December 13, 2009

Mt. Baldy: Not Much Candy Today

As Forest Gump might say, Mount Baldy Ski Area is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you're going to get. Made it up today for some early-season turns—or so I hoped. Turns out yesterday's storm rained ruthlessly on the mountain, coating everything with ice, ice, ice, including the chairlifts. Snowpack other than ice could hardly be called ample. There was quite a lot of bare rock, which blended nicely with the ice motif. I amused myself by playing around with my Canon Vixia HF200 (hence the HD footage) and testing out some new gear.

As the Ski Patrol worked to clear the lifts and get something—anything—open, and crowds of patient skiers and boarders milled aimlessly about the lodge, I took matters in my own hands and started hiking up. Got about 3/4 of the way up Thunder Mountain when a ski patrol was kind enough to tell me the lift had just opened. I topped out just to be thorough, and then skied a few runs. In between sheets of ice there were patches of some very nice and fluffy snow—fresh from last night, when the snow level dropped a bit. To be honest the patrol and ski area crew were working hard to shape things up today, including making a very focused grooming effort. Call me crazy, but there seems to be a spark of life about Mt. Baldy's employees this year. Maybe they're flush with cash after selling all those $49.00 ski passes. Or maybe it's the promise of an El Nino year.

Despite the ice, it felt good to get up in the mountains and get on some snow. When Mt. Baldy's (aka Mount San Antonio's) 10,000' summit popped into view, I saw what looked like very impressive coverage from about 9500' on up. For those of you thinking about hiking and/or skiing Baldy Bowl from the Manker Flat trailhead, be especially wary of ice. It's going to be a skating rink out there for a while, I fear. Manker Flat, by the way, was just about the start of the snow level. There is probably no skiing or even skinning possibilities below, say, the elevation of the Ski Hut. For now, backcountry skiers may want to look to the San Bernardino or San Jacinto Mts.

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Andy Lewicky

ANDY LEWICKY is a Los Angeles-based writer and photographer who enjoys good books, jasmine tea, long walks in the rain, and climbing and skiing the big peaks of the California Sierra. email | follow



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