The Mountain turns 60

It’s a good thing that the nights are chilly on Mammoth Mountain.

With temperatures consistently in the 20s but with little to no natural snow on the ground, snow guns have blanketed the main runs off the north face of the mountain at Main Lodge, creating a smooth, white surface for today’s Opening Day.

The first chairlift, Broadway Express (Chair 1), is to lift off on schedule at 8:30 a.m., according to Joani Lynch, the ski area’s communications director.

All adult lift tickets from Opening Day through Monday (Veterans Day) are priced at $60, in honor of the resort’s 60th anniversary.

As of mid-day on Wednesday, Nov. 6, the ski hill said it would operate at least Broadway Express, Discovery, Thunderbound, and possibly Facelift.

Lynch claimed the ski hill will open with a 12-to-18-inch base depth, and open six to eight trails.

On the Unbound Terrain Park end of things, the resort said it would open three to five rails and one jump, along with Playground features in Unbound.

As per tradition, ski area CEO Rusty Gregory will lead a Champagne Toast to the new season at 11 a.m. on the sun deck of Main Lodge, more or less igniting a busy Opening Weekend.

Among other activities, both on and off the hill, there will be live music by Lava Moon on the Main Lodge Sundeck; an Opening Weekend Mixer at Underground in The Village, and on Saturday, more music from Lava Moon, along with a 9 p.m. nightclub show at Underground featuring LA Riots and DJ Kilmore of Incubus.

A complete listing of Opening Weekend events is at the Mammoth Mountain website.

On Tuesday, the ski runs themselves were quiet and pristine, but inside, Main Lodge was a hive of activity at every level.

Standing on the Sun Deck enjoying a breather, one employee said to another, “I can’t believe we’re opening in two days!”

In the fourth-floor executive offices, everyone from executives to IT specialists scurried to and fro, while downstairs, in Roma’s cafeteria, maintenance workers, snow groomers, lift mechanics and support personnel created a din.

It obviously was a far cry from the scene 60 years ago.

While the ski area is celebrating its 60th anniversary all season, the anniversary actually is in commemoration of the signing of the use agreement between Dave McCoy and the U.S. Forest Service.

From the date of the signing, it took two years for skiers to get onto actual lifts.

In an archived story from William Oscar Johnson in Sports Illustrated, the author described the early days in detail.

“Chair One was opened on Thanksgiving Day 1955, and word of Mammoth’s easy new way up the slopes had spread so widely there were more than 2,000 skiers clotted together in one of the first—and worst—lift-line snarls in the mountain’s history,” Johnson wrote. 

In that lift line, skiers waited two to three hours for a ride up the hill—a far distant historical footnote to what will take place this week.

When the ski area kicks into full operation, it will offer more than 3,500 acres of skiable terrain, serviced by 28 lifts, including 3 gondolas.

The area has 3,100 feet of vertical, rising to an elevation of 11,053 feet at the summit.

Obviously, the ski area will not be in full operation for quite a while.

It’s a start, though.

Right on schedule.