2015-16 California Detail

Updated May 17, 2016

Mammoth had 12 inches Nov. 1-2, but up to 30 inches on top and opened Nov. 5, a week earlier than scheduled. 20 inches the next week got about 1/4 of the mountain open. After another 8 inches chairs 4, 5, 12, 13 and 14 opened Nov. 21. However some of the top of mountain was stripped by upslope wind Nov. 16. 14 inches fell over Thanksgiving and Mammoth was half open until Canyon Lodge opened Dec. 12. After 4+ feet of mid-December snow, chair 22 opened and Mammoth reached full operation Dec. 19. 4 feet of snow fell over the next week for an excellent holiday season. Mammoth had snow every week in January, totalling 124 inches, though the last storm began with some rain below 9,000 feet. First half of February warm weather caused some melt/freeze on sunny exposures on the Canyon/Eagle side of the mountain. The only snow in February was 13.5 inches Feb. 17-18, so the sunny exposures again had spring conditions by the end of the month. Mammoth got 41 inches March 6-9 and another 17 inches March 12-14. There were 13.5 inches of snow in the second half of March. The April 9-10 storm was about 6 inches at Main Lodge with rain/snow mix at lower elevations. There were 10 inches snow the last week of April and another 4 inches in early May. Mammoth will be open at least through first weekend in June.

Southern California's 2015-16 season can be compared to the past 39 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. 2015-16 was not as bad as the prior 2 seasons, but Southern California skiing is currently suffering through its worst 5 year stretch on record, with zero A weekends with all areas in full operation with packed powder conditions during that time.

November: Most of the early snow did not make it to the SoCal mountains except for some inside slider activity at Big Bear late in the month. Cold air enabled snowmaking openings at Mt. High West and Bear Mt. by mid-November, and the favorable weather over Thanksgiving brought the Big Bear areas to 40% open by end of the month.
December: Continued cold opened a few more runs, but the areas were in a holding pattern for a warm week. December storms brought minimal new snow but some cold weather for Big Bear snowmaking to expand to 70%. There was some rain Dec. 22, but cold nights the rest of the month allowed Snow Summit to reach 90% on snowmaking.
January: After some initial rain 2+ feet of snow fell during the first week of January, opening most of the natural terrain. However, with no more new snow little natural terrain remained open after MLK weekend and there was some rain the next week. The next storm was heavy rain all day Jan. 31 but ended with 7-10 inches of snow overnight. The rain did more damage than the snow helped on natural terrain, so only snowmaking runs remained open.
February: The Feb. 18 storm was all rain and inflicted further damage. It is also evident that the drought has limited snowmaking at all areas except Big Bear, which continues to have an assured water supply from the lake. The warm February eventually closed most SoCal ski terrain outside Big Bear.
March: 5-11 inches fell March 6-7 but that was not enough to reopen any terrain. Even at Big Bear some runs closed in the ensuing warm weather. The 6-9 inches March 28 did not reverse the decline in open terrain.
April: April 8-9 precipitation was all rain, and Bear Mt. was the last to close April 10.

60% of El Nino ski seasons are good for SoCal natural snow terrain for 2+ months vs. 30% of all ski seasons, but this strong El Nino was a bust for SoCal skiing in 2015-16. Of 6 previous strong El Ninos, 1986-87 was the only other below average SoCal ski season. SoCal skiing is notoriously erratic but the current stretch of 5 seasons with minimal natural snow terrain open is clearly the longest on record.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2015-16 summary):

Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute, Chair 10 and lower Westridge open. Miracle Mile, Summit Run and Ego Trip opened Nov. 21. Chairs 7 and 9 opened end of November. Log Chute and lower Westridge opened in early December. The Wall and Chair 10 opened by Dec. 19. 90+% open by Dec. 30 and 100% after the early January storms into March. 85% open mid-March, 50% end of March, close April 6.

Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. The Bear Express and some park features were open since Nov. 14. Most of the lower mountain was filled in by late November. Silver and Bear Peaks opened by Dec. 19. 70% open during the holidays and 100% after the early January storms into March. 72% open end of March, close April 10.

Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. About 20% open end of November, 44% by end of December. Slide Peak opened after the early January storms and closed after MLK weekend. Most of the lower mountain was open to mid-March. Closed March 28.

Mountain High: East as well as West open. West opened few lower runs by Nov. 7 and Chisholm by Nov. 21. 26% of West was open from late November through New Year's. Both East and West were mostly open after the early January storms, but East closed after MLK weekend and West declined from half open in late January to closing on Feb. 29.

Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Baldy opened chairs 1,2 and 3 after the early January storms. Waterman opened Jan. 16 and was open weekends into early February. Baldy had the beginner area and a couple of Thunder groomers open from late January until closing after the February 18 rain which washed out the beginner gulch.

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