A Strange Start To
The Season
(Lapping Reds)

Party laps on the season’s
first substantial snow in
the Eastern Sierra

Feb 2, 2024
03h 42m 05s
moving Time
07h 16m 40s
elapsed Time
elevation Gain

It’s been feast or famine at home in the Eastern Sierra of California.

After a record winter snow year, and a very wet summer that didn’t seem to start until September, things dried up. “Gonna be another big winter” was the rumor. In practice, not so much.

Atmospheric rivers, the source of last year’s moisture, have been impeded by a big ridge parked over the western states. Systems have been sent north and south.

But finally, a system punched through.

Quinn and I meet for coffee at The Lift in June Lake, just down from my spot. Americano and a BEC burrito to go. Fuel for the uphill.


We arrive at the parking lot for Main Lodge at Mammoth. Chaos on the weekends, but we get an ok parking spot. I open the door and a friend I haven’t seen for a while just happened to be the car directly next door.

“Did you hear he got caught in an avalanche about a week and a half ago? Full burial. Got knocked out. Twelve minutes to pull him out. Was bad.”

I read the accident report on the Eastern Sierra Avalanche Center, but didn’t know the full extent. Or that it was a friend of a friend. There was barely any snow around, but it was a wind loaded gulley. Sounded worse the report made it out to be. A reminder to play it safe. Ski conservative lines after storms.

We tossed on the skins, climbed the berm, and got moving past minivans full of kids sitting in traffic. Minaret Vista road snakes up a ways, then we divert towards a prominence to the south.

The first true uphill of my season.

It’s about 6°F, but the sun is bright, sneaking past Dragon’s Back at the resort nearby. Cold but hot. After a few hundred feet of up the jacket comes off.

The skin track is fresh, but has seen some action this morning.


We reach the top, and a group is there transitioning. A number of friends serendipitously all had the same idea. There’s a buzz in the air. They turn and drop into the rime covered trees.


A few minutes pass, and now it’s our turn. Quinn goes first, then me. We wait a moment, and his two friends soon follow.


It’s good. Really good. We squeeze between trees, launch off pillows, the entire time letting out whoops of joy. A call comes over the radio.

“Yeah, I uhh, just double ejected, let me find my skis.”

Several minutes pass.

“Yeah uh, I lost a pole too, so finding that.”

It’s deep.


We reach the bottom, well below where we started. This area is unique, in that you climb around five-hundred feet to start, then descend about two-thousand. After a brief transition, we head back up.

I love the up. You get into a rhythm. A flow. You’re moving slower than the down, but the heart rate is still up. There’s more time to look around. To listen. For me, the down is almost reduced to just an easy way of getting back from the up.

Crazy, I know.


We reach the top and there’s only one option. To go again. In total Quinn and I lap it three times, over about seven hours.

“Coverage is surprisingly good, no sharks!” I mention. “Yeah, I definitely hit one or two, but I was probably doing things I shouldn’t have been doing,” Quinn replies.


We grab pizza in town afterwards. Parmesan like powder.

“That was really, really good.”