Photos: Kevin Westenbarger
Mother Nature loves her curveballs. Spring riding at Mammoth Mountain, California, generally conjures up images of sunny parks and shedding layers in the warm weather. Sunscreen is paramount and laps with friends are summery and mellow. But, Mama Nature didn't want to see anyone in sunglasses and sweatshirts this Saturday, as she unleashed one of the biggest storms Mono County has seen in the 2012 season. Mammoth had received almost two feet of snow Friday night, and Saturday morning, the white stuff was still coming down at a rate of three inches per hour. Snowdrifts in some areas were five feet tall, and visibility was, let's just say, very limited. It was definitely a powder day, but one of the most challenging types of powder days out there.
Even though the weather was a little gnarly, excitement overwhelmed everyone in the Oakley Progression Session camp. Fresh snow and new tricks were at the top of everyone's minds, and a bit of wind wasn't going to slow anyone down. Of course, the adage that there are "no friends on a powder day" doesn't ring true in the OPS crew, either. 60 ladies headed out onto the whiteout slopes together at 9am, ready to brave the conditions and make light, fluffy turns. Coaches Dominique Vallee, Marie-France Roy, Chanelle Sladics, Helene Olafsen, Kristi Leskinen, Lauren Perkins, Christine Savage, and Mary Walsh matched up with small groups and quickly spread out all over the mountain.
Marie headed into an open glade with a crew of women and taught them how to build a small jump. The ladies got their first experience riding a kicker into powder and were all smiles as they chucked 180s, methods, and other grabs, all without fear of getting hurt in the soft snow. Said one participant, "being scared of falling is a big blockade for me in terms of learning new things, so getting to build confidence by hitting the jump into powder was a big deal. I definitely feel more comfortable and am excited to try tricks in the park tomorrow."
As the day wore on and the trails became tracked out, the OPS coaches stationed themselves in different areas, so that the ladies could pick what they wanted to focus on for the remainder of the day. This was a switch up from the usual OPS schedule, but when dealing with variable weather, as is often the case in snowboarding and skiing, it's a necessity to be flexible and roll with the conditions. The OPS women did this flawlessly, as small groups headed to either Forest Trail park, back to the powder jump area, or over to chair 12 to hone powder and tree-riding skills. As snow continued to dump, winds picked up, and temperatures dropped, OPS participants stomped their first spins, laughed and whooped down pow lines, and smiled big all afternoon.
"Today was filled with deep powder and sideways wind and snow, but the girls riding powder in the park and still hitting all the features was epic," said Dom Vallee. "Girls could fall on their heads and still chuck everything around. They killed it. They made it happen."
There were definitely friends on this powder day.