Tips for Spring Skiing and Riding in Mammoth Lakes
Spring is a fantastic time to hit the slopes of Mammoth Mountain. From late March to the end of the season, the winter crowds dwindle, conditions remain incredible, days become longer and warmer, and off-season pricing for lodging and skiing takes effect. Plus, Mammoth Mountain routinely remains open through Memorial Day weekend, making it one of the longest continuous ski seasons in North America.
Springtime in the Eastern Sierra traditionally brings warm, sunny days and cool, subfreezing nights. This daily freeze-thaw weather cycle and the high elevation of Mammoth Mountain combine to create some of the best and most dependable spring and late season skiing conditions in North America. But before you hit the famous slopes of Mammoth Mountain this spring, consider these tips and suggestions from the seasoned veterans of Mammoth Lakes for getting the most fun out of your spring skiing or riding experience at Mammoth Mountain.
Protect yourself from the sun
Everyone loves skiing in the sun and with 320 average days of sunshine per year, the place to be is on Mammoth Mountain’s slopes. But before you grab your gear and dash to the lifts, remember that as the season progresses the days get longer and the potential for exposure to the sun’s rays elevates. As the sun gradually rises higher into the sky as summer approaches, the need for skin and eye protection increases.
Adequate protection includes not only high SPF (40+) sunscreen or sunblock, but also sufficient, full coverage clothing and dark tinted goggles or sunglasses. It is important to remember that on the mountain, solar energy is reflected off of the snow and the sun’s radiation may be intensified. If in doubt or in need of proper attire or protection, stop by any of the local retailers for advice and suggestions.
As the sun climbs higher and the temperatures rise in the spring, it is essential for skiers and riders to remain hydrated. Not only can the warmer temperatures lead to dehydration, the high elevation combined with dry breezes and exercise may rapidly deplete the body of necessary water.
Mammoth Mountain provides free water at several locations, including the Main Lodge, at all three gondola stations, the Mill, and at Canyon Lodge. If ever in doubt about the location of a watering hole when on the mountain, ask any of the friendly staff members for directions.
On a side note, visitors are also advised that alcohol may intensify the effects of dehydration, especially when active. It is suggested that to avoid afternoon and evening headaches, nausea, and confusion associated with dehydration, alcoholic beverage consumption be limited while in the sun and on the slopes.
Plan for a wide variation in temperature
The spring season in the Eastern Sierras can bring a wide variation in temperature and weather patterns. It is highly recommended that skiers and riders be prepared for dramatic changes throughout the day and as a general guideline, bring both spring and cold weather attire to remain on the safe side. Mornings are often brisk, possibly requiring winter-like layering and clothing, and afternoons may require shedding a layer or two to remain cool.
Just like in the winter, visitors should consult the region’s daily forecast before heading out in order to dress and prepare appropriately. Mammoth Mountain’s website provides information regarding current and projected weather conditions and temperatures for the bottom, mid, and top levels of the mountain.
Wax and tune your gear
The freeze-thaw cycles that make spring skiing at Mammoth Mountain famous also may create conditions that change or evolve as the day progresses. Early mornings are most often characterized by firm, winter-like slopes and the afternoons often bring soft, spring-like snow conditions across the mountain. In order to be prepared for anything the mountain throws your way, it is important to have properly tuned and maintained gear.
Many Mammoth Mountain late-season skiers prefer to take advantage of the well manicured and groomed slopes in the morning when conditions are firm. When hitting the slopes early, it is important to have properly tuned edges to maximize the carving ability of your gear. Once the slopes begin to soften, having waxed skis or boards allows glide and provides a water-repelling barrier, which limits sticking and drag. If the wax alone does not provide enough glide, consider a base stone grind to add structure to the bottoms of your skis or board. This limits suction by creating uneven surface texture, which prevents water cohesion along the base of your skis or board.
If you are having a difficult time achieving the glide you desire with your current gear, stop into on of the many local ski or board shops. The professional snow sport technicians of Mammoth Lakes are able to provide advice and services (including base stone grinds and waxing) in order to get you quickly back to cruising the slopes.
Hit the slopes early
For those seeking to carve some corduroy, plan on hitting the slopes first thing in the morning when the lifts begin turning. Mammoth Mountain has one of the most modern fleets of grooming machines in North America and the crew of operators does an absolutely amazing job at keeping the surface conditions consistent and smooth.
Spring mornings at Mammoth Mountain are characteristically free of crowds and the conditions are usually fast. So if you enjoy having a wide open space or prefer to carve groomers at speed, consider hitting the slopes early.
If soft and slower conditions are your thing, consider sleeping in and hitting the mountain just before lunch time. This allows adequate time for the sun’s energy to soften up the snow on most aspects of the mountain.
Chase the sun: soft snow strategy
As temperatures rise throughout the day, conditions across the mountain transition and change. If seeking soft snow, begin on slopes at lower elevations that receive generous amounts of early morning sun (such as the backside Chair 14 or the slopes around Canyon Lodge). Once the midday sun begins warming other areas of the mountain, consider working into higher elevations in order to find soft, skier friendly conditions. For suggestions from a local on spring skiing at Mammoth, see Monica Prelle’s article, “Spring at Mammoth Mountain: How to Ski It” on the Mammoth Lakes Tourism website.
Understanding the conditions on the mountain takes time and experience and can vary widely depending on the daily weather conditions. If you have any questions or inquiries about finding your ideal conditions on the mountain throughout the spring, ask a mountain host, ski patroller, or a friendly local for suggestions and advice.
Work on your soft snow technique
Late-season skiing and riding is a great time to work on technique. As conditions soften when temperatures rise, skiers may have to adjust their style and approach. In powder or on firm conditions, skiers push into their turns. On soft, spring snow, the most effective technique is to roll the ski or board between edges, not cut and push. Cutting and pushing can lead to premature exhaustion and by rolling or shifting from edge to edge, the ski and not the skier does the work in thick spring snow.
Once a spring skiing technique is refined, the famous soft conditions of late-season Mammoth Mountain may be just as much fun as deep powder. Plan a trip to Mammoth Mountain this spring and experience it for yourself!
Spring brings fun in the sun on the slopes of Mammoth Mountain and don’t forget about the annual pond skim and spring festival at the end of April. With some of the best overall conditions in the western U.S. combined with a lengthy ski season and epic weather, Mammoth Lakes is the place to be during the spring.