words: Mary Walsh
photos: Mary Walsh, Jeep Eddy, and Peter Morning
captions: Mary Walsh, Dave Steigerwald, and Huggy Hughes

Last year was my first trip to Mammoth for Opening Week. The weather was mixed, some sleet, some snow. The air was cold and the groomers were firm. Riding with SNOWBOARDER’s John Cavan, as East Coasters used to variable starts to the season, we had a blast continuously lapping and warming up in Tusk’s in between runs. It was a wicked week and we left stoked on the Sierra’s winter kick off. Flash forward twelve months and flurries were hitting northern California by the first of November. When an early stormed put a fresh coat of white on the ground, Mammoth bumped up their November 11th opening day to the 5th, almost a full week ahead of schedule, extending the usual four-day celebration to a full week and a half–and with another storm in the works. It was going to be good.

Monday night the 9th, it dumped again and Tuesday was a deep day. Our crew drove up the 395 Tuesday night, hoping there would be a few side stashes still available when we loaded the lifts the next day. As we headed north, the thermometer kept dropping, overt hints at the winter we were about to enter. We were hyped. In Lone Pine, we met up with the DC team at a gas station pit stop where Iikka Backstrom was skating in the parking lot while the rig was refueled. The season opener reunion had begun.

Contrary to the variable weather of the previous year, Mother Nature was showing Mammoth her best side for the opening. Wednesday opened up to bluebird skies (and the rest of the week would follow suit) and the fresh blanket of snow allowed the resort to periodically open new lifts each day. Short hikes and consistent access to new terrain meant we were finding heavy stashes all the way into the weekend. I can not emphasize enough how sick it was to alternate between park laps and powder turns each day this early in the season, especially after the west coast was so snow-starved last season. Suffice to say, stoke level was high.

The crew of folks in town ran deep. Of course, the DC team was in full effect, with DC’s Bobby Meeks and Dave Apell and riders Justin Fronius, Iikka Backstrom, Marc Salas, Anto Chamberlain, Brady Lem and Jordan Morse. Hana Beaman and Bode Merrill were visiting from the north and west, respectively. Jordan Small, Melissa Evans, Mike Gray, Jonathon Mcdonald and Buzz Holbrook were in town from Bear. Danny Kass, Scott Blum, Danika Duffy, Brian Pracht, Mary Rand, Stefi Luxton, Jaeger Bailey, Christian Connors, Possum Torr, Harrison Gordon, Keegan Valaika, Danyale Patterson, and Madison Blackley…the list lapping Main Park offered a banger start to winter.

The feeling after a long day spent making turns, the one where you remove your beanie, scratch your head and sink into a chair is a real welcome one after waiting semi-patiently all summer for the season to ramp up again. Each afternoon during Mammoth’s opening week, as our crew congregated with friends on the main lodge deck or circled up in front of the DC RV, huge grins covered everyone’s mugs. The repetitive motion of wake up, ride, sleep, repeat had resumed and winter was back. By Saturday, we had tapped the hidden snow stashes just in time for another front to emerge on the horizon for early the following week and the SNOWBOARDER crew headed into Mammoth Village to meet the DC guys for a double header premiere of Shredtopia and The SNOWBOARDER Movie: SFD. The rest of that evening is a tequila-fueled blur, a spiral that can be seen in this gallery of photos taken by Justin Fronius, who we learned is real good behind the lens. Regardless of the Sunday morning hangover cloud that hung over the entirety of Mammoth Lakes the next day, Saturday night’s celebration was the perfect way to follow up the week’s sunny laps, ringing in the 2016 season with a heck of a bang. Thanks for a great, opening week, Mammoth.

A huge thank you to everyone at Mammoth, Peter, Lauren, Molly, Weaver, Kevin, TJ, Tyson and the whole Unbound crew. Dana and the crew at 53, Bobby, Dave and the DC team, and everyone who came out to the premiere on Saturday.