words: Mary Walsh
photos: Mary Walsh and Mark Clavin
Thursday morning on November 9th, Chair 1 at Mammoth Mountain started spinning. Just a few hours earlier a handful of tents had been pitched in the liftline beneath the dark Eastern Sierra skies–eager individuals ready to start their winter without regard for overnight freezing temps. As daylight moved over the mountains and began to warm the air, the line-up grew steadily in anticipation of the chair roaring to life at 8:30am, officially kicking off the season at this legendary resort. Regardless of location, early November is always loaded with stoke as the warmer months have finally come to an end, making way for colder days and powder turns, but in Mammoth Lakes, the timing is particularly exciting as every season, the resort opens for winter only a week into the month. This year, the start of winter came after an shorter-than-usual break from the end of the previous one. Only three months earlier, Mammoth had capped of its 2016-17 season—the mountain's second longest in history—shutting its lifts on August 6th. Even though the Mother Nature-enforced break from snowboarding was brief, there was no less anticipation for the start of this new season than any other year–arguably there was even more as the stoke had remained full bore all summer. So Thursday morning, as packed chairs began to carry crews uphill, the assembled snowboarders let out a sigh of relief that it was finally time, once again, to strap in.
Mammoth Mountain's opening has long been a weekend filled with celebration. It's an annual homecoming for those who like to spend their winters standing sideways–an opportunity to kick off winter with laps on hill, movie premieres in the village, and some apres cheersing on the Tusk’s deck. From the moment Chair 1 began to spin on Thursday, the trails leading down to the Main Lodge were loaded with winter-ready locals and visitors alike, an exuberant mayhem making the first turns of the season. For the snowboarding community, Mammoth's opening is an apt reunion to kick off winter. Riders roadtrip in for the weekend from Southern California (Anthony and Lenny Mazzotti, Melissa Evans, Mike Gray, and Jesse Paul), Northern California (Tim Humphreys, Fancy and Keith Rutherford, Brady Lem, Christian Connors), Utah (Seth Huot, Sage Kotsenburg, Zak Hale, Madison Blackley, Jill Perkins, Mike Rav) and beyond, meeting up with Mammoth Lakes locals (Scott Blum, Stefi Luxton, Kimmy Fasani, Harrison Gordon, Jonathon McDonald, Jaeger Bailey, Tyler Flanagan) to notch early season turns. Worth noting is that this is merely a partial list as both the mountain and the village were going off all weekend long.
On hill, the Volcom crew was out in full force, bright yellow #CROSSPOLLUTION shirts alerting onlookers to their presence only a moment before the squad would decimate whatever happened to be in their path. Benny Milam, Reid Smith, Dylan Alito, Mike Rav, Lenny Mazzotti, Olivier Gittler, Cody Warble, and CJ Collins, Volcom skate am, were a bright yellow wrecking ball of collective agility in the opening weekend park set up at the bottom of Main Park. On Friday afternoon, as sun squeaked through the clouds and warmed the already wintery snow, the set up provided by the Unbound staff popped off with snowboarders from all over the West Coast who had flocked to Mammoth to warm up their legs for winter. Jill Perkins, Katie Kennedy, Stefi Luxton, and Amanda Hankison were hiking the jibs. Sage Kotsenburg and Zak Hale were low impact lapping with SNOWBOARDER Creative Director Pat Bridges. The newly expecting Kimmy Fasani was treating her baby-to-be to his or her first turn. Fancy Rutherford and Madison Blackley were warming up on the lower tubes. Tim Humphreys was steadily cruising. Blum and Harrison NBD'd on the Jersey barrier with an as-of-yet-unnamed dual 50-50. It was finally winter again.
Down in the village, the celebration continued. Volcom premiered CROSSPOLLUTION along with Louif Paradis' Beacon at Wave Rave. Brothers Skatepark was firing until the sun set each day. The Clocktower/Laka Nuki combo was responsible for plenty of slow starts on Saturday morning. And with all these things, the familiar rhythm of the season had returned to the Eastern Sierra: wake up, go ride, find food, sleep, repeat. As Sunday morning opened up, the air was crisp. The weather forecast showed a storm coming later in the week. Another Opening in the books and winter is off and running.
Thank you to the crew at Mammoth, Molly, Lauren, Peter, Jimmy, Kevin, TJ, Jared, and the entire Mammoth Unbound staff, for another epic start to the season.