It was one of those characteristic bluebird powder days, the kind that Mammoth Mountain had over and over again in the 2005/06 season.
That morning was particularly cold and the snow was sugary and deep. After a few laps warming up, waiting for something (anything) on the top to open, I ran into a few girlfriends.
They were as excited for the top to open as I was. We eagerly loaded Stump Alley Express/Chair 2. We were four girls on four snowboards, chatting all the way to the top of the chair.
As we strapped our bindings in, someone noticed a lone rider going up Chair 23.
“It must be Ski Patrol,” someone said, “or a lifty.
A few more chairs were empty, then another person, then another. There was no one in line, but we went down to investigate.
“It’s open,” the lift operator said, and we loaded the chair in awe.
A few more chairs filled in, then a few more empties. I had never seen such emptiness on a powder day. The gondolas were still empty, while the line overflowed out the doors of McCoy Station.
We hooted and screamed (like girls) the entire way up. We had a variety of lines from which to choose: the Wipe Out Chutes, the Drop Out Chutes, Scotty’s and the Paranoid Flats.
But the sun was shining directly on Monuments in a certain kind of way; the snow sparkled, and in its way, Monuments was asking us to put our signatures on that east-facing slope.
Monuments is named for Scotty’s monument at the top of the run. Scotty’s honors Clifford Owen Scott, who was taken down by an avalanche above St. Anton in the 1960s.
The monument features a pair of crossed skis attached to a stack of flat granite stones. Beneath it is a pitch that locals call Monuments.
It lies between Scotty’s Run and the Paranoid Flats, but is not named on ski area maps. It is steep, and is considered a black diamond by locals. It is accessed by Chair 23, Chair 14 or the Upper Gondola.
Still, few skiers or boarders were around, so we skated off the chair in a hurry, made our way to the right of the ramp, strapped in and we were off.
The four of us dropped into Monuments with quite a bit of speed and arced big turns along the steep, wide-open slope. Again, we hooted and screamed (like girls) the entire ride down.
Finally, the rest of the powder hounds caught on that Chair 23 was open, and when we got to the bottom there was a bit of a line, but not much of one.
Once again we loaded the chair and laughed the whole way up.
“That,” said my friend Barb afterwards, “was the best powder day ever!”
Editor’s Note: This story first appeared in the March 2007 issue of Mammoth Monthly magazine.