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SPECIAL ISSUE: SNOW PREVIEW

Why everybody loves Mammoth

November 01, 2005|Peter Shelton

1 Location, location, location. Mammoth is on the high-dry east side of the range, the breathless rock-and-sky Great Basin side, where snow often comes in drier and fluffier than does snow on the lower, juicier west slope.

2 Cork in a bottle. Think of Mammoth Mountain as a volcanic plug stopping up a low spot in the Sierra Crest. Pacific storms flow up the scimitar groove of San Joaquin Canyon and pour their white crystals all over Mammoth's carved cork sides.

3 Friendly wind. That same San Joaquin River Canyon accelerates certain winds, which hum though the gap and become Mammoth Wind Buff. On some days here, I have skied through snow like heavy cream, the wind erasing my tracks so that every time down was a fresh powder slate.

4 Macro/micro. Mammoth was born huge, alpine, its above-timberline shapes inviting the grand gesture. It is also blessed with a 1,001 nooks and crannies, shadows and pockets, rocks and secret ridges where a body can go to bend turns of any shape.

5 First love. This one's not fair (just because Mammoth was my first snow). But I'll bet it's true for hundreds of thousands skiers from Southern California who fell first and hardest here, a swooping descent conferring what? A kind of grace.

Peter Shelton

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By the numbers

2.5: hours required to ride every lift (not including ski time)

3: miles in the longest run

4: the early morning hour when skiers queued to ride the first chair on opening day last season

7: snow cats dedicated to terrain parks (four park cats, three pipe cats)

18: snow cats out grooming the mountain at night

26: locations Dave McCoy tested along the Eastern Sierra before settling on Mammoth Mountain

28: lifts

39: miles of lift cable in Mammoth's lift

system

150: trails

300: average sunny days

400: inches of average snowfall

1,000: acres groomed on a clear winter night

1,903: chairs on Mammoth's 23 chairlifts

3,500: skiable acres

7,953: feet in base elevation

475,000: Mammoth trail maps used last

season

900,000: riders on Mammoth's free winter shuttle

From Times staff

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