2011-12 California Detail

Updated June 9, 2012

Mammoth had 19 inches October 5-7 but it all melted below 10,000 feet. The mountain opened on snowmaking Nov. 10, and along with 30 inches of November snow Chairs 1-3, 6, 11 and the Cornice were open by early December along with 11% of terrain. Canyon and Eagle Lodges opened on snowmaking Dec. 14 despite only 2 inches snowfall in December. This was the worst Christmas at Mammoth since 1999-2000. Christmas week was warm and the crowds brought up lots of rocks. Conditions remained marginal until the storm of January 20-23 dropped 55 inches. By eyewitness reports about 80% of terrain was then skiable with some sketchy entrances to some of the upper steeps. In the ensuing warm weather only Canyon/Eagle developed spring conditions. The mid-February storm added 11 inches, with another 14 at the end of the month. Early March was warm, with spring conditions developing over the lower mountain. The mid-March storm of 41 inches finally opened most of the upper steeps from the top. 20 inches at the end of March/early April and 27 inches April 11-14. Mammoth was in full operation to April 22 and spring operations lasted to Memorial Day though it was a struggle to maintain 2 thin lower runs to the Main Lodge. The upper mountain was better in late season than the previous low snow year in 2007.

Southern California's 2011-12 season can be compared to the past 35 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. Snowfall was ususually distributed, with the San Gabriel Mountains getting 2/3 as much snow as Big Bear, when they normally get twice as much. So skiing was marginal on natural snow dependent terrain all season.
November: There was an average of 16 inches snow in November but it was distributed among 3 small storms so as usual November skiing was limited to a few runs at Big Bear and Mt. High West.
December: The Nov. 30 windstorm brought 10-16 inches of snow to the San Bernardino Mt. areas, and terrain steadily expanded with over a week of ideal snowmaking weather. With 10 inches more snow and more snowmaking the Big Bear areas were close to full operation with the most terrain in California for Christmas.
January: January was mostly warm, so the open terrain had spring conditions most of the month.
February: In late February there were two more "inside slider" type storms that dropped only 4-6 inches in the San Gabriel Mts. and over twice as much at Big Bear.
March: Early March was warm with spring conditions, but the mid-March storm dropped 2 feet at all the areas and another foot a week later. Natural terrain opened on a marginal basis and soon closed due to minimal base before the March storms and warm weather between them.
April: Only Snow Summit and a limited part of Snow Valley were open the week after Easter though Mt. Baldy and Mt. High West opened the weekend of April 14-15 due to a 15-inch storm on April 13.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2011-12 summary):

Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute, Chair 10 and lower Westridge open. Snow Summit opened during the first week of November. Chairs 1-3 and about 20% of terrain were open at the end of November. Chair 7 opened Dec. 4, chair 9 Dec. 6 and chair 10 Dec. 9. Wall, Olympic and lower Westridge opened by Dec. 16. 94% open at Christmas, 100% through end of March, 61% to April 15 closing.

Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. Bear was about 15% open with the Bear Express and some park features at the end of November. The rest of the lower mountain and Silver opened by Dec. 9. Bear Peak opend by Dec. 16. 93% open at Christmas, 100% through end of March, closed 4/8.

Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. Snow Valley was 29% open on Dec. 10 and was 46% open at Christmas, declining to 32% with the warm January weather. 57% open at the end of March, Slide Peak was open briefly after the March storms. 10% open now.

Mountain High: East as well as West open. West opened the first week of November. It did not get new snow from the Nov. 30 windstorm but with snowmaking reached 48% open by Dec. 10 and 58% Dec. 17. East opened Dec. 16. 57% open at Christmas but declining since with East closed after MLK weekend. About half of West was open in February with part of East one or 2 weekends. East remains closed (may have opened for a day or two after the mid-March storm) and West was 57% open at the end of March, closed 4/8, open April 14-15.

Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Natural snow in November was not nearly adequate and the San Gabriel Mts. did not get snow from the Nov. 30 windstorm. The 10 inches in December were not enough to open any natural terrain. Baldy's beginner area opened for Christmas on snowmaking but is now closed again. February's storms were also inadequate for natural terrain. Thunder opened after the mid-March storm but was reported very thin by eyewitness reports. The same was true when Baldy opened Thunder after the late March and mid-April storms. Waterman did not open at any time this season.

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