It was so tempting: on the heels of the mega-epic trip around the Rockies, I wanted one last chance to ride before the season’s officially over. Also, I had bought this cheap Arbor board and these cheap Gnu bindings and I wanted to give both a go.
I packed the car and my friend Torrey and we dashed up the highway on a fateful Monday afternoon. The snow divinities liked us, as we sailed up the 15, then 215, then 15, then finally 395 without a hitch. I’ve had the worst experience driving through San Bernardino before: none of that this time.
We got into Mammoth too late to get an idea of snow conditions. The hotel was the Juniper Springs Resort, which has amazing lift access: you stumble out the side door and you are at the lift. It’s really awesome! The room was the usual one bedroom condo, with a spacious and well-equipped kitchen and two TVs. I love to stay there!
In the morning, I looked out. We got a condo on the South side of the building, overlooking the lobby and hence automatically the lift. What do you know, there was no snow. Not a single flake, speck, or puddle. The lift was bone dry, immobile, and our lift access had been revoked by Mother Nature.
We drove, grumbling. We stopped for coffee at this insanely pretentious and overhyped place, then drove on to the Main Lodge, where all the remaining activities were located. Parking was easy, although there was an unexpected crowd at the base. We walked to the ticket office and picked up my pass. Then it was time to spend the $105 for Torrey’s ticket and I became a little unsure it was worth it.
We got up the gondola and stopped at mid-station. I couldn’t figure out the bindings, so I let T go up the next lift (Facewall). He came down by the time I realized it was all much simpler than I thought (the sides pop open automatically when you pop down the highback and won’t lock until you pop it back up).
The news was not good: Facewall was an ice sheet and T didn’t feel like going back up there. We went down the other side, following the run down to the base, and there was more ice.
Now, I had been used to a whole season’s worth of hatred of ice. In particular, my very first run of the season had been this ice sheet in Keystone called Mozart (who was known to be a sadist, apparently). I managed to fall six times in one short run, once even hitting a poor girl that had been floored by the same sheet (she was fine, thanks for asking).
I thought the worst would happen: a much longer ice sheet, a brand new board, and a freaked out Marco. That was a definitely lethal combination! Instead, the new board gripped the ice like a board should. I was stable and gliding on a perfectly smooth surface, just like I had been on my days in ice skating. It was fun, it was fast, and it was safe!
I got to the bottom of two minds. On one hand, I hated the snow conditions: the top was incredibly icy, the bottom already slushy and wet. On the other, I loved the new gear: the board was grippy and zippy, the bindings easy to use and precise, and the new boots (gotta have new boots, right?) were easy to tie (screw the old Salomons!) and just the right size.
The day went on and the snow softened everywhere. We had a bunch of fun on the runs that were open, avoiding the top of the mountain for the most part. By two, we had explored everything there was to explore, making it down to the base at Mill Cafe to plane through a dirty pond that had once been the loading area for the ski lift. It was really sad.
Oddly, the place was still crowded enough. There wasn’t a whole lot of mountain available, of course, so the people we saw were simply crowding into a smaller area. But I was still surprised at the size of the groups that came down. The small terrain park, in particular, was jammed with bunches of bros shooting down the hill with no consideration or sense of safety.
We packed up and left. Dinner was zPizza, a decent enough joint. No hot tub, just relaxation.
The next morning, we thought about the snow, read that the winds were going to be in the 15-25 mph range, and decided we really, really didn’t want to spend another $105 on that. So we left early and drove home. It was an incredibly long trip for four hours of snowboarding, but what do you know – we had fun!