the chutes thinking (as I often do) that Chair 23 is proof positive God is a skier.
I mean, come on, something like water-into-wine happens when you board that chairlift. It's magic, a miracle, supernatural, whatever you want to call it. A little too perfect, if you ask me, to be purely the result of random chance. Then again, I am about 90% atheist, so possibly the altitude was still scrambling my brain.
I felt like the only skier on the Mountain today. I don't blame you for staying home, but there is snow on the upper mountain, and while it may take a Coke or two to warm you up, it is pretty good once your Mojo's flowing. Backcountry: dismal. You've really got to want it. You'll find high altitude snowfields and bare drainages. If you could drive to 10K anywhere right now it might be worth it. Sonora Pass might be worth it.
Or you can hit Chair 23 until the tap runs dry, and practice up for next year...
Andy Lewicky is the author and creator of SierraDescents
brad brown May 4, 2015 at 10:23 pm
May the fourth be with you. I was there Friday, Sat, Sunday (5-3-15) and was one happy camper. Chair 23 is among the finest lift access skiing anywhere, add a BBQ and a bathroom and I would stay there bell to bell. May sun on last weekends' fresh was well on the way to corn...but for the pending closing after next weekend (perhaps staved by a reprieve from a system next week) things were getting good, well except for that snow depth issue. Call me an optimist but I felt so grateful to be skiing anything, in May, after 4 years of drought, with something like 3% normal snow fall, with the rest of California shuttered for the season, after Decembers' ankle wreckage. I love skiing, will miss it until next season. Pray for snow.
Andy May 5, 2015 at 12:38 am
My poor skis might disagree, but for me it was the best 3 days of skiing of the year. Spectacular warm spring Mammoth skiing on the upper mountain!
Dominic Gawel May 8, 2015 at 2:22 am
I am planning a trip up to mammoth for memorial day weekend. Since the ski area is going to be closed, can you reccomend me a backcountry location in the area with a short hike?
Andy May 8, 2015 at 2:31 am
Dominic, Tioga Pass Road is open. Good short hike options would be Gaylor Peak and/or Mount Dana, with Gaylor the shortest and safest. I can't say what you'll find then--things are thin and melting fast. Good luck!
brad brown May 8, 2015 at 11:20 am
Please let me live in denial. I averted my eyes as I bagged the skis for the season in the main parking lot (well at least parking was good). I'm hoping my hopping, one legged skiing/side slips/general rockaphobia yielded no consequential damage. Totally agree 5-2/3-15 MM was really good. I must add the mid December Squaw trip saw freshies every day but one, even that one saw new tracks. I'm still amazed that despite low snow fall and near season ending injury I had 16 total days, 4 with pow, 3 superb season ending days at MM, a 6 month season, and generally advanced my skills. In the bubble I live in I would have to say it was a good season despite all evidence to the contrary.