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A Mammoth Trip PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tony Curcio   
Sunday, 19 February 2012 15:58

On January 29, 2012, Champaign Ski Club members, along with sixty-eight people from the Peoria, Bloomington, and Springfield clubs began their trip to Mammoth Mountain, CA, this year’s annual Ski Kouncil of Illinois (SKI) trip. Many were repeat participants, including Joe Finnerty, who last year won a $50 travel voucher towards this year’s SKI trip.

When you are a winter trip leader there are two things that keep you up the night before: will everyone make it to the bus on time and will there be snow. Both of these things are usually out of the trip leaders control, but this is what we worry about.

To address the first issue I had asked Steve Elkins to check everyone in for the bus ride leaving Champaign at 4:30 am and arriving in Bloomington at 5:30 am. You see, my wonderful wife, Deb, finally convinced me that it would be silly to drive from our house in Bloomington at 3:30 am to Champaign just to make sure the bus was there and everyone had boarded. As it turned out, Steve had no problems and they all arrived in Bloomington on time to pick up the Peoria and Bloomington club members and head for O’Hare. Members from all four clubs met up at the Reno Airport, and traveled by bus to the Mammoth Mountain Inn.

The second concern was the snow. Everyone on the trip had been monitoring the Mammoth Web site for snow reports. I received several calls asking if there would be snow on the mountain. Of course I said yes, and for added measure, a week before the trip I asked CSC members on the trip to do a snow dance. I believe Ann Pollok’s snow dance did the trick, because four feet of snow dumped on Mammoth Mountain. All that worrying for nothing!

(See Chuck's Photos)

When we arrived in Reno, the temperature was 65°, no snow, and sunny. It was not exactly great skiing weather. During the 3+ hour bus ride to our hotel the temperature started dropping, but only to the mid 30’s by the time we arrived at Mammoth. Fortunately, we started seeing more snow in the mountains along the way. The scenery was breathtaking with mountains all around and only a couple of small towns along the way. We noted that gas prices were hitting $4.89/gal. That’s California, land of the fruits and nuts!

We stayed at the original Mammoth Mountain base lodge. The rooms seemed like they hadn’t been updated since the Carter administration, but they were clean and comfortable. After checking into our rooms, everyone gathered for the trip orientation meeting where we received information about the week from SKI and the hotel staff. The hotel provided sandwiches, snacks, beer and wine ... a nice touch after a long travel day.

The next morning everyone got their skis and hit the mountain. It was evident that snowfall was well below the average of 400 inches for the season. In fact, it was their lowest snowfall to date on record. They said all the lifts were operating and every ski run was open. However, the conditions for off-piste were icy in the morning and sticky in the afternoon. You had to be aware of rocks over every crest and around every turn. Just ask Larry Micenheimer how he managed to get himself caught in a ski area boundary rope. He may still have the burn marks to prove it. Most runs had plenty of snow, especially the groomers, but you still had to be aware of rocks, which Paul Tenczar and Richard McClary found out when they went down Lower Dry Creek. It started out fine, but ran out of good snow halfway down. What started out as a 4 – 5 minute run ended up taking them 45 minutes.

You could not ask for more perfect skiing weather. The skies were clear (300 days on average), winds were low (except two days) and temperatures during the day were in the 40’s and low in the 20’s. The sunshine proved useful by softening the snow that was made frozen by the nighttime temperatures. The combination of sun and skiers made the snow nice and loose, which made for some crazy fast runs. It also helped that there was hardly anyone else there. You could literally ski from the top of the summit near the gondola at elevation 11,000 feet to the base at elevation 8,900 feet without stopping. Chris Haydel did it on a snowboard in less than four minutes!

On Monday evening we had our first happy hour in the Village at Whiskey Creek Grill. We needed to take a shuttle to get to it, but just about everyone showed up. Of course it helps when there are ½ price food specials and $3 off drink tickets.

Tuesday we enjoyed another beautiful day with some strong winds at the top of the summit. Cynthia Swanson came on the trip with no plans to downhill ski, but she did cross-country ski and participated in every social activity including meeting up with the group for lunch at various mountain bases by taking the bus. Edna Pirok was feeling so confident skiing that she started doing small jumps in the children’s terrain park. By the end of the week someone thought they saw her skiing the half-pipe. Knarly. Tuesday night stared at Whiskey Creek, where Sue Ellen Finkenbiner planned a club dinner at the Austria Hof. Most of us took advantage and enjoyed a fine gourmet meal.

Wednesday was race day. SKI and the Mammoth Race Director created a unique relay race/obstacle course. We had fourteen teams of four perform various tasks such as ski through three tunnels, make snow angels, ski around cones, step out of your skis and into a hula-hoop, ski hop over poles, throw a javelin through a target and ski around poles. The race was timed from start to when the 4th member crossed the finish line. Also 3 trivia questions were asked at the end of the race for bonus time.

Wednesday evening was the SKI banquet, which included dinner, door prizes, and gift certificate giveaways. The race results were given and the winning team consisted of three folks from Peoria Ski Club and the Champaign Trip Leader. Other members from Champaign on the podium finishing third were Chuck Schroeder and Larry Micenheimer along with two guys from Peoria. The first, second and third place team members won winter fleece clothing from Mammoth Mountain. The evening concluded with a short presentation by tour director Gloria, from, explaining next years SKI trip to Whistler-Blackcomb in British Columbia.

On Thursday the SKI team set up a trip to ski June Mountain. About half the skiers went and were met with a beautiful day, no people, and good snow cover except at the base. It was bittersweet for most because the lower runs are all black and it is extremely difficult to get back to the base. But because there was very little snow at the base, skiers were forced to download on the chairlift. However this created a scare because the two-person chairlift was very steep and you had to carry your skis and poles while holding onto the bar. The views were breathtaking as long as you didn’t look down.

Thursday happy hour was at the resort where you could get $2 Rolling Rocks and $4 Mai Tai’s plus $1 off anything if you wore your SKI badge. Gwen Broeren bought a slightly used pair of skis at June Mountain and brought her old skis to the bar to auction them off. Jay Ross was the winner for $50 and loved them. It was a good deal all around. Afterwards the Champaign folks went to dinner at one of the locals’ favorite restaurants, Giovanni’s. A couple of us enjoyed a nightcap at the Inn where Bob Morris, John Gentry and Paul Tenczar provided much of the entertainment. Ted Jeurissen and Steve Elkins tried their best to keep them under control.

Friday was another beautiful sunny day. SKI set up an on-mountain Naturalist Tour led by members of the U.S. Forest Service. About thirty people from SKI participated and were divided into groups of ten with similar skiing ability. The tour lasted about two hours and covered most of the mountain as we learned interesting facts about the trees and animals native to the area, as well as their food sources. The rangers also spoke about the various types of geology in the area. Mammoth Mountain is a young volcano that was created by numerous eruptions between 200,000 and 50,000 years ago. Volcanic craters in the area have erupted approximately every 400 years.

On Friday at the end of the day, SKI set up a chance to “Sweep the Mountain” with the Mammoth Ski Patrol. About a dozen members were able to extend their skiing time by taking several “last runs” with the ski patrollers. Believe it or not, an out-of bounds snowboarder was found unconscious. Ski Patrol was on the scene and had things under control.

Back at the Inn we enjoyed a “bring all your leftover beer” happy hour at the hot tub. Chuck Schroeder recently bought a new helmet/chest cam and showed videos. He said he took over forty videos during the week. We also heard about Dawn ... now you see her, now you don’t ... Davis’ encounter with the “Secret Spot” run when she fell and slid into the secret spot ... a deep depression just off the edge of the run. Ann Pollok, skiing about fifty feet behind Dawn said it looked like she fell off the face of the Earth, leaving behind one ski. Fortunately Dawn landed in soft, fluffy snow and escaped with just a couple of sizeable bruises.

Dinner was on our own. But first we bumped into Jeff Wells at the Inn who was returning from town with some Valentine’s Day gifts for his honey. When asked what he bought, he proceeded to show the beautiful jewelry he had purchased. All the women were very impressed, but he made us guys look bad. Lesson learned.

This was another great trip by SKI, and 2013 is sure to be another hit with Whistler-Blackcomb. So, save your pennies and be sure to attend this year’s trip sign-up meeting.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 15:58
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