2007-08 California Detail

Updated June 1, 2008

Mammoth opened Broadway on November 9 and struggled to maintain it for over a week of warm weather. By Thanksgiving Saddle Bowl opened Saddle Bowl from chair 3 and the beginner chair 11 a couple of days later. A good week of snowmaking opened more Main Lodge runs, plus Stump Alley and Cornice for the first weekend of December. Natural snow in November was only 6 inches. The Dec. 6-8 storm dropped 20 inches, so a base was finally established, but another dump is needed to open advanced natural terrain. Snowmaking opened Canyon Lodge Dec. 15. The Dec. 18-20 storms totalled 40 inches, so all lifts and about 70% of terrain were open at Mammoth for Christmas on a 45-50 inch base. Everything opened after the 77 inch storm of January 3-8. 10 inches new Jan. 20-22 and 48 inches in late January. After 35 inches in early February the base rose to 8-10 feet. After 2 dry weeks it snowed nearly 5 feet in late February with base maxing out at 10-13 feet. There was an 8 inch storm in mid-March and another 8 the last weekend of March. Canyon/Eagle had spring conditions since mid-March. April was dry with only 3 inches snow, though not excessively warm. Thus coverage was still 4-6 feet and spring skiing was decent to the projected Memorial Day close. But it snowed a foot over the Memorial holiday, extending Mammoth's season another week.

Southern California's 2007-08 season can be compared to the past 32 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. 2007-08 was a rare "average" season in region that is usually feast or famine. Natural snowfall was substantial in January but low to minimal in other months. Season snowfall was slightly below average, but was one of the highest for a La Nina year. There were more rain events than normal, but they were not severe and affected surface conditions more than coverage.
November: Snowmaking got the first runs open at Bear Mt., Snow Summit and Mountain High West at Thanksgiving, but the November 30 storm from Baja was all rain.
December: After overnight rain December 6, 6-10 inches snow fell Dec. 7-8. The ensuing week was excellent for snowmaking, so up to half of terrain was open at Big Bear and Mt. High West by Dec. 15. 3 days of continuous snowmaking after Christmas opened most runs at the Big Bear areas.
January: Early January storms started with rain Jan. 4 but by Jan. 7 1 1/2 to 3 feet of snow had fallen. A warmup brought spring conditions and thinned out the natural areas some by MLK weekend. Most natural terrain opened for the first time since 2005 with up to 4 feet of snow Jan. 23-24. Though there was some rain 2 nights later, an ensuing 1.5 to 2.5 feet of snow restored surfaces.
February: There were 3 small February storms of 3-6 inches each, but the last February storm was mostly rain. Most SoCal terrain was open all month on the good base from January's storms.
March: March was mostly warm with good spring conditions, with just 6 inches new. By mid-month some of the natural terrain started to melt out.
April: Most areas lasted only a week into April, but Snow Summit and Mt. Baldy's Thunder Mt. hung on until April 13.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2007-08 summary):

Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute, Chair 11 and lower Westridge open. Beginner area open Thanksgiving and Miracle Mile 2 days later. Summit Run and upper Westridge early December. Chair 7 opened Dec 10 and chairs 9 and 11 by Dec. 14. Lower Westridge opened at Christmas and and Wall/Olympic shortly thereafter. 90% open by Dec. 30 and full operation from late January through March. About 70% open in early April, closing April 13.

Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. One lower lift and a few park features open Thanksgiving. Big Bear Express opened Dec. 1, Silver Mt. Dec. 14. Bear Peak opened Dec. 29. 90% open by Dec. 30. Off-piste canyons open by Feb. 1, probably marginal by mid-March. Only the Big Bear Express was open in early April, close April 9.

Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. Opened a few lower runs early December. Most of lower mountain open by Dec. 14. All lower runs open by mid-January with Slide Peak open weekends from February 1 to mid-March. Closed April 6.

Mountain High: East as well as West open. Chisholm and a couple of lower runs open Thanksgiving. Borderline and more terrain features open early December. 50% of West and one top-to-bottom run on East open by Dec. 14. West 70% and a second long run at East open by Dec. 30. All runs at West and most of East open after the early January storm. 100% open as Jan. 25, the day of the OB Government and Sawmill Canyon avalanches. East was only open weekends in March through March 23. West 90% open late March, closed April 6.

Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Baldy had the beginner area and Fire Road open at Christmas. The 3 feet of snow in early January left a crusty surface at Baldy with better than expected coverage, but within a week some rocks emerged and the surface was mostly hardpack. 100% open from Jan. 24 through February, though a few south exposures got thin in February. Chairs 1 and 4 had good spring skiing then but the most direct sun exposures burned off in March. March 23 was probably the last day for Chair 4. Considerable hiking was required to ski to the bottom in late March. The core area of Thunder was still skiable to the April 13 close.
Mt. Waterman passed lift inspections in October 2007 and patrol was working on the mountain since the early January storm. Despite having a 7 foot base since late January, opening was delayed until February 16 by road closure and kitchen inspection. March 15 was Waterman's last day of this season due to financial and staffing considerations. But 2007-08 was a useful learning experience and Mt. Waterman will likely operate whenever there is adequate natural snow in future seasons.