2003-04 California Detail

Updated April 25, 2004

Mammoth had 49 inches snow in November. It opened Broadway on schedule Nov. 6, and for the next two weekends most runs on chairs 1 & 2 were open, plus the back of 3 (Saddle Bowl) and Cornice from the upper gondola. Most of the lower mountain chairs were opened for Thanksgiving. Mammoth reached full operation Dec. 21, and then got 5 feet more new snow in late December for a total of 154 inches. The dumps continued with 50 inches more over New Year's and the base reached 10-12 feet. Since the holidays there was less than a foot new for 3 weeks, but surface conditions remained cruisable packed powder both on and off piste for most of that time. There were a few inches in late January but 128 inches in February, capped by 65 in the final week and another 14 inches March 2. It was then warm for nearly 6 weeks, with the exception of a 1 foot storm in late March. Mammoth had 15 inches new snow April 17-18 and the base is now 5-10 feet.

Southern California's 2003-04 season can be compared to the past 27 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. Snowfall was concentrated in late February/early March, producing about 3 weeks of excellent skiing. But the early season progressed more slowly than normal and spring was warm and dry.
November: There was about one foot of natural snow in 3 small storms between Oct. 31 and Nov. 15. Mt. High opened Nov. 3, followed by Bear Mt., Snow Valley and Snow Summit over the following 10 days. For over a month snowmaking opportunities were erratic and all 4 areas had to devote most of their efforts to maintaining the handful of open runs rather than expanding.
December: There was a modest expansion for Thanksgiving, but at Christmas Big Bear and Mountain High West were still a bit under half open. The Christmas storm was nearly all rain (at the end an inch new at Mt. High and 3 inches at Big Bear) and the January 2 storm mostly drizzle. However there were finally some extended cold spells over the holidays and some expert runs at the Big Bear areas opened for New Year's.
January: With intermittent nighttime snowmaking Big Bear areas maintained about 3/4 of terrain and Mountain High West about half. With only 9 inches natural snow no natural terrain opened.
February: The 9-inch storm of early February was not adequate to open natural snow runs, but the late February snowfall of 3-5 feet opened all natural terrain for the first time since 2001.
March: Conditions were excellent through the first week of March with another 18 inches new, but the sustained heat during the rest of March wiped out all natural terrain over the next 2 weeks.
April: With ongoing warm spring weather even the Big Bear areas struggled to stay open through April 10.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2003-04 summary):
Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute and the full length of the Westridge Terrain Park open. Miracle Mile opened Nov. 14. Summit Run and Ego Trip opened for Thanksgiving, and chair 7 and upper Westridge Dec. 13. Chairs 9, 10 and Log Chute opened after Christmas and the Wall opened at New Year's. 85% open with Olympic and another run on chair 9 open since late January, and 100% open February 21. 85% open at the end of March and less than half open at April 10 closing.
Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. Snow Summit purchased Bear Mt. during the summer of 2002, and with the emphasis on park features opened Bear first this season. The Big Bear Express, Gold Rush, Access Express and some beginner terrain were open by Christmas. One run on Silver opened the last weekend of December and Bear Peak opened at New Year's. Snow and cold weather allowed for creation of some bigger and more extensive park features by early February, with 100% of terrain by February 21. 90% open at the end of March and about half open at April 10 closing.
Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. 4 lifts, 10 runs and some park features were open in January. 2/3 of terrain opened by Feb. 21 and Slide Peak opened Feb. 28 and closed March 14. The rest of the area closed March 28.
Mountain High: East as well as West open. West opened Chisholm/Cruiser on Nov. 3, and added Borderline/Wyatt and Conquest for Thanksgiving. Mt. High took a pretty big hit from the Christmas rain but then restored surfaces with snowmaking. 50% of West was open through most of January. 2/3 of West was open after the early February storm and all of West by February 21. East opened all terrain Feb. 27 after making some snow near its base, but closed March 12 after the heat wave. Only 40% of West was still open at the ned of March and it closed during Easter week.
Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. One foot in November plus the two nine inch storms by early February were not enough. But mid-February snow of nearly 4 feet allowed most of Baldy to open February 23. Full operation as of Feb. 28 with another 18 inches of dense snow that sealed in good coverage and a packed powder surface. There was another 1-2 feet on March 2. Chairs 1 & 4 lost adequate cover during the second week of March, but spring skiing persisted on Thunder Mt. for another week plus the weekend of March 27-28. The 2002 and 2003 drought seasons took their toll on Mt. Waterman and it is unclear when it will be back in business. For more info contact Mt. Waterman Ski Patrol