Squaw-alpine + Mammoth 4/13-21: Powder, creame cheese to mashed potato!

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  1. #1

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    Squaw-alpine + Mammoth 4/13-21: Powder, creame cheese to mashed potato!

    Last week of MY season (shoulder surgery next week). I opted to use the remaining of my annual vacation to ski California. (Colorado or Utah would be just as good in terms of condition, but I happened to have free lodging in the Tahoe area this past week. Thought I might as well take advantage of it).Another preference for California being, I was in the mood for some reasonably steep skiing. Knowing the California Sierra with its maritime snowpack, will have plenty of (some might say heart stopping) steeps for me to play on.

    Flight out to Reno with a stopover at SLC is always a bit strange. Everyone disappeared out the terminal while I and a few wait for our onward flight to Reno. But not this time. The previous flight were late coming into JFK. We hurry to get onboard, only to end up sitting on the runway for an hour waiting for our turn to get off the ground due to (air) traffic. So we were late into SLC and had to literally run to the gate where the Reno flight was.

    I thought with the tight connection, my skis might not make the same flight. I was resigned to have to wait for it to arrive the next morning. So imagine my surprise to see my skis sliding out from the bulk luggage chute!!!

    Good start to the week!

    (but, don’t stay at the Nugget! It’s a 5 minute extra driving, which is no biggie. But the poor service was a total turn off. Long line at check-in, at 1am!)



    Part I — Squaw Valley (4/13-15)


    Day 1 (4/13, Saturday), Squaw Valley USA — 50-60 degrees + sunshine, day of corn harvet

    Having arrived late the night before, I was slow to get going. Didn’t make it to Squaw till well past 1st chair. But lucked out in hooking up with my local gang the moment I hit the slope. So was shown the mountain nice and easy.

    By “nice and easy”, it meant we first skied Silverado. (There’s a race going so some of the more challenging gates were off-limit) That was followed by the Headwall face and Classic Chute. Snow was nice and soft, fairly deep, albeit a bit on the heavy side except on the steepest slopes. I guess that explained why my local buddies took me straight to Silverado and the Headwall. After a few lapse of the Headwall, we finished the day with a few more lapse on KT22.

    I managed to drop my phone into the sink full of water! So while the gang went into the hot tub, I sat on the hot seat with my carrier to get a replacement phone overnight to me. Surprised later to found the waterlogged phone came back with SOME life, the phone function still works. But the touch screen was VERY erratic. On the plus side, the voice command still works!


    Day 2 (4/14, Sunday), Squaw Valley again, cloudy, very warm, and quite windy

    I had less perfect luck hooking up with my friends who had to run errands in the morning. We each ended up skiing alone for half the day. Lapped Granit Chief several times. Smoothie was open. But with flat light and no one to show me the route, I thought it’s not the best day to do it. Little did I know it was the last day of the season for the Silverado chair. So no more Smoothie after Sunday, which I only knew 1/2 hr before they close the chair due to strong wind. By then, the entire upper mountain were like one giant wind tunnel. I could barely standstill. So back down to KT again. No complains there. KT was soft, smooth and steep enough to keep on going. Early ending as even the top of KT retreat into the clouds.


    Day 3 (4/15, Monday), Squaw again. Very windy and the peaks are all in the cloud.

    We knew for forecast this will be a difficult day weather-wise. On my way up the gondola towards Granit Chief, we got words GC was closed due to wind. So, back down below to KT one more time!

    Not that I care to complain about “having to” ski “only” KT. Condition were quite good. Just for a change, I hop over to Red Dog, which serves a lot of glades. Loved it! Had great fun skiing the widely spaced trees. Snow were Cream cheese like smooth. Ended up skiing that chair for a bit. Then it’s time to hit the road...to Mammoth!!!



    Part II — Mammoth (4/16-18 )

    Day 4 (4/16, Tuesday) Mammoth, POWDER DAY!

    Mammoth reported 4”. We suspect the upper mountain probably got more. But we had to wait to find out as none of the upper mountain chairs were open for much of the day.

    So we lapped the lower + mid mountain chairs, which had plenty of slightly wet’ish powder. Big mountain + sparse skier traffic = first track over and over!

    As more and more chairs got open, we tried our best to be where the chair started to spin. So got first track more than once. By 3, MY legs were toast. Decided to call it a day. Two of my gang later reported they got more fresh track when mid-mountain runs started to open. But me and another buddy of mine were ready to quit by 3.

    Also, knowing the top chairs weren’t running this day, there’s a cheesy justification of “saving” our legs for tomorrow’s charge to the top! (Not sure even I myself believe in that justification. But I was really dog tired at that point)


    Day 5 (4/17, Wednesday) Mammoth, 2nd helping of fresh powder!

    Since the top chairs never open the previous day post storm, we targeted chair 23 first thing!

    No, we didn’t actually planned that. We got off the Broadway chair and saw chair 23 just started loading! Needless to say, we bee lined for it. The snow did NOT disappoint! We did 3-4 laps without repeating our lines.

    Naturally, we need to go up top via the gondola. But the snow wasn’t as good as chair 23. So we didn’t linger on too long.

    Then, just by chance, we found ourselves at the Cloud Nine chair! Because this sector faces east, it’s just reaching perfect corn consistency. Needless to say, we went straight back up and repeat it again, and again, and again!!!

    Cloud Nine chair is in a no-mans-land. I mean, no food land! So we thought we’ll hit the Canyon lodge for lunch. Well, we made the mistake (actually, yours truly was the lead scout, so fully guilty for the result) of dropping down chair 22, which was terribly heavy, manky giant moguls!

    So, our legs demanded a long and restful lunch break.

    After lunch, we split up as each of us wanted something different. I went back up to the top, over to the back side. Snow was surprisingly good on the back side. Until it was time to come back to the front side. Scotty, the run down from chair 14, hadn’t been groomed for a few days. So it grew into giant moguls, complete with manky snow!

    I just have this uncanny ability to find manky snow at the end of some good runs, just when our legs were toast. So that was enough to call it a day.


    Day 6 (4/18, Thursday). Going from corn to mashed potato in a matter of minutes! (OK, maybe only 1/2 hours)

    I had to work in the morning (price for having the rest of the week off). It took longer than I hoped. So by the time I hit the slope, it was already 10:30’ish. A run down to Canyon was enough to verify the snow was no good any more. So I head over to Cloud NIne again, hoping to hit that perfect corn harvest window like the day before. Somewhere along that very flat traverse, my ski tips caught some snow, spun me around and slammed me to the ground, landing my ribs on my pole handle. Ouch! Who would have known plastic pole handles can be so hard and so painful!

    Anyway, Cloud Nine was past prime. So headed further up to the top. Surprisingly, the upper part of the back side was still in good shape. The only price to pay was the flat runout back to chair 14 was a slow slog. Around 2, it was getting so heavy it’s more work than fun.



    Just when I was about to call it a day or at least move back to the front side, I noticed I lost a pole basket in the wet cement like snow! Thinking I NEED to find the basket, I retrace my last run looking for it, but never found. By then, it’s getting close to 3, decided I called it a day. My ribs were still hurting, and I had no basket in one ski, which sank into the snow on each pole plant. And I had a 3-4 hr drive back to Truckee...
    Last edited by abc; May 1, 2019 at 5:22 AM.

  2. #2
    Great report! We shared a few days at the same places. I was at Squaw that same Sat and Mammoth that Tue. Headed back to Tahoe Tuesday evening for my free Diamond Peak birthday ticket. We were hoping to ski every lift at Mammoth on Tuesday. Missed 9, 14, 23 and the Upper Gondola, 14 was looking promising, but I don't think they got it open that day. Got a number of double/triple rides that day. I should calculate the vert, pretty good for a couple 7 year old girls. We also got 9 early on Monday for 2 runs before the wind shut it down. Afternoon winds were crazy, we actually quit 1/2 an hour early. Shame!!!

  3. #3

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    Oh, did I mention the 2nd & 3rd days at Mammoth were blue bird days?

    00600BAF-B7A9-4A42-9F3C-AE69B3E73A3C.jpg

    9B877B1D-23BF-4F2C-B581-EC0343E178F9.jpg

    Later in the day, you can practically see the cream cheese forming on the surface and imagine skis gliding smoothly through it.

    23F0DA1C-F36C-4C21-8AD2-2D155243A370.jpg
    Last edited by abc; Apr 24, 2019 at 3:43 PM.

  4. #4
    Ahhh, so that's what the top looks like.

  5. #5

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    Between the snow gotten way soft, and my sore rib, I left Mammoth around 3-3:30 and started my drive back to Tahoe. But along the way, I had time to fit in a short hike at Mono lake, to see the famous “tufas”.

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    Attached Images Attached Images
    Last edited by abc; Apr 26, 2019 at 11:01 AM.

  6. #6

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    Part III — Alpine Meadows (4/19-21)


    Day 7: Alpine Meadows — some sun, some clouds, between corn and mashed potatoes!

    I had to get some "work" done in the morning again. So didn't get to the mountain till 10. It's warm and the sun is strong. So snow got soft super fast.

    I haven't been to Alpine for quite some years, though I've been there more often in the past. So the lifts and runs look kind of vaguely familiar. I had to stop by the host desk and had a quick chat with a host to get my memory refreshed as to what is where and how to get from here to there etc.

    The suggestion from the host was I get to the back before it completely turn to mashed potato! But to get there involves multiple chairs, and quite a few sections one has to keep the speed up! If you know ahead of time that is. So instead, I ended up with a fair bit of poling and skating. My sore ribs from the day before did NOT appreciate the extra workout.

    But regardless, I made it to the back side, only to find it's already borderline too soft. So moving UP, it means Lake View sector. Now, THAT is quite a nice section, with sufficient pitch even on a warm day. So I lapped that for a bit before moving back to Scot chair. Scot Face was full of heavy snow that got piled into something resembling moguls. My buddy showed up just in time to show me a couple of lines. It was fun but nothing special. Then he's gone to pack for his flight back to the east. And I'm left to find my way around what's left of Alpine that I haven't hit.

    That means Summit and the Alpine chair, which access the upper part of the front side. The bowl had been skied and chopped up well. So after a couple runs of again nothing special, I move to the last chair I haven't tried. As I was the ONLY ONE boarding the chair, with not a soul in sight, I asked "where's everybody?". "Oh, too slushy for some people", replied the lonely (and bored) liftie.

    On the chair ride up, I spied a few people dropping off the wide "chute" on looker's left of the chair. And it looked like their skis kicked up some dry fluffy snow. So I decided to give it a try. Viola! The dry snow must have been deposited by the wind. Just an inch or so of the top layer. But it was fun. So I went back up and had a few more go at it.

    I called it a day after that. I still have 2 more days. No need to over-do it. Giving my rib a chance to heal up too.
    Last edited by abc; Apr 26, 2019 at 1:31 PM.

  7. #7

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    Day 8 (4/20): Alpine Meadows — Cold & rainy, but the snow was creamy!

    Woke up to gray sky outside and temperature barely reaching 30! Oops! It's going to be hard and fast. So I wasn't in much of a hurry. The forecast also called for scatter showers. Yuck!

    Got there around 9:30. Figure the back side might be a little softer. Started my "journey" of RoundHouse->Scott->Lake View towards the back side. Barely a minute on the Round House, a drop of water landed on my goggle. I was determined to ignore it. But more drops, and in no time, lots of drops. It was a drizzle.

    Well, that's why I paid $400 for my waterproof jacket! I soldiered on, up Scott, over Lake View and down to Sherwood. The snow had soften just right. It was a pleasure to slide on. But the moment I got on the Sherwood chair, the wind was pretty brutal! Driving horizontal rain too. Still, the snow was enjoyable enough. And I wasn't cold, just not exactly comfortable nor warm either.

    After a couple runs, I gave in and decided to go hunt for something a little more sheltered from the wind. But oddly enough, I got blasted in my face by the wind going from Lake View to Sherwood. Somehow I got blasted by wind at my face going from Sherwood back to Lake View! How does that happen???

    Anyway, Lake View was barely soften up just yet. And the combination of wind and rain was starting to get to me. I decided I'm going to sit out this particular batch of "scattered" of rain by having some hot chocolate and/or soup. The Chalet (the hut by Scot chair, the only mid-mountain restaurant) was crowded. There's no seat, and the food choice were also very limited. So I decided to ski all the way down to the bottom and have a longer and more relaxing lunch. (I had my bag in the lodge, so was able to get out of my boot for a bit, also much less crowded)

    After lunch, I was dismayed to find the wind picked up even more. To get away from the wind, I stayed in Lake View and Scott. But soon, both chair had been put on wind hold. That left Round house, and oddly, Lake View and Sherwood. Though with Scott on hold, it's a slog to get from Roundhouse to Lake View, or back, which I wasn't going to bother. Instead, I just stayed on the front side and lapping Roundhouse.

    To be fair, the snow was actually quite good. And the occasional drizzle didn't penetrate my waterproof armor. So the skiing was enjoyable to a degree. Except the wind, which found its way into every little crack of my layers and started to chill my core after a while.

    Another day of late start and early finish. (not that I'm complaining, the skiing was good during those few short hours)


    Day 9 (4/21): Alpine Meadows — Cloud and sun, and nice corn to wrap up my 2019 season

    Today, I'll be getting on a plane in early evening. So however many hours I can fit in before my flight will be my last, of the season!

    But the day dawn gray and cold again. So I took my time to get my things together to best prepare for the flight later. I debated the night before on Squaw vs Alpine. But with the weather situation, it's pretty easy to choose, the slightly lower elevation of Alpine will be the first to soften up over Squaw.

    Then, on my drive to Alpine, the Sun suddenly came blasting out of the cloud! It all look like a brilliant day! I hurried to get suited up and jump on the Roundhouse again, then onto Scott to Lake View then Sherwood. The snow was a perfect cream cheese, or corn. I lapped Sherwood over and over, a new line each time as very few people were skiing there. (even though it's Easter Sunday, or because it's Easter Sunday?).

    Then, just as I felt the snow at Sherwood was a tad too soft, I knew that signals Lake View (a few hundred feet higher) would be in perfect condition. Indeed it was. And with even fewer people skiing it, I had fresh lines on the soften-up groomer each run!

    Time flies when one is having fun. The clock was showing 1pm. And I had in my mind a quitting time of 3 at the latest. I thought if I want to do Our Father or its neighbors, this maybe my last window. So a quick blast from lake View back to Sherwood, this time getting off the chair I went left instead of right.

    Two other groups of people were ahead of me, pausing on the edge of the traverse/drop-in. I can hear the scrapping noise their boards were making on the snow, and the unsteady lines as they traverse along. It's not quite the condition I was hoping for to tackle Our Father. So I opted to drop in at the relatively unintimidating Counterweight Chute instead. A bit of scrapping and side-slipping got me to the bottome of the chute. The snow improved considerably.

    As the condition were nowhere near pleasant to tackle the steeper part of the upper mountain, I cruised about on the bowl for a couple more runs. Then I blast to the bottom and kicked out of my bindings to call it THE END of my 2019 season!
    Last edited by abc; Apr 26, 2019 at 2:18 PM.

  8. #8
    Good stuff! To get to Sherwood we did the hike over the top, pretty easy. Top half was amazing, lower half you just sunk a good foot into the mush. And that was well before 10. Sherwood access will be super easy next year with the longer Hotwheels chair. Nice upgrade.

    We only got the 1 day at Alpine, were planning on Monday since we forgot they closed on weekdays. Oops! Ended up with an extra Squaw day.

  9. #9
    ABC, you are an awesome traveler!

  10. #10

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    Jimk, Thanks for the kind words.


    I confess I am a traveler. Skiing is just the perfect excuse.

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