Storm in Review

Working at Mammoth the week before Christmas

Post-storm patrolling. PHOTO: RYAN COPENHAGEN

Words: Ryan Copenhagen

December 12:
The storm that people wish for every December finally came. One to three inches were forecasted to fall overnight. Sixteen to 20 inches of eight percent density snow was waiting for the skiers that woke up early. The whole mountain opened. Clouds blew in and out.

Then the weekend came and went in a flash of snow and wind. Some members of the weekend crowd got more adventure than they bargained for. They came back down from the top of the mountain crawling against the wind. Members of ski patrol became personal escorts. One man was so happy to be helped down the mountain he hugged everyone in the room.

December 18: Sixteen more inches overnight. Light wind. 8:30 opening of lower lifts and Lincoln Mountain. I ran into a friend that works on lift maintenance. It looked like he had almost forgotten about chipping ice off of lifts for a week straight in the beginning of the month. In the late afternoon the clouds on top of the mountain started to become thin and the top became visible. Cue the fireworks. It sounds like a battle zone and a celebration at the same time. Ski patrol managed to finish avalanche control just before closing.

December 19: The mythical powder day when everything opens on time. The wind did not screw the snow, there are minimal avalanches. There was one significant slide. A five-and-a-half-foot crown lined the top of Scotty's. Snowcats groomed the debris as the alpenglow faded. Ski patrol ski cut everything and made the call to operations at 8:23 to "open the world." The steep lines and distant peaks looked fat and swollen with snow. It was too sunny and nice not to go for a walk. On top of the Sherwin Ridge that afternoon I ran into the local heavy-metal skier.

"This is going to be fun isn't it?" I asked him.

"I don't know, is that what this is?" he said. "This has all been a blur."

I agreed. The week had been a blur of blue and white and cold, like a dream.

December 20: I awoke from the dream and went back to a surprisingly normal day at the ski area. The wind was doing its best to smooth out the mountain and give us a clean slate. Rasta'd out locals smile and say, "It's Windbuffy the vampire slayer." The mighty mites do hot laps on Chair Three. People post screen shots of the weather forecast on Facebook @mammoth #winter #snow #ski #epic. And we get ready for the next storm.

Ryan Copenhagen is a ski patroller at Mammoth Mountain.