Opening Day Report: Mammoth Mountain

At 3:45 am on Thursday October 21, 2004 Tony Guerriero threw down his K2 Snowboard in the front of the ropes blocking the loading zone of Mammoth Mountain’s Broadway Express chair lift. He was the first one there. With four feet of fresh snow on the mountain in front of him, the Mammoth Lakes resident hung tight and waited. He was set, knowing that in a few hours he would be riding first chair on opening day for his sixth time out of the last seven years.

By the time the lift started warming up at eight, Guerriero would be joined behind the rope by skier Dan Cross from Hesperia, and snowboarders Scotty Sheer a fellow local and Bruce Sweeny of San Diego. The crowd behind them had swelled to nearly eighty people, with more milling about inside the lodge and in the parking lot.

In a half-hour, at approximately 8:30 am—after toasting champagne compliments of the Mammoth Marketing Staff, posing for photos, and nabbing free T-shirts—Guerriero and his chair-mates loaded the lift. Mammoth Mountain was officially open for the 2004/05 season. The October 21 opening marked the resort’s earliest opening in a decade.

Five days of solid storms brought winter to the mountain, that according to some Mammoth residents had them skipping fall almost entirely. “Last week I was mountain biking, and then Sunday I was hiking up here and snowboarding, said one snowboarder in the lift line.

Those of you who skipped making the trek because you thought it’d be pre-season snow-conditions missed it. Seriously. It was winter, full-on. The mountain was covered with fresh, natural snow, and it was ripe for shredding.

The mountain was originally scheduled to open on November 11, but the swift moving weather pattern hit Mammoth over the weekend and didn’t let up. Mountain operators decided to take advantage of what Mother Nature dropped on them and open a full 20 days ahead of schedule.

“The last time we opened this early was during the ’94/95 season, says Joani Lynch marketing director for Mammoth. “That year was our biggest winter on record with an opening day of October 12 and the season went all the way until the middle of August.

For the hundreds of people that made the journey to ride fresh powder, the trek was so worth it. The tree lines were untracked, runs freshly groomed, rails set up, and the possibilities were endless. It’s only October, and the resort only ran two lifts all morning. Weekenders get in the car—if they open a lift a day until Saturday there’s still going to be plenty of untracked just waiting.