Mid Winter Skiing in May

Trip Start Apr 30, 2010
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Trip End Sep 05, 2010


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Flag of United States  , California
Monday, May 17, 2010





Is it January?


 We made it to Mammoth for a great - albeit windy, sleety, snowy - day of skiing. We had a ton of fun, the snow was unbelievable. If you like the looks of Mammoth's 7-12ft foot base now, they're staying open til July 4 so you have time to finish school or book vacation and get out there. More details soon! J We got on the road for California around 11am, ready to put in a solid day of driving so we could get to Mammoth Lakes comfortably in daylight. As we left Las Vegas, the sun was searing into the van and a thermometer check revealed that it was 31 Celsius in the shade. The vinyl seats (we never got around to doing anything about that) singed our skin and the drive out of Vegas and through the Nevada desert was a constant contortionist act of trying to keep our legs off the burning seats and our forearms, somehow, in the shade.

We got to Mammoth around 5:30 and after checking out the mountain base to see where we needed to go in the morning, we headed back into the little town a couple of miles down from the base. We figured we would find a spot to park the van, and then maybe stroll the town to find a bite, a pint and some wireless. Finding a spot to park proved more difficult than we thought in this ski town that apparently tries to keep its ski bums out of their vans and in Mammoth's hotels. In every lot, big red letters warned NO OVERNIGHT PARKING, often with an additional deterrent: $100 Overnight Parking, which we weren’t totally if it was joking or not. We even got shut out from our usual go-to: even the local church threatened towing at your expense if caught parking overnight. We waved the white flag and checked into a cheap Motel 6 on the main strip. After a bite and a glass of Mammoth Mountain Paranoid Pale at John’s Pizza Works across the street, we headed home to try to decided what to wear skiing – a whole other dilemma.

Fortunately the Motel 6 had laundry facilities, so we did a couple of much-needed loads – not that having all our clothes clean really helped with the problem at hand: we had no real ski gear. At one point in the trip planning, Matt and I had even discussed bringing our skis, or maybe at least our boots to make for an easier and more comfortable day on the hill. But as we looked at the timing of the driving, we realized we would really only have one day to spare for skiing, and real estate in the van was tight, so we figured we’d just rent gear for simplicity’s sake.

For some reason though, we both envisioned that spring skiing in California would entail bluebird skies, bright Cali sun and temperatures to match. Not even close – at least not for our chosen ski day. Mammoth’s literature boasts 300+ days of sunshine a year, but clearly our day was not one of them. The forecast was for about -5C and blowing snow. Not a good match for the shorts, t-shirts and sunscreen we had pictured ourselves wearing a few weeks ago.

So, we improvised a bit. Matt had his spring ski shell which he combined with lightweight foul weather pants. I had my foul weather jacket and a pair of decrepit old yellow foulies – they haven’t been water or wind proof in years, but I lost my functional pair last season and hadn’t replaced them yet. (I had a few cold days but Foul weather on Lac St Louis isn’t exactly ocean crossing weather – or California in May, as I learned). I did have an assortment of tuques (of course) and Matt happened to have both winter and spring ski gloves thankfully – so by joining forces, we at least had warm heads and hands. The final accessory for each of us was a pair of sunglasses – not that we would see the sun at all on the hill, but since we had no goggles a pair of shades would offer at least some protection against the driving snow.

The snow at Mammoth was great – the snow on the hill, at least. The half-snow, half-sleet (depending on elevation) that pelted our faces while we skied wasn’t so great. But the snow/freezing rain lessened as the day went on and we got a bit used to it as well, so in the end the weather wasn’t such a bother. The ongoing precipitation and elevation made for some interesting conditions. At times the visibility on the hill was really limited – like barely seeing the tips of your skis limited – but combined with the soft, thick snow beneath (12 feet of it) it was like skiing in the clouds. I have never skied on snow with texture like this, so fine but so dense, it was velvety. Skiing that day was a dream - you floated along and although you would rarely see very far ahead, it was always a soft ride.

We took a couple of breaks since the 8000 feet of altitude got our heads a bit, so we didn’t push too hard.  At the end of the day, we popped back into John’s to grab a pizza for the road (extra jalapenos to satiate Matt’s recent spicy kick) and headed west – well, west via north of Yosemite – to Monterey.
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