2005-06 California Detail

Updated April 29, 2006

Mammoth was the first Sierra area to open on November 10, but only due to high altitude snowmaking. With only 11 inches natural snow and warm temps, Mammoth was only 5% open at Thanksgiving. The next week Mammoth received 36 inches of snow, enough to open the Canyon and Eagle lodges and most lower mountain runs Dec. 3. After another 5 inches about 3/4 of terrain was open in mid-December with good conditions. The surprise 37-inch storm of December 18-19 brought full coverage. There were 50 inches Christmas week, and the New Year's storm dumped 95 inches in 36 hours. Base depths peaked at 12-14 feet after the MLK weekend storm of 28 inches and 31 inches in the rest of January. No new snow in the first half of February but 2 feet fell around President's weekend and 3 feet at the end of February. 189 inches in March (second highest after 1991) plus a record 105 inches in April pushed the base up to 18-20 feet, ensuring another 4th of July closing.

Southern California's 2005-06 season can be compared to the past 30 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. The first half of the season was the worst in 20 years. Significant natural snow fell only in March, and base depths were never quite sufficient to open all natural terrain.
November: It was too warm to make snow until Nov. 26. Mt. High West opened one top-to-bottom trail Nov. 28 and Snow Summit did the same the next day.
December: Intermittent snowmaking in early December allowed Snow Summit to get about 25% open, Mt. High West 20% and some more park features to be built at Bear Mt. There was no further progress in the warm second half of December, so there were fewer runs open at New Year's than any season since 1996-97.
January: The New Year's Eve storm was rain and the January 2 storm averaged about 6 inches, so surfaces improved for a week. However minimal new terrain was added so the Big Bear areas and Mt. High West were still no more than 40% open for MLK weekend, the least amount since 1986. The next week's cold temperatures and snowmaking finally brought the Big Bear areas to majority operation.
February: Early February was very warm and dry, but a cold storm dropped 6-10 inches at the start of President's weekend. Little new terrain was opened but surfaces were best of the season. The substantial storm at the end of the month was unfortunately nearly all rain, and some areas lost terrain.
March: The two storms in early March dropped about 4 inches total, improving surfaces but not reopening any closed terrain. The cold storm of March 10-11 dropped 20-38 inches, bringing Big Bear to full operation and opening some natural terrain for the first time this season. All of this terrain was maintained by smaller storms in late March totalling 1-2 feet. The March storms were unusual in that snowfall was fairly even among the areas, rather than the usual pattern of twice as much in the San Gabriel mountains as at Big Bear.
April: With 1 to 1.5 feet the first week of April and with cool weather and an occasional few inches new snow March's cover held up in April much better than normal, with Snow Summit and Mt. Baldy remaining open to the end of the month.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2005-06 summary):

Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute and the full length of the Westridge Terrain Park open. Miracle Mile, Summit Run, 2 runs on Chair 3 and some beginner terrain open by December 9. Chair 9 open mid-December. Chair 7 open first week of January. Log Chute opened Jan. 16, Wall Jan. 22 and Chair 10 Jan. 23. 80% open through early March. Full operation after 30 inches new March 10-11. Still 90+% open at Easter, 70+% open to April 23 and about half open the weekend of April 29-30.

Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. Open Dec. 3, one top-to-bottom run as of Dec. 4. Other lower lifts open mid-December. Silver Mt. and most of the other lower trails opened by Jan. 23, but the Bear Peak and Outlaw chairs did not open until after the 30 inch storm March 10-11. Still 90+% open at Easter with the main chair and park features open to April 23.

Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. Limited lower mountain open as of Dec. 9. About 40% open on Jan. 23, 15% open after early February heat, most lower mountain open after President's weekend storm. Snow Valley got the most snow, 3+ feet, March 10-11 and opened Slide Peak on weekends from March 18 into early April. Lower mountain open to April 23.

Mountain High: East as well as West open. Chisholm, Borderline/Wyatt and some beginner terrain on West open by December 9. Conquest and some more park features open mid-December. A couple of steeper shots along the West Express liftline added in early January. The open runs were resurfaced with snowmaking after MLK, with West remaining about half open. The President's weekend storm bumped West up to 70% and opened one top-to-bottom run on East. The rain closed East and cut West back to 50%. The March 10-11 storm opened all of West and about 3/4 of East. East only opened intermittently, generally with only Goldrush and East was all closed by the end of March. West remained fully open into early April and gradually declined to about 1/2 open by its April 23 closing.

Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Baldy's beginner area was open in January. The President's weekend storm reopened it plus one run on Thunder. Only the beginner area was open after the rain, but then the run on Thunder reopened. About 2 feet of snow March 10-11 opened much of Thunder, and the later March storms opened some but not all runs on chairs 1 or 4. The maximum base of 18-40 inches in early April meant thin conditions except in the core area of Thunder, which remained open to April 30. Mt. Waterman has been sold after 5 years of being closed to the public and may reopen in 2006-07. Details here.