Mammoth Mountain Ski Area is kicking off its 2011-12 season this weekend with the help of a fall storm that dropped seven inches of snow last week.
Mammoth was set to turn on the lifts at 8:30 a.m. today in advance of four days of festivities and events for early-season skiers and boarders to celebrate the opening of the season.
The resort planned several industry film debuts from the DC snowboard team, live music daily on the mountain and “swag giveaways.”
“We decided to surround the weekend with industry events and will have movie premiers and the DC snowboarding team will be signing autographs,” said Mammoth Mountain Communications Director Joani Lynch.
As far as the skiing goes, Lynch said five lifts will be open: Broadway, Facelift, Thurnderbound, Discovery and the lower gondola.
“We will also have some terrain features, jumps, jibs and rails. We’ll probably have the most terrain features open in the country,” Lynch said.
To ensure there is enough snow for everyone to get some tracks, the Mountain is making snow around the clock and will continue to do so until another winter storm brings more powder.
Lynch said the mountain is not at full staff because only a select few lifts will be open, but she added that Mammoth will continue hiring once more lifts are open. “We reach peak staffing at the peak of the season, around Christmas,” she said, adding that many staff members are returning employees.
Lynch said that there has been speculation about what conditions will be like on the mountain this year, with many expecting a repeat of last year’s long season – from November to July – while others are less optimistic.
“I’ve heard predictions on both sides,” Lynch said. “I’ve lived here for years, and I don’t make predictions, but they’re saying the weather pattern is another La Niña pattern, like last year.”
Despite the long-term outlook, Lynch said Mammoth is prepared for a substantial crowd for opening weekend.
“On an average opening, we get about 2,000 people on the slopes each day, and right now, our lodging properties are booking strong, we’re hoping for a good opening weekend,” Lynch said.
According to Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tawni Thomson, a strong opening weekend in Mammoth, and the arrival of ski season in general, is good news for Bishop.
“Obviously we welcome the increased traffic on U.S. 395,” Thomson said. “The people traveling up U.S. 395 definitely patronize businesses all along 395, especially our restaurants, gas stations and convenience stores. Just like fishing season, we welcome the ski season.”
Thomson said there are no firm numbers for how much additional traffic the ski season brings up the highway, but said a recent study conducted by the City of Bishop for its updated Mobility Element shows obvious spikes in traffic during winter holidays and for the Mountain’s opening weekend.
“The peaks around the holiday have to do with the holidays, but also with people on vacation heading to Mammoth,” Thomson said. “Anything that positively impacts traffic, positively impacts local businesses.”