Californian Dream – Awesome Early Season Conditions in Mammoth and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows – Photo Journal

December 31st, 2019
After day of powder turns in Mammoth on Christmas Eve after an overnight top-up of cold, dry snow. Photo: Pete Morning


Mountainwatch |  Reggae Elliss

Things are looking good for the Mountainwatch North American Ikon Tour thanks to solid December snow totals across most of the destinations in the US and Canada. The Californian leg of the tour is the standout for an early season base after Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows and Mammoth Mountain experienced huge snowfalls over three weeks from late November and the first two weeks of December. Both resorts also saw a healthy top-up in the days leading into Christmas, Squaw now having a cumulative season snow total of 3.83 metres while Mammoth has received 3.68 metres of snow this season – yes, over three metres in just four weeks.


Squaw Valley’s KT22 chair on December 16. Enticing: Photo Ben Arnst

Unlike the Rockies, which had good snowfalls in October and November, it was a slow start in California’s Sierra range and both resorts opened on limited terrain in snowmaking areas. However, after a mainly dry and mild November, the storm window opened during the last week of the month with back-to-back systems dropping up to a massive 2.4 metres across the Sierras over a seven-day period and Mammoth and Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows were both near the top of the snowfall totals.


Trevor Semmens is one of the big mountain coaches at Squaw Free and he knows how to send it. Photo: @scottgaffski


Bernie Rosow, classic Mammoth “wind buff” on a cold clear day on December 20. Photo: Christian Pondella. The video below is also Bernie, shot in Mammoth on December 11 and as you can see, he likes to ski fast.


The first storm was quickly followed by another and the past few weeks have been blessed with regular snow falls and some of the best early season powder turns in years.  The last system dropped another 30cms at Squaw on December 23, a good top up prior to the busy holiday period, while Mammoth received another 60cms over a five-day period from Dec 23-28.


Snow clearing at Mammoth on Christmas Eve. Photo: Mammoth Mountain

There is a break in the weather now, but a weaker storm is due for the Sierras tonight with light snow showers and just a few centimetres expected into the New Year. The extended forecast is indicating the possibility of more snow and colder temps in the second week of January for both Mammoth and Squaw Valley. However, with a current mid-mountain base depth of almost two metres, both Mammoth and Squaw Alpine are set up for a good winter and those lucky enough too be on our North American Ikon Tour are in for a good time.

Below are a selection of photos taken in both resorts over the past four weeks.




The three shots above are of Andy Finch, making the most of a break in the storms and great snow in Squaw Valley last week . Photos: Ben Arnst


There is something special about snow-laden trees. Photo: Mammoth


The classic view of Lake Tahoe, shot from Alpine Meadows yesterday, December 29. Photo: Ben Arnst


Mammoth powder day, November 30. A few days earlier the only terrain open was in snowmaking areas.  Photo: Pete Morning


Squaw Valley, mid-December powder day. Photo: Ryan Salm


Santa, throwing down in Mammoth’s Unbound park. Photo: Mammoth Mountain


The iconic sign on Mammoth’s Summit. The sign is 5.6 metres high and this is on December 19. Photo: Mammoth Mountain


Mid-mountain at Squaw Valley, just as the first storm hit on November 27. The shots below were taken two weeks later on December 10.


Kevin Quinn, Alpine Meadows. Photo: Ben Arnst


Andy Finch, Alpine Meadows. Photo: Ben Arnst


Another top up in Mammoth on December 27. Photo: Mammoth Mountain


Chris Benchetler, deep during the first storm of the season  in Mammoth, a month ago on November 30. Photo: Pete Morning