2019-20 California Detail

Updated May 23, 2020

Mammoth opened Broadway on snowmaking Nov. 9, followed by a couple of the race course runs. It snowed 2 inches Nov. 20 and ensuing snowmaking opened chair 3 and Saddle Bowl Nov. 23. It snowed 52 inches of light snow over Thanksgiving. 22 inches of heavier snow fell later that weekend plus another 25 the first week of December. The top opened Dec. 3 and Canyon/Eagle December 7. Mammoth was 98% open Dec. 9 and got 6 inches over the next week plus 15 inches Dec. 22-23. Base depths were 5-7 feet with 5 inches over the holidays. In January Mammoth's only snow was 10 inches on January 16. Upslope winds scoured many of the upper slopes during the first half of February while most groomed runs remained packed powder. Mammoth had its first snowless February though it snowed 9 inches March 1 and a few inches later that week. Mammoth closed March 15 due to COVID-19. This was early in a storm cycle that totalled 4 feet by March 19. It snowed intermittently over the rest of March, adding another 30 inches. From April 5-10 it snowed another 52 inches. The March and April storms would have extended good spring skiing through May though the snowpack still had only about 2/3 of normal April water content. The rest of spring was mostly warm, with 5 inches snow in late April and 2.5 inches in May. Without the shutdown Mammoth's season would likely have ended within a week or so after Memorial Day.

Southern California's 2019-20 season can be compared to the past 44 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions. Weekends subject to the COVID-19 shutdown are estimated and not color coded. Snowfall in 2019-20 was well above average and rain events were not excessive as in 2016-17 and 2018-19. But the season overall was qualitatively only average because nearly all of the snow fell early and late in the season with the core months of January and February being dry.

November: Ski areas were warm first half of November but received 6-8 inches Nov. 20. Mt. High West opened Nov. 23, Snow Summit Nov. 28 and Bear Mt. Nov. 29. It snowed 3-4 feet of light and dry snow over Thanksgiving.
December: The new snow was trashed by Dec. 2, and after two rain events in the ensuing week open terrain collapsed to levels typical of early to mid December. There was intermittent snowmaking during the second week of December. It snowed about a foot Dec. 22-23 and 2-4 feet of snow fell Dec. 25-26. Most SoCal ski areas were in full operation during Christmas Week for the first time since 2004-05. A few inches fell Dec. 30.
January: The first weekend of January was warm, bringing on spring conditions. Mid-January was cooler with just 2 inches new snow, leaving ungroomed skiing hard and crusty, but most groomed runs remained open and in good shape. Late January was warmer, so coverage declined on runs without snowmaking with many closing.
February: Two February storms averaging 4 inches each improved surfaces but did not reopen any terrain. Only the Big Bear areas remained close to full operation.
March: Early and mid-March storms totalled a little over a foot but it also rained on March 11-12. After the COVID-19 closure it snowed about a foot during the second half of March, which was also much cooler than average. Mid and late March storms snowed 2-4 feet at Mt. Baldy, about twice as much as at the other areas.
April: From April 6-10 it snowed 3+ feet, the most April snow since 1999. Mt. Baldy offered the only lift served skiing in North America from April 22 - May 3. Coverage declined fast due to a late April heat wave and would have lasted another week with normal temperatures.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (2019-20 summary):

Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute, Chair 10 and lower Westridge open. Miracle Mile, Summit Run and upper Westridge were open in early December. Chairs 7 and 9 opened second week of December. Chair 10 and lower Log Chute and Westridge opened Dec. 21. 67% open Dec. 21, full operation Dec. 27. 88% open from mid-January to the closing by owner Alterra March 15.

Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. By early December the Park Run opened from the top plus a few lower runs. Silver opened Dec. 21. 58% open Dec. 21, full operation Dec. 27, declining to 76% open at the end of January. 76% open mid-February to the closing by owner Alterra March 15.

Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. Snow Valley was about half open after getting 4 feet from the Thanksgiving storm, including Slide Peak briefly in early December. 40% open Dec. 21, full operation Dec. 27. Slide Peak closed Jan. 3, 47% open since late January. Last day was March 16.

Mountain High: East as well as West open.4 runs opened Nov. 23. West was 100% open and East 75% Nov. 30 and Dec. 1. A week later East was closed and West was 44% open. West opened 100% from the Dec. 23 storm. East 100% open Dec. 27. Both areas were 90% open with east open daily to January 26. East reopened Feb. 1-2 and the top beginner area only for President's weekend. West was 74% open since late January and was in full operation March 15 with new snow. Last day was March 16.

Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Mt. Baldy had several power failures, opened Dec. 5, but terrain was very limited due to icy conditions after the rain. Thunder was resurfaced by the Dec. 23 storm. Baldy opened Chair 1 to skiing Dec. 27 and chair 4 the next day to reach about 80% open. Sunny exposures then melted out, so Baldy was about 40% open after chair 4 closed January 13 with gradual loss of snow on Thunder to 2-3 runs open by mid-February. Baldy was in very limited operation March 15 with a foot of new snow, closed for the next 2+ foot storm and was then open for two days March 19-20. Following the reopening of golf courses, Mt. Baldy reopened April 22 on a "tee time" model of 4 skiers every 10 minutes. Baldy had about 100 skiers per day until the May 3 final closing. Mt. Waterman received adequate snow from the Christmas storm but its road was closed for several days and there were further equipment delays. Waterman opened for the last two weekends of January but then closed. Mt. Waterman and the upper Angeles Crest was quite active with backcountry skiers after the April 6-10 storm until the heat wave hit a week and a half later.

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