2002-03 California Detail

Updated June 15, 2003

Mammoth opened Broadway on November 7 on snowmaking just as the first storm of the season began, eventually totalling 32 inches. After the storm Mammoth opened chairs 2, 3, Thunder Bound and the upper gondola. From mid-November to mid-December about 80% of lifts and 60% of terrain were open. During the 3rd week of December Mammoth received nearly 8 feet of snow, and with continuing snow through the holidays finshed with a December total of 140 inches. Much of January was very warm with only 12 inches new snow, but with low sun the upper mountain remained packed powder on a 6-8 foot base. The base increased to 7-9 feet after 37 inches in February, but much of the mountain turned to spring conditions during the warm first 2 weeks of March. There was 2 feet new in mid-March, but spring conditions returned by the end of the month. April had record snowfall of 90 inches, and there was another 23 inches in the first half of May. Who would have believed that Mammoth would reach a normal snow total when it was at only 78% at the end of March? 11 lifts were open on a 3-6 foot base at Memorial Day and Mammoth closed June 15.

Southern California's 2002-03 season can be compared to the past 26 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. This was another poor season, the 4th in the past 5 years. Unlike last year's extreme drought, Los Angeles had near normal rain. Unfortunately major storms in November and February had snow levels of 10,000+ feet, so snowfall was barely half of normal.
November: SoCal resorts received all rain November 8-9 as temperatures remained in the 40's. With the ensuing heat wave snowmaking did not start until nearly Thanksgiving.
December: The 3rd week of December brought 1-2 feet of natural snow and cold weather for nearly continuous snowmaking. The Big Bear areas reached full operation and snowmaking runs had packed powder conditions until New Year's. A limited number of natural snow runs were open during the holidays.
January: Coverage was maintained by intermittent nighttime snowmaking during the warm and dry January, but the natural snow base never exceeded 2 feet and was wiped out.
February: Surface conditions were improved by the cold first week of February, but the big storm of Feb. 11-13 was all rain and President's weekend conditions were dismal. Nighttime snowmaking and 2-5 inches snow during the next week repaired the surfaces. 1.5 feet of new snow the last week of February restored packed powder conditions to the areas with a snowmaking base.
March: Natural terrain started from ground zero, so the few runs open the first weekend of March were thin and closed within a week. Up to a foot of snow fell in mid-March, but SoCal had another 2 weeks of warm weather after that.
April: By the second week of April only the Big Bear areas were open, and in partial operation. With the 1-2 feet of new snow on April 14 Mountain High and Mt. Baldy partially reopened through Easter weekend, and Snow Summit had a few runs open until April 27.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2002-03 summary):
Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute and the full length of the Westridge Terrain Park open. The mid-mountain top to bottom runs and chairs 3 and 7 opened in early December. All lifts and nearly all runs have been open from December 21 through March. Over half the area was open until April 27.
Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. Snow Summit purchased Bear Mt. over the summer, and skiers and riders can expect significant changes to Bear. About half of Bear's snowmaking has been upgraded to Summit's quality for this season, and almost all blue runs at Bear will contain park features. The Big Bear Express and some lower lifts opened in early December. The favorable weather in mid-December was likely used to enhance the terrain parks. Bear Peak opened just after Christmas. Silver opened earlier but was never explicitly announced. Coverage and surfaces were similar to Snow Summit's (by personal observation Feb. 22). Bear Peak and Silver were open through March, and the Big Bear Express and all-mountain terrain park were open through April 20.
Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. 6 lower lifts were open on an 18-30 inch base over the holidays, but only 3 lifts in January. Snow Valley was hard hit by the Feb. 11-13 rain and was reduced to one beginner lift most of the time thereafter, finally closing for good in mid-March.
Mountain High: East as well as West open. East opened December 20, and about half the terrain there was open during the holidays, along with most of West. However, the natural terrain didn't last long and East closed in late January. About 50% of West was well maintained with snowmaking before the rain. The ensuing restoration process was likely more gradual than at Big Bear. Most of West was now open after the late February storm, but the natural areas had a thin base. One top-to-bottom run on East reopened for the first weekend of March, but closed 2 days later. Less than half of West was open during most of March, and the last 3 runs closed April 6. Up to half of West was open for Easter week after the mid-April storm.
Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Both areas opened December 21, but only Baldy's beginner terrain was open past the holidays, with snowmaking assistance. Waterman was inaccessible after the February snow while the Angeles Crest Hwy was under repair from earlier mudslides. Baldy's reopened the beginner run plus limited terrain on Thunder for the first 2 weekends of March but then closed again. Similar terrain was open during Easter Week.