Archive - Sports Article
November 11th, 2011
Itâ€™s just not in the culture of Mammoth Mountain to miss an Opening Day â€” natural snow or manufactured, blue skies or gray, rain, snow or fire and brimstone.
This season was no different.
The ski area opened yesterday with five lifts ready to go, including the Lower Gondola.
It also opened with 13 terrain features, said Joani Lynch, ski area spokeswoman.
Working on a base ranging from 18 to 24 inches, the ski area opened Chair 1 (Broadway Express); Chair 6 (Thunder Bound Express); Chair 11 (Discovery Express) and Chair 3 (Facelift).
The first chair left Broadway at 8:30 a.m.
After 18 years of seeking out every aspen grove in the Eastern Sierra, I thought I had found them all: Rock Creek and Lundy, McGee and Bishop, Convict and North Lake. Even the lesser known areas like Molybedenite and Birchim and the Parker Bench and the Little Walker.
Been there, done that.
Boy, was I wrong.
This past weekend, the crowds that can turn Lundy Canyonâ€™s tiny trailhead and one-lane road into a virtual Disneyland in the fall color season defeated me and I spun north like a compass, seeking solitude and gold.
Thick black clouds are already crashing against the grey bulk of Mt. Dana when we begin the run down the mountain. The wind whips past, running fast from the coast, pushing the first winter storm of the season west up Yosemite Valley, whirling around the base of Half Dome.
Pine needles fall in masses, covering the bare ground with a carpet of sienna gold. The air is thick with the smell of snow and rain and the sun, hot enough to go shirtless only a few hours ago, has gone home. This new cold bites hard. Thunder rumbles to the south.
Itâ€™s time to go.
Rock Creek Canyon, high above Toms Place resort, which is about fourteen miles south of Mammoth Lakes, is one of the Eastern Sierraâ€™s most spectacular canyons. Filled with dozens of lakes and ponds, fed by some of the highest mountains in the Sierra, itâ€™s a backcountry hikerâ€™s dream. And it just so happens to also have one of the best aspen shows for early fall viewing, which, in this odd, odd, weather year, is about what time of the year the trees think it â€” and itâ€™s not like you can argue with a tree.
Itâ€™s been an odd and wonderful fall.
Aspens and cottonwoods, still summer-lush with the life given to them by the record-breaking winter, met one of the warmest falls in many years. In no hurry to go dormant again after being buried alive for nine months, the trees held their green far into October, much to localâ€™s confusion and delight.
The summer, so late in coming, seemed like it would never end.
No one complained about it, either.
Spike Todd likes to tell a story about his brother Bob.
When they were kids in Southern California, Spike says, the two brothers shared a bedroom and a small black-and-white television. They were devoted Angels fans and devoted Lakers fans.
Spike, the owner of Mammoth Liquor, swears that Bob used to do sports play-by-play in his sleep. This when Bob was about 10 or 11.
Itâ€™s not as if anyone in his or her right mind would want to make the Everest Challenge any tougher than it already is.
Yet nobody has ever accused Alan Jacoby, of Mammoth, as being in his right mind.
â€śGoal setting and achievement is like a drug,â€ť said Jacoby, a volunteer at Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra and an entrant in this weekendâ€™s Everest Challenge.
Jacoby, however, said he is going to attempt the ride on a singlespeed mountain bike.
â€śHelping others erase barriers only makes you want to go out and test your own limits,â€ť he said.
Yeah but â€¦
â€śThe Cribâ€ť is about to close up shop for the season.
It has been home to runners, cyclists, biathletes and sports media for four months. Now, Tourism Director John Urdi said it is up to them to spread the word about one of the most innovative high-altitude training facilities anywhere.
Technically it has no name, but every since its inception last winter, Urdi has called it the â€śHigh Altitude Training Crib.â€ť
Now itâ€™s merely â€śThe Crib,â€ť a two-bedroom (with loft) townhouse at Snowcreek that can handle six (or more if some want to choose a spot on the floor).
If there is a more perfect motorcycle route in California than the Sonora Pass Road, Arlie Ray Blacksheer and Sarah Kazmark canâ€™t think of many, if any at all.
â€śWe come up here for the views all the time,â€ť said Blacksheer, a sales consultant at California BMW in Mountain View (Bay Area).
As he spoke, he held a pair of high-powered binoculars to his eyes, inspecting a rock face near the summit on the western side of the pass.
â€śThe water is seeping right through the rocks!â€ť
The face of audacity at the Mammoth Mountain Bike Park looks exactly like Dave Geirman.
He looks like the kind of guy who will let nothing stop him, and nothing does. His face is tanned and leathery, suggesting a man who has lived a career in the outdoors, at altitude. He doesn't brag on himself. When questions get a little too close, he deflects them.
He's tough. Rugged.
Geirman is in charge of lift operations at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area during the winter. After last winter, Geirman might have thought he was going to relax a bit in the summer.
Thereâ€™s nothing quite like an afternoon of Chihuahua races at the Village.
The crowd begins to pulse about an hour before the heats begin. Big men, such as Alpine Garageâ€™s Mike Fiebigger, hold their tiny dogs close. His wife, Karen, was alongside. In the Fiebigersâ€™ case, this was an unusual hairless Chihuahua, named Klein.
â€śHeâ€™s like a Billy Idol,â€ť said Fiebiger. (There are three more Chihuahuas in the Fiebiger clan, named Juicy, Dolce and Lelo, but thatâ€™s beside the point.)
Tom Shepard, holding the appropriately named Smidgen, strolled by, showing off.
On Saturday, June 18, as Mammoth Monster Motocross got under way, Ryan Hughes #4 (Temecula, Calif.) won the first moto in the Vet Pro 30+, but Jeremy Mcgrath (#2) (Encinitas, Calif.) Â went on to win the finals. Sunday, it all belonged to Hughes.
For more than three decades, the â€śMotocross Momâ€ť had a dual love affair.
It is now broken in half. Gale Webb, whom Mammoth Motocross organizer Laurey Carlson characterized as â€śthe face of the Motocross,â€ť lost her beloved husband Jim just three weeks ago.
But Webb is here for this yearâ€™s event because her love affair with Mammoth still goes on.
â€śSomeday I will join Jim and we will be up here together.
As for high-altitude training in Mammoth, Dave McCoy had it down years ago.
Intensely interested in the interplay between high-altitude Mammoth (8,000-11,000 feet) and lower altitude Bishop (4,000 feet), McCoy had asked for a report on the subject from MMSAâ€™s John Armstrong.
He got it two years ago, and in the whatever-goes-around-comes-around department, Armstrong presented the report at Wednesdayâ€™s final topic-related RecStrats workshop at the Community Center.
The workshop had to do with establishing Mammoth as a high-altitude training Mecca.
This has been a bearcat of a spring for Dennis Rottner.
Things are all busted up all over town. Broken water pipes in the parks. Wrecked fences, debris from the hard winter all over the place. Snow in all the wrong places, high wind on all the wrong days.
And yet â€¦
The townâ€™s longtime superintendent of parks somehow, impossibly, got the Whitmore ball field ready for high school baseball and the Whitmore pool ready for the swim team.
This weekend, in spite of Mammothâ€™s tough winter and cold spring, the tennis courts at Community Center Park are to open.