Perfect Powder: A Reflection on the Glory Days of Fresh Snow in Mammoth, Calif.

If you spent any time in a mountain town last year, you probably heard people speaking about the record-breaking winter in Mammoth Lakes, Calif. After the snow gods finished with their work, Mammoth had a total snowfall of 618 inches and remained open well into July. The mountain didn’t officially close until Aug. 9, 2017. Last winter was my first full season living in Mammoth, and I fell in love with the place. I rode powder more often than not and spent countless hours exploring Mammoth’s endless natural terrain.

Photo courtesy of Noelle Edwards

This year, however, was a different story. I arrived in Mammoth around Jan. 10. The  Olympic qualifier craziness had finally calmed down, and I was looking forward to getting back to those familiar powder days from last season. Mother Nature had different plans. Unfortunately, California hasn’t seen much winter this season relative to last; as February came to a close, Mammoth’s total snow accumulation was only about 179 inches.

While I couldn’t complain about the warm, sunny days we had the last few weeks, my powder board had been sitting in a corner, untouched. The week of the Feb. 22 though, the snow finally fell in our favor. Thursday morning, I woke up to fresh snow accompanied by some classic Mammoth weather. The high winds kept most of the chairlifts closed, and my friends and I were only able to get one powder run in before there was no visibility. I left the mountain, slightly discouraged by the weather but hopeful that the next day would be better.

Friday morning did not disappoint—fresh snow fell for almost 24 hours straight. We hadn’t had that much snowfall that quickly since December. I grabbed my powder board and prepared myself for potentially the best day of the season. My friends and I got up to the mountain early enough for first chair and began our adventure. We started off with some pretty mellow runs and hit Gravy Chute under chair one. The fresh snow was better than expected and heightened our spirits as we waited for the top of the mountain to open. 

As the crowds in the lift lines at the bottom of the mountain grew, we set our sights toward the untouched snow beckoning us at the top. When the gondola finally opened, we headed straight toward the boundary line. My friend promised that where we were going, “One run can make the entire day.” As we traversed past Dave’s Run, we encountered a ski patroller who warned that there would only be one or two good turns before we hit low-tide—the dangerous conditions created by a low snow base. Skeptical, we continued on to Head Chutes, determined to find the run that could make our day, and possibly define our entire season.

After a quick traverse and a short hike through some rocky areas, I strapped in at the top of Head Chutes with almost completely untracked snow waiting before me. The run down was something I had been missing all season: perfect powder. The snow was at least waist deep and light enough to get through but still heavy enough that I was getting face shots every other turn. With music playing in my ears, I could still hear the sensational sound of snow spraying up around me in all directions. The waist-deep powder remained constant all the way to the chairlift, no rocks in sight.

Without a second thought, we headed back to the gondola to try and get in one more untracked run around the same area. Dragon’s Back proved to be equally as fresh and pristine, and we got in one more perfect run. Although it came late this year, I finally had my first real powder day of the season. The combination of Mammoth’s terrain and the fresh snow came through for us and made for an epic day.

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