My sleepless nights are filled with nightmares and endless tossing and turning. In our efforts to try to make sense of an unusually cruel winter, we have been maximizing our road trip mileage. First to Utah , then to Interior B.C., and now to the Sierras, our endless snow search continued.
Taunted by reports of more than 31” expected in the high Sierra, our crew from the Cascades embarked on what many people would term a suicidal tendency.
I beg the question, “Are you really serious about Mammoth?” The voice on the telephone chuckles with a resounding, “Uh, I don’t know, but it looks pretty good.” I could tell this conversation was pointing me on a 15 hour journey for three days of skiing. “Okay, count me in.”
The year has been one of despair and desperation in the Pacific Northwest . The once proud mountains annually covered in deep ‘Cascade Concrete’ have been left barren in the wake of January’s Tropical Punch. Many Washington resort operators had been left with no choice but to close the mountains. Our search for snow continued.
Back on the road, as our car made its way through the crisp, clear California night, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. “This is absolutely crazy,” I told myself. But the clouds in the distance told the story. Following a moonlit cloud layer through the Sierras, we were on the tails of a classic California storm.
We arrived in Mammoth just in time for first tracks to McDonald’s. A little breakfast gut bomb and we’re on our way to the mountain. At 7am , the buzz of traffic from the L.A. megalopolis was apparent. It was going to be a freeway driving, horn-tooting, run the red-light kind of day on the mountain. The lack of sleep has suddenly faded. Red Bull and coffee are pumping through our veins as we are whisked up the Panorama Gondola.
Dropping into Climax for first tracks, Robbie sinks into his waist. The smoke emitting from the tails of his Gotamas creates a turbulent wake. While Robbie is running interference down the freeway for me, I dart off to the skier’s left and begin snaking my way in and out of the rock gardens, passing people like a driver on the 405.
Our sea level lungs gasp for air as we make our way up the short, but steep ridge of Hemlock Bowl. It’s been a few hours now since the Gondola was cooked and we are hard at work mastering our new playground. It’s delightfully chock full of tight trees, hidden drops, and large pockets of waist deep snow. The sun shines down approvingly as Matt leaps off the ridge. Billows upon billows of snow bursts fill the air as he motors down the face.
Watching Matt float through the forgiving powder, I can’t wait any longer. The need for fresh tracks engulfs me. I spy a beautiful line full with pillow upon pillows of untracked powder. Diving through each and every turn, my face becomes frozen with each and every blast of snow. As I ski up to Matt and Robbie, I can tell they had a similarly epic run. “Another one,” they ask. I respond with a contagious enthusiasm, “Absolutely!” Laughing and smiling under the radiant California sunshine, we knew our crazy gamble had paid off. 31” of the Sierra’s finest snow had welcomed us with open arms.