photos: Ryan “Huggy” Hughes, Chris Moran, and Jeep Eddy
Growing up within the unpredictable confines of New England winters, the moment that kicks off a new season wasn’t always associated with the first day the lifts began to turn. Even though the anticipation for getting back on snow is very strong for East Coast inhabitants–just like everyone else–snow conditions (early season is often/always man-made) and the proximity of a few dozen resorts all opening their doors on subsequent days splits up the local community by geography and preference; one specific opening day doesn’t often gather everyone together. For me, it was always events like Rome’s Premature Jibulation at Waterville Valley or ReLOONion, an annual meeting of the minds at Loon Mountain the day after Christmas that is equal parts burning turns while in far-too-close proximity to the people around you and warming up with tall cans in the Bunyan Room bar at the bottom of the hill, that collected friends and marked the beginning of the cold months. Snow season, though highly anticipated, was a slow kick off over a matter of weeks during November in which you met up with your crew at different places and finally got into the swing of taking laps once again.
It is for this reason that as an East Coaster, Mammoth’s Opening Weekend celebration is that much more impressive. Snowboarding patrons from up and down the West Coast migrate to this bastion in the Sierras specifically for the moment on that first day when Mammoth’s lifts will start to spin. It was my first time attending the weekend, and after at least six months of summer, I was more than ready to make turns. On Wednesday afternoon, SNOWBOARDER’s Pat Bridges, John Cavan, Ryan Hughes, Dave Stags, and I piled into two Subaru wagons and pointed it north on the 395.
Mother Nature was defiant as she pulled out the wintery mix on Thursday just in time for the lifts to start turning; the conditions were welcomed by the precipitation-starved crowd. At 8:30am sharp, chair 1 lit up and started siphoning the horde up the mountain. Our crew followed shortly and was making laps as wet snow fell around us by a balmy 9am. Though it might not have been Mammoth’s usual sunny start, it couldn’t have been more perfect–the summer season was officially put to bed by the cold weather and periodic breaks in the lodge to warm up meant reuniting with friends and clinking glasses before heading out for more laps. The reunion atmosphere was intensified with each run as the roster of riders in attendance grew: Danny Davis, Jamie Anderson, Robin Van Gyn. Garrett Warnick, Frank Knab, Greg Bretz, John Jackson, Eric Jackson, Brandon Davis. Kimmy Fasani, Kelly Clark. Eddie Wall, Scott Blum, Billy Anderson. Seth Huot, Curtis Ciszek. Brock Crouch, Judd Henke. Krush Kulesza, Jesse Burtner, Barrett Christy, Matt and Temple Cummins, and plenty of SoCal industry veterans who had managed to trade in their office chairs for snowboards.
The three days that followed were a blur of hot laps, low-to-the-ground carves and skies that progressively became more blue and sunnier each morning. Tahoe locs Nial Romanek, Max Tokunaga, Riley Nickerson, Yale Cousino, Luke Haddock, Scotty Vine, Tim Humphreys, and a slew of Gremlinz made an appearance. The newly-minted Jetpack crew sent it overnight to CA from SLC (led by fearless driver Amanda Hankison) and Alexa McCarty, Nirvana Ortanez, Corinne Pasela, Grace Mayernik, and Isabella Boriello. Possum Torr, Stefi Luxton, Mariah Dugan, and Bryn Valaika were there as were Chloe Kim and Hailey Langland who rode the lifts open to close. Brady Lem was lapping, as were Mason Aguirre, Jeremy Estorga, Dylan Alito, Elena Hight, Alex Lopez, Pat Moore and many, many more.
If it seems strange to describe the weekend by listing off many of the snowboarders who were at Mammoth for the weekend as opposed to providing a play-by-play of the turns themselves, the point is that Mammoth Opening is definitely about the people. The Mammoth crew sets the stage by grooming the trails, setting the rails, and making sure Tusk’s is well-stocked and the community takes it from there. On hill, friends met up while lining up arcs down the hill or stopping to hike a rail in the top of the park. Off hill, folks collected at movie premieres by Volcom, SNOWBOARDER, and Giro, bundling up for the outdoor screenings and fully embracing the dropped temperatures. The familiar Groundhog Day-esque cycle of waking up to an alarm set not for work but for laps, meeting friends and boarding, then removing boots and sitting down before making one’s way out for the evening was once again set in motion and everyone at Mammoth for the weekend was stoked.
Pulling out of the parking lot behind Main Lodge, long before the mountain was out of sight, withdrawal hung heavy in our car. Rounding the turns as we cruised down the mountain road, the only thing I could think about was getting back up to Mammoth as soon as possible. Opening weekend was just about perfect, but it was also only the beginning. And yes, that’s cheesy, but it’s also just true.
A huge thank you to the Lauren, Peter, TJ, Gabe, Joani, Jimmy and the rest of the crew at Mammoth for making this year’s opening weekend epic.
Read the full Opening Days: A Proper Start to the Season at Mammoth Opening Weekend 2014 article on Snowboarder Magazine.