1997-98 California Detail

Updated May 27, 1998

Mammoth had 113 inches of January snowfall, after 49 in December and 54 in November. February snowfall of 197 inches tied Mammoth's March 1991 single month record. The late month storms brought the March total to 61 inches, and there were 32 inches in April. Packed powder conditions prevailed until it got warm the weekend of April 18-19, but there will be outstanding spring skiing until July 4. Only the Main Lodge area lifts are operating as of April 27. Construction of a new gondola began May 11, so only the upper runs accessible from Chair 23 will available the rest of this season. Check Southland Ski Server skier-submitted reports for more specific info.

Southern California's rare 1997-98 season can be compared to the past 22 years in History of Southern California Snow Conditions.
November: The season had its usual limited opening at Thanksgiving on snowmaking at Snow Summit, Bear Mt. and Mt. High.
December: Snowfall was average, but temperatures were consistently cold starting after a 1-2 foot storm the second week. As usual, Snow Summit's snowmaking reached full operation first, on Dec. 11. Mt. High, Bear Mt. and Snow Valley were at least half open from this first storm, and were in full operation by Christmas with mostly packed powder.
January: A warm spell brought spring conditions for New Year's, but a small storm freshened the surface a week later. It rained Jan. 15, bringing heavy spring conditions for the MLK holiday. There was no further snow in January, and conditions by the end of the month were worse than in the prior two poor seasons. Although the Sierra was getting above average snow in January, El Nino seemed like a bad joke in Southern California.
February: El Nino finally established its credibility in four storms totalling 3-6 feet of snow from Feb. 2-8. The next storm brought a few inches on the Saturday the 14th but ended in rain, leaving an icy glaze for the rest of President's weekend. Fortunately, a foot of heavy snow covered up the ice a few days later. Sunday the 22nd brought more rain, but on Monday the snow level dropped and an intense storm dumped 2-4 feet of snow. Total February snowfall in Southern California averaged 9 feet, with up to 12 feet at the higher elevations of Snow Valley, Mt. Baldy and the Angeles Crest. While rain and storm closures restricted weekend skiing, there were some epic powder days midweek, the best we had seen since 1993.
March: Weekend skiers got a better deal in March. The light snowfalls the first two weeks were well timed, arriving on Thursday and Friday nights, providing a packed powder weekend surface on February's deep base. The final week of March brought 2 feet of snow and more powder days.
April: Another 2 feet of snow produced the first April weekend of A conditions in the 23 years I have been skiing. All of Southern California's ski terrain remained open through April 19, also a first by my records.
May: Up to a foot of snow fell on May 6, refreshing Mt. Baldy and Mt. High West, the remaining open areas. An amazing 2 feet more snow came May 12-13, causing Snow Valley and Mt. Waterman to reopen as well.

I consider the local areas worth visiting according to the following criteria (1997-98 summary):
Snow Summit: The Wall, Log Chute and the full length of the Westridge Terrain Park open. Full operation as of December 11, nearly 2 weeks ahead of other local areas as usual. 4 lifts and 90% of terrain were open until May 2.
Bear Mt: Silver Mt. and/or Bear Peak open. Full operation as of December 24. Silver and Bear Peak were open until April 19, with the entire area closing April 26.
Snow Valley: Slide Peak open. Slide Peak opened December 27. Everything was open until April 26. The lower mountain was open until May 3, and then May 15-17.
Mountain High: East as well as West open. The first runs on the East opened Dec. 11. Skier reports confirm the new management's effort to improve grooming and snowmaking on the East. The East was open to April 26 and the West to May 10. West reopened May 13-17.
Mt. Baldy and Mt. Waterman: A natural snow base of at least 4 feet. Mt. Baldy was very limited through January, but had all runs open including the lower chair expert runs from Feb. 6 to April 19. The lower runs were covered by the May 12-13 storm and became skiable again for a few days. Baldy's Thunder Mt. still had a 3-5 foot base before the May storms, so it remained open continuously until Memorial Day, plus weekends to June 7
Mt. Waterman opened the first week of February and closed April 19 with a 4-6 foot base. It opened the lower chair only May 16-17. The backcountry runs, which end below the base and can offer SoCal's best corn snow, were unfortunately subject to L. A. County Sheriff patrols after the much-publicized rescues this season. Ski area management hopes to resolve this issue before next season.

SoCal snowfall was slightly below average through January. However, February's snowfall was as high as any month since I started skiing in 1976. The late March / early April storm cycle produced SoCal's best spring skiing, with the May storms extending the season beyond the 1983 records. There has been 4-6 feet of snow since April 1, twice as much as any previous season.

I highly recommend Southland Ski Server skier-submitted reports for local conditions.

Return to 1997-98 Ski Season Progress Report for North America.