Amazing Mammoth


Today’s (May 6) snow deserves an entry into my diary.

Being May, it’s warm, for Christ’s sake! Friday, some young lovelies were in sport bras—stirring my sports briefs. The snow surface was warm, soft groom. Ideal spring conditions!

During the last few days, thunderstorms settled over Mammoth. Some rain, some warm snow, some hail.

This morning, low fog obscured visibility such that I deferred a decision whether to go skiing at all. Finally, on the theory that I did not have to buy a ticket and the mountain is only minutes away, I overcame my reticence for an 11a.m. start.

By the top of the first lift, I was regretting coming. A violent storm hit. Strong, cold wind.

Heavy, warm, snow dropped a half inch of fresh snow on the hard, flat pre-existing surface of warm, soft, groom. The result was sticky, soft, uniform, fresh snow on flat grooming with weak adhesion between the new and old snow.

I write because these strange conditions were fantastic—and then terrible!

The early, remarkable experience of these very unique conditions was what I will call “simulated deep powder.”

The base was reliable because it was groomed beautifully flat. The light (half inch) of new, wet, sticky snow simulated the uniform resistance one might experience in deep, untracked powder. The flat grooming of the subsurface meant I had no concern for bottoming out or encountering moguls on any turn. The wet, sticky new snow supplied the resistance of deep powder. The conditions were flawless.

The weak adhesion between new and old snow meant that if you turned too hard, your ski would skid, sweeping all new snow away, exposing only the slick ice of the subsurface, which would ruin the experience for the next skier. 

But if you turned just right, the experience simulated deep powder!

I screamed out loud. Some of the very best skiing ever. Ever! I mean you just can’t find deep powder in the Sierra.

And if you do find fresh powder, it doesn’t last. Virgin powder quickly disintegrates into skank crud.

But on this unique day, skiers who preceded me on any given run did not disturb these wonderful conditions.

So long as a previous skier did not break the delicate adhesion between new and old snow, the fact that somebody else had skied this snow before just did not matter.

The conditions continued to simulate deep powder unmarred by prior use. What could be better? Deep powder, all the time, every run, regardless of prior tracks. Amazing! I wanted it to go on forever.

Alas, heaven was short lived.

Soon, I was reminded why I sometimes hate snowboarders. Just a few boarders who turned a little bit too hard, instantly converted an entire run into a checker board of alternate squares of slick ice, and high piles of wet, impassable crud. Within 15 minutes of the end of the storm, many runs were reduced to a stop-and-go patchwork of slick ice and impassible piles of crud. No fun at all.

Oh God, You are so strict!

Steve Thomas

Mammoth Lakes