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TR early May 2018 OR & CA - Bachelor, Hood Meadows, Squaw, Mammoth


Angel Diva
I found a way to extend my 2017-18 season beyond my usual stay at Alta Lodge in April. It was the first time I’ve skied in May. The relatively last minute plan worked out because my ski buddy Bill was willing to do a lot of driving. He was also interested in checking out Bachelor and Mammoth for the first time. As the trip came together, we also fit in a day trip to Mt. Hood and a morning at Squaw. The bonus was spending a couple days in Death Valley National Park, which is relatively close to Mammoth.

We really enjoyed Bachelor and Mt. Hood. I want to go back in the future somewhat earlier in the late season, perhaps late March. The bonus is that I have old friends who live in southern Oregon who enjoy making use of the Spring Pass at Bachelor, which was $199 in April.

Bachelor TR - May 2-6

Meadows TR - May 4 day trip

We skied half a day at Squaw on the way to Mammoth. Then a couple short days at Mammoth. No reason to ski much past 1:00 in May. Having the MCP makes it easier to justify skiing at MCP destinations for a day or two even when conditions aren’t that great.

Read on for more about what we did at Squaw and Mammoth, including some pics.

Overall, it was a fun trip to a lot of new places. We were very lucky with the weather. No rain, and cool enough at night so make the snow good for a few hours every morning. Great views on all the driving days.
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Angel Diva
My trip was May 2-11, 2018 and based on flying Southwest. I brought two pairs of skis in my double Sportube: Head Absolut Joys treated with DPS Phantom and my old Black Pearls, freshly waxed. Bill’s trip was a few days longer since he drove from his home in Albuquerque. He only brought his all-mountain Nordica skis that are 90 underfoot. Bill met me in Boise on May 2 and we drove to Bend that afternoon. Who knew that Boise is on the way between Albuquerque, NM and Bend, OR? We left Oregon on May 6 headed to Reno. I flew home from Las Vegas (non-stop to RDU!). Death Valley is between Mammoth and Vegas so it was an added bonus. Bill went to ski at A-Basin before he headed home. He put at least 3000 miles on his Range Rover Sport.

Not that much terrain was open at Squaw when we stopped by on May 7 on the way to Mammoth. May 6 was the last day for KT-22. But it was worth a few hours on a sunny day because neither of us had skied the upper mountain of Squaw before. In fact, Bill had never skied anywhere around Tahoe. I hadn’t been to Tahoe since a Diva West in 2010.

Had a trip been a week or two earlier, we might have skied two days in Tahoe. Alpine Meadows closed the last weekend of April. I liked Alpine a lot in 2010.

While I wouldn’t buy plane tickets or make reservations months in advance for a late season trip that starts after mid-April, I will be paying attention in the future to conditions in the PacNW and CA as the end of March approaches. It’s really nice to ski on long runs at a big mountain in relatively warm weather. Both Squaw ($89) and Mammoth (50%) offered discounted day tickets for people with a season pass from another mountain to entice people to extend their season.


Angel Diva
When we went to Squaw it was quick get a pass with the MCP since the base village was pretty empty around 8:00. That’s when the funitel opened. We parked and walked around to set up the passes before deciding to boot up at the car.

I was in tourist mode, so not in a hurry. Good thing because I switched jackets when booting up in the parking lot because it was getting warm already. Only problem was I forgot to move the pass. I was glad I had put Cat Tracks on my boots, so walking back to the car was easy and didn’t take long. For a large resort, I usually use a small 6.5L backpack. Especially useful when wearing a hard shell with few pockets for Cat Tracks, reading glasses in a case, and spare gloves. We were on the Gold Coast funitel (a big gondola with standing allowed when all seats taken) by 9:00 and at the top of Siberia Express 15 min later.

The idea was to take the Gold Coast funitel up, ski off the three open chair lifts, then head to High Camp and download on the tram when we were done for the day. The tram didn’t open until 10:00. The open chairlifts were all high-speed 6-packs: Gold Coast, Siberia, Shirley Lake. We spent the most time skiing off Siberia. There was race training off Shirley Lake first thing in the morning so a few groomers were closed off. Plus not softened yet at 9:30. There were a few folks shouldering skis and walking up the Reverse Traverse (groomed road) off the top of Siberia Express. We weren’t feeling that energetic and just traversed to ski the Siberia Bowl a few times.

We rode up the funitel with a family from SC. The parents had brought their two grown sons (high school or college) for a ski vacation. The parents had skied long ago but it was the first time for the young men. The mother was going to wait for a lesson the next morning. The father and his sons had short rental skis and were going to give skiing a try. I gave them one tip . . . keep hands in front and in sight. An hour later when we got to the top of the Shirley Lake Express, they were just getting there and the father recognized me. He said they were having fun and asked whether or not they could handle the terrain off that lift. I told them to forget it. Pointed to the big warning sign he hadn’t noticed yet that showed the only way for beginners to go, which was a green back towards Gold Coast. All the open groomers off Shirley were blue—deep blue—and was still pretty frozen at 9:30.

Hard to miss the entrance, there is another sign just as tall facing people driving from the other direction
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Squaw host (yellow jacket) ready to answer questions at 8:00am
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Booting up around 8:30am
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Angel Diva
We managed to get in a few runs at Squaw that were really fun, both groomed and ungroomed terrain. Meaning the snow was softened but not too soft. Definitely helped to look for white snow off-piste, as opposed to snow with dirt on top that seems to melt faster in full sun. Temps were in the 40s and 50s. Squaw has blues and double blues on the VistaMap trail map. Like Alta, there are only blacks with a big range of difficulty in terms of steepness and challenge level. The blues felt similar to blues at Snowbird. Squaw has defined Zones, which are helpful for someone who is new to the resort. The printed trail map is pretty hard to interpret for the trails, as is often the case for a large resort spread across multiple peaks. I downloaded the Squaw app but didn’t play with it much.

My favorite turns were on a groomed trail off Siberia. Because of race training, had to traverse back towards the lift from the cat track to get there, but it was worth it. Probably Racers on the trail map. Perfect untracked corn for two runs.

I used my Absolut Joy skis, which made bigger soft bumps a bit harder so I stayed on groomers more than usual. Of course, by mid-morning, the snow on groomers had been pushed around quite a bit. After skiing the AJs at Bachelor I trusted the Phantom bases to keep gliding all morning as conditions changed. It was clear that the snow would get sticky in places sooner or later. Even first thing in the morning, the run out to Siberia definitely took some effort to keep moving. I experimented and found that skiing straight on one ski helped me to keep going just a touch faster on relatively flat sections. That was easier than railroad tracks in really soft snow.

Going across the Siberia Bowl meant going just above the mogul run that had been set up for practice. We saw them finishing up making the run on Siberia Run riding up Siberia the first time. Pretty clear those practicing were pro level bump skiers. It seemed fairly informal. Per usual, the picture doesn't convey the steepness. I watched from right behind the top of the bump line as one young woman made a zipper line run. Fascinating to watch her bounce off of the bumps rhythmically while her head and upper body hardly seem to move.

View from High Camp of Siberia and Gold Coast in the distance
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Looking down towards Gold Coast Lodge, the top of the funitel
Squaw 07May2018 - 1.jpg

Mogul run on Siberia
Squaw 07May2018 - 2.jpg Squaw 07May2018 - 3.jpg


Angel Diva
We headed over to High Camp around 12:30. By then the connecting trail from Shirley Lake was open. Took a little work to get there because that trail is quite flat and was pretty soft by then. There was no way to avoid doing a little walking with skis.

Had heard of the High Camp greens, which are obvious on the trail map. When I was at the 2010 Diva West—with a different ski buddy, Jason—we only skied Squaw for one day and it was during a big snow storm. The gondola and upper lifts were closed due to high winds and low visibility by mid-morning. So this trip was the first time at High Camp for me and Bill. It’s hard to get a sense of how much easy terrain is available at the top of the mountain without being there in person. There are three short chairlifts. Certainly a cool place to bring beginners in good weather, whether kids or adults.

High Camp is quite different from most mid-mountain lodges. There is not only an ice skating rink during the winter, there is an outdoor pool and huge spa. It’s $15 for a pool day pass and the locker room looked pretty nice. There is also a small Olympic museum about the 1960 Olympics. Workmen were busy replacing a roof on part of the building. There was work going on in a few places to get ready for the summer season.

We decided to have a late lunch at the Granite Bistro and sat outside on the deck overlooking the pool. Just made it before they stopped seating people at 1:30. Pretty pricey but the food was good.

We walked around the base village a bit before heading to Mammoth. The shops and restaurants look more upscale than I remember from 8 years ago. The village is not really that big but does include a few ski in/out lodging options. More food options than Big Sky and more interesting than Snowbird.

Not sure I would be interested in a week at Squaw after mid-April, but worth adding when going to Mammoth for late season skiing. I definitely have a better understanding of why Squaw/Alpine is a popular destination resort for travelers as well as folks who drive from the Bay area or Reno.

With the creation of Alterra and the Ikon pass, more folks from Colorado or the northeast may decide to plan a ski vacation to Tahoe. I know folks in the Mid-Atlantic who ski Snowshoe in WV regularly and opted for Ikon instead of MCP. Access to SquawAlpine is unlimited with holiday blackout dates with Ikon Base. If they actually get approval to build a base-to-base gondola to connect Squaw with Alpine, then the Ikon will be positioned even more as a direct competitor to Epic, which includes the connecting gondolas at Park City and W-B.

High Camp swimming pool
Squaw 07May2018 - 5.jpg

Not many people on the slopes by 1:00, High Camp lifts in the foreground, Siberia Bowl under the Palisades in the distance, can just see the mogul run
Squaw 07May2018 - 6.jpg

Not much snow left on the way to the base, we opted to download on the tram
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View of Squaw Valley from the tram
Squaw 07May2018 - 8.jpg


Angel Diva
To get to Mammoth after leaving Squaw, we drove around the lake on RT89. Bill had never driven that way before when he was in Tahoe during the summer. I hadn’t see Emerald Bay before. It took a little longer to get to US395 that way, but was more scenic and we had time.

We stayed in a small condo at Mammoth. In the afternoons we drove around a bit to find the other two base lodges that were already closed for the season. The roads twist and turn so much in the residential areas of Mammoth Lakes, sometimes it’s hard to know where the mountain is located. The main base is 4 miles from Mammoth Village, which is about 1.5 miles from the shopping centers near Old Mammoth Road and Meridian Blvd.

During the regular season, there is a good free bus system during the day and at night. Parking is clearly an issue. Mammoth reminds me of Snowmass. But Mammoth Lakes is nothing like the town of Aspen.

We only ate out a couple times. Was good to have advice from Divas about Von’s Market where we stocked up on food before moving into the condo. Kitchen 53 in Mammoth Village was good for a very late lunch the first day but pricey. The second day we had a snack in the early afternoon, then went to Giovanni’s Pizzeria for an early dinner. Giovanni’s was excellent (Thanks @nopoleskier !). I loved the minestrone soup that came with my spaghetti. I was expecting a cup of soup but got a huge bowl instead. Bill had baked eggplant with whole wheat penne. He ate all the pasta because he liked the slightly spicy marinara sauce, and there was a lot. Most people ordered pizza and the ones being brought out looked pretty good.
Was Granite Chief open? Usually late snow there.....with a nice pitch.


Angel Diva
To set up a RFID pass with the MCP the first morning, we parked at the main lodge and walked around a bit. That way Bill could get a sticker to add to his skis. Then we moved the car to the little lot by Lift 2. As it turned out, had we waited until that ticket window opened, we could’ve gotten our passes there. But we usually explore a new place before booting up, or even getting stuff out of the car. It was interesting that the woman at the main lift ticket desk did not recommend leaving anything in the locker room outside a locker.

Lifts were open 7:30am to 3:00pm but most people were done by lunch time. The terrain parks seemed popular after lunch time. There were eight lifts open. We rode every lift the first day and learned how to get around. That included Discovery, a base lift for beginners.

Here are a few pics.

Booting up at Lift 2 around 8:00am
Mammoth resort May2018 - 1.jpg

The Mammoth sign still pretty buried, at the top of Panorama Gondola
I was using the Chromapop Sun Platinum lens
Mammoth resort May2018 - 2.jpg

View of Main Lodge from a Broadway black groomer at 8:00am the second day
Mammoth resort May2018 - 4.jpg

View of McCoy Station from top of Facelift Express, can load or unload gondola at McCoy
Mammoth resort May2018 - 5.jpg

I downloaded on the tram the second day around 2:00 to take some pics. Had to walk thru McCoy to avoid walking around on the flats outside. Bill skied down and beat me to the parking lot.
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Lift 2 aka Stump Alley Express, the Mill (on the right) serves breakfast and lunch
Mammoth resort May2018 - 7.jpg


Angel Diva
Considering it was the second week of May, the skiing at Mammoth was good. Both days were sunny and warm but not hot. There were two lifts open to the top of the ridge, so a lot of black and double black terrain was open. Panorama is the gondola that starts at the main base and has a mid-station at McCoy Station. Chair 23 is a triple with no safety bar. Given the snow conditions, even Bill stayed on black terrain. It was easy to see that not many people were finding the double black terrain fun. We didn’t have enough days to really learn the best timing for where to find the best snow as it warmed up.

We only saw a small part of Mammoth’s terrain. Certainly has a lot of variety. The Interactive 3D trail map makes more sense to me now. Be interesting to see if more people from the east coast decide to check out Mammoth during late season because of the Ikon pass.

Facelift Express (right), Panorama gondola, as seen from the door of McCoy Station
Mammoth slopes May2018 - 1.jpg

Bill heading down a black groomer from the ridge at 9:00am, probably Scotty's
Mammoth slopes May2018 - 2.jpg

Racers heading towards the course set up on Cornice, top of gondola in the distance
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Looking from Solitude (blue groomer) towards the top of Lift 5
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In addition to the GS course on Cornice, there was a group of juniors doing race training starting a bit lower, most of the teen racers were girls
Mammoth slopes May2018 - 5.jpg

No ropes at late season boundaries, this is on Road Runner on the backside
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The adventure run for me at Mammoth was Dave’s Run (black bowl). It wasn’t quite clear what was the best route as we headed out the wide flat trail from the top of the Panorama Gondola. Too hard to explain exactly what we did, but I ended up not following Bill after a while. As you can see from the pictures, he had already gone all the way down while I was still up high. My main problem was I didn’t trust dirty snow. I opted to do some side slipping and traversing until I found a way to white snow and slightly less pitch before starting to make turns towards the runout.

Looking back at Eleven53 Cafe from above Dave's Run (a bowl), the skier behind us had never been out that way before either
Mammoth Dave's Bowl May2018 - 1.jpg

The runout for Dave's Run was groomed, trick was to find white snow
Mammoth Dave's Bowl May2018 - 3.jpg

Can you see Bill way down on the runout? It was almost 11:00 and a bit too late for good spring skiing, especially with relatively narrow skis
Mammoth Dave's Bowl May2018 - 2.jpg
Death Valley National Park was simply amazing! Pictures cannot convey what it feels like to be there.

We arrived at the Visitor Center around noon and it was 105 degrees. It’s hotter below sea level and the Visitor Center is at 191 feet below sea level. We covered a lot in two days. Based on advice from the rangers at the info desk, we saw the Ubehebe Crater, took a short hike to see the narrow section of Titus Canyon, and saw the main sights south of the Visitor Center the next day.

We got rooms in a nice little inexpensive motel in Beatty, NV for the night. The people at the Exchange Club Motel were very friendly. They even called to let me know I left something in the room. Then shipped it to me. That’s service! KC’s Outpost Eatery was right across the street and had good food. We ate outdoors to avoid the smoky interior, which seems to be common in Nevada towns with casinos. We ate breakfast at Mel’s Diner around the corner.

We walked around on the salt flats near the lowest point at Badwater Basin, 282 ft below sea level. Hard to describe the immensity of the place. Definitely better to go in the morning when it's still hot but under 95 degrees. The last stop was Dante’s View, which is at 5475 ft overlooking Badwater Basin. The last mile or so of that road has some pretty tight switchback turns. We were lucky because it only opened that day after being closed for maintenance. It was only 88 degrees. You can see essentially all of Death Valley, which is 100 miles long and 5-10 miles wide.

Haven't gone thru my camera pictures yet. Here are a few I took with my iPhone.

Ubehebe Crater
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105 at noon at the Visitor's Center
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Titus Canyon in the late afternoon
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Sand dunes in the distance
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Artists Pallete, well worth the driving the one-way paved road
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A view from Zabriskie Point
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Since we had extra time in the afternoons at Mammoth, I took the opportunity to learn more about Zipfit liners. There are two shops in Mammoth that carry them. The stock liners in the boots I bought three years ago need to be replaced. Have used them for almost 100 days. They are 3-buckle Nordica boots and are the second pair I bought from my local boot fitter in central North Carolina. I don’t have complicated feet but short legs so 4-buckle boot cuffs for stiffer models designed for advanced skiing are often too tall.

First I stopped by Footloose Sports. That ski shop was co-founded in 1981 by Sven Coomer, the inventor of Zipfits, together with the founders of Superfeet. It was nice to handle a Zipfit liner in person, and feel a cork packet that is the key component. The second afternoon, I went to Kittredge Sports. Had to wait a bit while the boot fitter finished up with a customer. Kittredge sells Zipfit and Intuition liners, which is pretty unusual. The conversation I had with the boot fitter there was very helpful for a better understanding of the pros and cons for my situation.

I still have the Intuition liners that were molded for my previous pair of boots. Bottom line is that I’ll probably get those remolded first and see how that works out.

Have since learned that the other two aftermarket custom liner companies are DFP (Dynamic Foot Positioning) and Palau. DFP started with custom footbeds and seems to use Intuition liners. Palau is a French company that's been around for 70 years.
The second day at Mammoth we spent a little more time on the trails off Broadway. There are a few short, straight blacks that were groomed. The first time we rode up with an older man, probably over 70 if not 80. When I asked what was good, his comment was that it was all good because “everything was groomed.” We followed him to Rusty’s (blue-black) for the first run. He was clearly having a very good time. The blacks off Rusty’s are short and good fun relatively early in the morning because they get sun. By 9:30 we were on the blue cat track that starts from the ridge, Upper Road Runner, to get a glimpse of the terrain on the backside. The advanced terrain over there was all closed. The flat road (snow on top of pavement) at the end was a pain coming into main base near Discovery, but it was worth doing once.

The unexpected bonus for taking a ride up Broadway around 10:00 was meeting the inventor of FloSkis. Adrian Floreani was a NASA aerospace engineer. He put his knowledge of shock absorption into the creation of FloSkis over a few decades. He was a part-time ski instructor at Heavenly and Vail for a while. These days he skis without poles wearing Apex boots, and has had two hip replacements and a partial knee replacement. I think he’s over 70. He has lots of energy.

We ended up demo’ing FloSkis for two hours, skiing all over with Adrian. The only issue with the snow conditions was that even on the upper mountain the demo skis needed waxing. We used the Dakine Afterburner that Bill had in his pocket and that helped. By the time we rode up the gondola and skied down Scotty’s (groomed black off the ridge) at 12:30, it was clear that both Bill and I found FloSkis very easy to carve on and off groomed terrain.

After we returned the FloSkis, Bill and I took a last run on our own skis for a direct comparison. I’m tempted to buy the demo skis I used. They were the lightweight version, without FloShocks mounted on the tips.

Adrian gets demo skis set up, next to Lift 2 parking lot
Mammoth FLOskis May2018 - 1.jpg

Bill on the 160cm FloSkis with the FloShocks on the tips
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Waxing was necessary. Adrian did my demo skis too.
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Adrian skis without poles
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Demo skis that have been tested get NASA stickers
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