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Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Not with a bang but a...

By Nate Deschenes

Keeping the dream alive, all the way until the end...

Mammoth Mountain celebrated its final days of skiing and snowboarding on Monday, finishing up what can only be described as a challenging winter for many ski resorts, both in and outside of California. With the notable exception of the Pacific Northwest and the B.C. Interior in Canada, many locales logged snowfall totals substantially below average. Some would claim this winter was one that should be promptly forgotten, but the optimists among us might consider taking the view that maybe the mountains were just "half full" this season.

"I blame the lackluster winter on the pesky arctic oscillation, which in layman's terms is an anomaly that set up a roadblock for potential storms," says Mammoth's local weather nerd Howard Sheckter. "While we did only see about half our annual average precipitation, the windows where the storms were able to sneak in made for some fantastic conditions."

Mammoth Mountain's season total of 263 inches was the second worst in twenty years, beat only by the dismal 06/07 season when sister resort June Mountain closed up shop in January and Mammoth recorded a meager end of season total of 222 inches. To put this into perspective, there was a storm cycle in the winter of '11 that buried the resort with 186 inches of the white stuff (that's over 15 feet!) in just four days.

That being said, Mammoth and June both glided into their expected closing dates this year with relative ease -- June Mountain's scheduled closing of April 15 actually happened to coincide with one of the season's best powder days. And even Mammoth Mountain's last hurrah on Memorial Weekend saw temperatures drop and a couple inches of snow stick to the desperate few feet that comprised the upper mountains base.

Despite Nature's lack of help, the staff at Mammoth Mountain is admirably commited to being an epicenter of shred against all odds, and its dedication allowed the resort to remain open as long as any other in the U.S. With top-to-bottom operations running, boarders and skiers enjoyed more than enough terrain, including a fully-loaded terrain park, as the weekend drew to a close.

What's the outlook for next year? "We are already starting to see an El Niņo pattern in the Eastern Pacific," Sheckter claims. "How strong this will develop is to be determined, but we certainly will not see another winter like this last one as these patterns have historically provided above average precipitation."

While decoding the workings of the jet stream certainly remains a sketchy science, one thing is certainly in the forecast for Mammoth: optimism.