2004-05 California Detail

Updated May 24, 2005

Mammoth had 82 inches in the last 2 weeks of October plus 27 in November. Mammoth was 40% open at Halloween, 60% by mid-November and 100% for Thanksgiving. There were 34 inches in early December followed by a warm spell. However the 2/3 of the area that faces north retained a packed powder surface through Christmas. Christmas week storms dumped 68 inches and another 103 inches in early January. Later in January 41 inches fell. February had 62 inches, most of it in around President's weekend. After only 3 inches in the first half of March, Mammoth had 88 inches in the second half. There were 41 inches new in April and a record 31 in May, so Mammoth will stay open to July for the first time since 1998.

Southern California's 2004-05 season can be compared to the past 29 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. Southern California had the most early season snow in the 30 years I have been keeping records, but the excellent start was set back by heavy rain in January. A big February built a deep base that lasted far into spring. For such a long season there were only 3 weekends with packed powder conditions though.
October: Southern California ski areas had their first known October opening in history. The first storm was all rain, but in the last week of October there was 1-2 feet of snow with a few cold nights for snowmaking after the storm.
November: For the first 3 weeks of November snowmaking opportunities were infrequent, and by Nov. 18 SoCal skiing was reduced to one run at Bear Mt. An unpredicted storm dumped 2-3 feet of snow over the next 2 days, opening most SoCal terrain for Thanksgiving. With the ensuing cold weather most snowmaking runs are opened during the following week. The Nov. 21-22 snow was light and dry, so only a small amount of natural terrain remained open through Christmas, but total SoCal snowfall before December 1 was the highest in at least 30 years.
December: Christmas week's first storm dropped 18+ inches with occasional rain mix at base elevations and 3+ feet higher up, followed by 3-6 inches New Year's Eve and 12-18 inches Jan. 3-4. Nearly all terrain was covered with packed and fresh powder at New Year's for the first time since 1993.
January: The major storm of January 7-10 dumped about 18 inches of snow before turning to 3 days of torrential rain, as much as 15 inches. Some terrain was lost and off-trail surface conditions were icy until late January's snow, which averaged about 6 inches.
February: Conditions gradually improved with snowmaking and 6-12 inches of wet snow in the first half of February. A major storm cycle centered on President's weekend dropped 3.5 feet at Big Bear and up to 9 feet in the San Gabriel mountains.
March: March was mostly warm and sunny with just a few small storms totalling about a foot of snow, but with the deep base from February nearly all terrain remained open through April 3.
April/May: The natural snow base had extremely high water content and thus melted off at a much slower than normal rate. Thus Snow Valley was open until May 1 and Baldy's Thunder Mt. until May 22.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2004-05 summary):

Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute and the full length of the Westridge Terrain Park open. Big Bear snowfall was reported 16-24 inches, so Snow Summit opened 80% of the mountain October 30. After 2 more weeks of limited operation, Summit closed for a week. But with the November 21-22 storm and ensuing snowmaking Summit regained its usual early season dominance and was 80% open at Thanksgiving and 100% since the Christmas week storms. All runs were still open after the January rain and surfaces were restored with snowmaking and the late January snow. Base depths rose with the February storms and all terrain was open through April 10. From April 11-17 about 70% of the mountain (what's accessible from All-Mountain Express) was open.

Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. Bear Mt. opened everything except Silver and Bear Peak Friday October 29. By Nov. 20 only Claimjumper was open. With the November storm Silver Mt. opened temporarily for Thanksgiving weekend and again on snowmaking the first weekend of December. Bear used its snowmaking opportunity to beef up its park features, which were more substantial than normal for early in the season. Bear Peak and the canyons between the peaks opened at New Year's. All runs reopened after the rain, and the natural canyons again after the late January snow. Base depths rose with the February storms so the canyons were open through March, Silver and Bear Peak to April 10. The Big Bear Express and most park features were open until April 17.

Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. Snow Valley first opened after the Nov. storm. 30% open through most of December and Slide Peak opened at New Year's. After the January rain Snow Valley remained 90+% open, weather permitting. After the February storms all terrain remained open until April 17, with the lower mountain open until May 1.

Mountain High: East as well as West open. On reported snowfall of 10-20 inches, West opened 60% of terrain on October 27 but had to close by Nov. 15. After the November storm West was 80% open was about 65% open through Christmas. East opened temporarily for Thanksgiving, reopened with snowmaking first weekend of December and then declined to less than half open with sketchy conditions by Christmas. With the Christmas week snow both East and West were 100% open before New Year's. For MLK weekend both East and West were 90% open, but with a frozen granular surface. Both mountains were reported 100% open since late January. Base increased to 5-10 feet after the major storms of February, and East remained open through April 3. West was 80-90+% open to April 17 and about half open at the April 24 close.

Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Baldy opened a few runs on Thunder Mt. Friday October 30 and stayed open for 2 November weekends. With the November storm Thunder and Chair 1 both opened for skiing. With the dry snow and high winds coverage was variable on chair 4 and icy near the bottom, so chairs 1 & 4 were closed in December. The more sheltered runs on Thunder stayed open through Christmas, but the base was thin in many places. Christmas week storms dropped 2 feet at the base and 3 1/2 feet with some wind effect up top, allowing all chairs and terrain to open. The January rain washed out the bottom of chair 1. Chairs 3 and 4 retained a 3-5 foot base, but most of the shaded runs on Thunder that normally have the best snow were closed for icy conditions for 2 weeks. Much of Thunder reopened with the late January snow and full operation was restored by the 4-9 foot dump over President's weekend. All terrain on Thunder was skiable on good corn snow for 3 weeks into April, and most of it remained covered into May with another 9 inches of variable new snow. Thunder was open daily to May 15 plus one more weekends May 21-22. Chair 4 was fully covered well into April and did not close util about April 20. Chair 1 had coverage to the bottom through March, and some of the runs were still skiable about a week into April. The 2002 and 2003 drought seasons took their toll on Mt. Waterman and it is unclear when it will be back in business. Rumor has it that Forest Service permits now need to be renewed. For more info contact Mt. Waterman Ski Patrol