Life in Mammoth Lakes this winter has plenty of powder days, but the constant storms are a challenge that the resort and community weather together.
Beginning on Friday, March 10th, Mammoth Mountain is once again bracing itself amidst two massive storms that has a potential of 120 inches of fresh snow by Wednesday. That’s more ten feet on top of the 71 inches that has already fallen since March 1st.
As it stands now, Mammoth is reporting a season total of 569 inches measured at Main lodge. With this additional 120 inches, Mammoth could very well break it’s all-time record set back in the 2010-11 winter. The historic 2010-11 season capped out at 668 inches and was literally and figuratively one for the record books. The 2016/17 season was no slouch either, coming in at 617 inchese. While those records were recorded in more recent history, data traces back fifty-four years to 1969, when Mammoth began charting its snow totals.
Here’s a snap shot how Mammoth has accumulated 569 inches of snow so far this season:
To say that Mammoth has had an incredible season is a mammoth-sized understatement. It’s been a season of bounty and a rare one at that where the quality of blower pow has been matched by the quantity of bottomless dumps.
Wave Rave’s art and marketing manager (and photographer), Todd Robertson, has been a local since the record 2010 season. Todd is no stranger to life in the globe as his recent IG post of the maintenance man plowing his walkway chalked up a cool 8.4 million views. “I’ve never seen a winter like this,” Todd remarks. “There’s so much beauty with snow everywhere. It’s an amazing time to be in Mammoth and experience this historic season.”
Todd chuckles as he explains, “we haven’t had any 1-2 foot storms. It’s all been 3 foot dumps and bigger.” A true example of how fortunate the area is to receive such volume of snow when places like the East Coast and most of Europe have struggled to receive any snow at all this winter.
For tourists who have been lucky enough to visit Mammoth during any of these storms, congratulations, you’re about to be written into the history books. For locals, on the other hand, while the powder days have been great, this year has been a test of fortitude living and working through a season with little sun, tremendous winds, and continuous shoveling since November, not to mention serious and at times dangerous strain on resources. As the snowpack deepens, challenges increase, including keeping grocery store shelves stocked; addressing health and medical needs; outages and demands on power, energy, and heating; and much more. This weekend’s storm has prompted avalanche evacuation for areas of residents in June Lake and the use of 911 to contact Mono County emergency services went down (the county has a consistently updated Instagram with alternate contacts: @monocountyofficial).
The snow plow/removal efforts are a daunting task, to say the least, and one that seems to be neverending. “The town is running out of places to move the snow and the load management on roofs has made everyone question their insurance policies,” Robertson elaborates.
And snow removal is just one of the many challenges the town faces. Todd, who is also a husband and father has had to ask himself questions that he’s never really had to ponder. Questions like, Will I even be able to get home from work tonight to see my family? and Will the roads be clear enough so I can pick up the kids from school?
I’m sure most kids love hearing “school is cancelled” but this presents new challenges for families like the Robertsons. Mammoth Elementary School has already claimed ten “red days” which is a slightly more vicious way of saying “snow day.” While this might be music to the kids’ ears, the downside is that the school calendar will likely have to be extended into July to make up for so many cancelled days. “Summer just became two weeks shorter,” is something no kid wants to hear.
On the bright side, Cal Trans has worked tirelessly to keep the roads safe, but it’s not without new challenges. For example, parking around town has become limited because many lots are now being used as snow relocation zones.
Mammoth Mountain has done an exceptional job keeping tourists and locals alike informed with hourly updates via the Mammoth app and social media. “It’s insane the amount of work the resort has to do to plow snow just to clear space under the chairs so people coming down the hill don’t collide with the people riding the lift,” acknowledges Robertson. Additionally, operations has a near impossible task of de-icing lifts, managing avalanche conditions, and staffing the resort, among many other duties, but the endgame is clear: Create the best guest experience possible.
Todd praises Mammoth. “The town and resort have been great about informing tourists about the risks and hazards.” This weekend for example, Mammoth advised travelers to reconsider coming up due to the extreme blizzard conditions. Quite a testament for a destination resort to turn away business but again, Mammoth has made it clear their guests safety is the top priority.
“We feel fortunate that the resort and Cal Trans have been able to operate to the capacity they have with a strong infrastructure,” says Todd. “Compared to week-long road closures in other areas like Big Bear, highways around Mammoth only close for a day or two without seeing any real break in tourism.”
On Friday, March 10th, as locals readied themselves for the impending blizzard, what was it like in Mammoth Lakes? “The energy in town is a bit more frenzied at the moment,” adds Robertson. “Vons experienced checkout lines on Wednesday afternoon that stretched all the way down the aisles with folks stocking up just in case. However, the vibe in Wave Rave is extremely high. Business is going extremely well and all the employees are ready for the unenviable pow in the coming days. I might be trapped inside my condo for the next week as the storm buries Mammoth yet again. I’ll go a little stir crazy. My sons and I will shovel the fifty-two steps leading up to my condo, but by next Thursday we’ll get a perfect bluebird day—and it reminds us why we love Mammoth.”