2008-09 California Detail

Updated May 30, 2009

Mammoth received 21 inches of snow near its base and opened a run Nov. 2. But much more fell on the upper mountain, which opened Nov. 7 with another foot of snow that night. Nearly all the mountain went to spring conditions during the next warm week including much of the top, which was misted by a low cloud and then froze. Snowmaking resumed in time for chairs 12, 4, 10 and 5 to open for Thanksgiving, topped off with 7 inches new snow. Mammoth received 50 inches of snow in last week's storm and opened Canyon/Eagle Dec. 17. 63 inches of snow fell through Christmas, so most terrain opened by Dec. 29. Only 4 inches during the first 3 weeks of January, but Mammoth retained excellent packed and windbuffed snow surfaces over 80% of the mountain. Conditions have been outstanding since the late January storm of 59 inches and another 142 in February. The early March storm added another 45 inches, with another 17 March 21-22. Mammoth's 9-14 foot April base was the highest in North America, and 3 storms totalling 15 inches first weekend of May kept it high. Then it got very warm, so Mammoth is likely to close on its announced date of June 14.

Southern California's 2008-09 season can be compared to the past 33 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. Snowfall was average, but in terms of skiing it was an above average season due to one of the major storms hitting in mid-December.
November: Snowmaking was delayed due to the warm November. A late November storm dropped 2-6 inches at Baldy and just a trace elsewhere.
December: Snowmaking did not begin until December, and only beginner runs at the base of Mt. High and Bear Mt. opened for the first weekend of December. This was the second latest opening of the past 25 years. But the mid-December storms totalled 3.5 to 4.5 feet, bringing all SoCal ski areas to full operation. This is one of only 4 seasons in the past 33 years with an A weekend before Christmas. Both the Dec. 20 and Christmas storms were mostly rain in the San Gabriel Mts though not at Big Bear, each ending with about 3 inches snow. So holiday skiing was good where there was snowmaking and/or grooming and/or sun-softening, but some off trail skiing was icy or closed.
January: The sustained mid-January heat wave melted down most natural terrain. The intermittent weather later in January was all rain in the ski areas except for 4 inches snow at the end January 25.
February: The February 6-7 storm dropped up to 3 feet in the San Gabriels but only a foot at Big Bear. On February 9 another 1-2 feet, this time more at Big Bear. The storms before and during President's weekend added another 2-3 feet. Late in February it warmed up and unfortunately there was some drizzle.
March: Only a couple of dustings the first and third weeks of March, so it's was spring for the whole month and many natural snow runs closed after March 15.
April: Weather continued warm with most terrain closing by Easter. Snow Summit had the most for the ensuing week.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2008-09 summary):

Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute, Chair 10 and lower Westridge open. Miracle Mile opened Dec. 12. Summit Run and Chair 3 opened Dec. 16, with the the rest of the mountain gradually opening through the week. Full operation from Dec. 20 through most of March. 90% open at the end of March and 60% for the week after Easter.

Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. Beginner area open Dec. 6. Bear Mt. Express open Dec. 16. Full operation Dec. 20 including some of the off-trail canyons. The designated runs remained 100% open through January, and the canyons were well covered again from the February storms into March. 75% of trails were open at the end of March and Bear closed April 12.

Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. Beginner area open by Dec. 13. Chair 6 open Dec. 16. Full operation including Slide Peak Dec. 20. Slide probably closed after MLK weekend but was open weekends since the February snow to mid-March. Half the front side was open for the week after Easter.

Mountain High: East as well as West open. Beginner area at the base of East open Dec. 6. Chisholm on West open Dec. 13. Natural terrain started opening on West Dec. 15, and East opened Dec. 20. A few rain closures at the bottom of East as of Christmas. During the warm weather both East and West were about 2/3 open, but East closed after MLK weekend and West was down to 58% open in late January. Both East and West were back to full operation since the first February dump. Through mid-March Olympic and a few other runs closed and overall Mt. High was about 80% open March 15. Then East closed for good and West was 58% open at the end of March and 40% open for Easter.

Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Baldy opened some runs Dec. 16 and was in full operation Dec. 18. Mt. Waterman opened chairs 1 & 2 Dec. 21. Baldy off-piste was reported very icy at Christmas, and Waterman's face the same. Waterman closed Jan. 12 and the sun exposed chairs 1 and 4 terrain at Baldy a week later. A few runs on Thunder plus the beginner area remained open at the end of January. Both Baldy and Waterman were in full operation after the 4 feet new over Feb. 6-9. As of mid-March I would estimate Baldy was about 70% open. After March 15 Waterman and Baldy's chair 4 closed, along with most of the chair 1 runs. The core area of Thunder was still adequately covered at the end of March and a few runs there will be open for the weekend of April 18-19.