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Ski Run of the Week: Coyote, a hidden gem, right beneath your nose

November 26, 2010

Coyote. Image courtesy MMSA

It is situated smack dab in the middle of the Mountain.

It is one of the loveliest corduroy runs on the ski hill.

But “Coyote” also is one of the confoundest runs to reach, owing to its obscurity in terms of accessibility.

First, the run: It is a blue black-diamond trail, starting adjacent to McCoy Station at mid-mountain and spilling into the mish-mash of traffic near the bottom of Chair 5. Intermediates should have no problem here, once on the run.

Second, the terrain: Coyote has lots of terrain features, from upslopes on the sides (best in the early season), a nice little swale in the middle and, for the zoomers, great lines for speed, speed and more speed.

Third, the history: Coyote is named as such from back in the Earlies, when kitchen help at Mid-Mountain Chalet (the precursor of McCoy Station) used to dump kitchen scraps out the back door rather than endure the hassle of getting the garbage downhill.

In those days, when Mammoth was aswarm with coyotes, both in town and on the hill (Steve Searles was originally hired to take care of the coyotes, not bears), the hungry canines just hung around the back door at mid-mountain, waiting and waiting for those scraps. They hung around day and night.

Skiers on Chair 5 had no problem spotting them, scampering across the runs and the ski hill, and it was always good for a snapshot or two.

But back to the run itself. Coyote is actually a road underneath all that snow. In the summer, heavy equipment runs up and down that road, chock-a-block.

In the winter, snowcat operators pulling grooming chains on Stump Alley, Easy Rider, Old Comeback Trail and Wall Street used Coyote as their last grooming run of the night, parking their rigs behind what is now McCoy Station.

They still do, and there’s the fabulous rub.

Coyote often is the last groomed run of the shift, so if it’s the freshest and most pristine corduroy that you’re looking for, Coyote is almost always the best bet.

Getting there is the head-scratcher. Getting to Coyote requires at least two lifts. Skiers and boarders can take either Chair 1/Broadway Express (four minutes, 40 seconds) or Chair 2/Stump Alley Express (five minutes, 50 seconds).

From the top of either of those lifts, connect to Chair 3/Facelift Express and ride to the top.

From the top of Facelift, enter Center Bowl and bear right, right, and more right. For first timers, it appears as if the route is going nowhere at all. But that’s the correct route.

Suddenly, out of routinely ungroomed snow, they find themselves at the top of Coyote, among the best-groomed trails on Mammoth Mountain.

It’s a great spot for locals to run into locals, since visitors almost never figure it out.

It’s a terrific warm-up hill, too, facing slightly south and thereby getting a good, softening sun in the morning.

If there is a trickier part to Coyote than finding it, it is in the exit.

Coyote exits near the base of Chair 5, which is kind of like entering a Roman roundabout.

At that location, skiers and riders converge from the intermediate Solitude, the black diamond runs of Dry Creek and Sanctuary and the beginner run from Easy Rider. There can be lots and lots of traffic right there. For years, the ski area has been thumb sucking on how to fix that interchange.

Having said that, skiers and riders coming off Coyote often look back to where they were, exhale exuberantly and get their butts back to Chair 2/Stump Alley Express, connect to Chair 3/Facelift Express and make their way back to Coyote.

Over and over. It’s that good.

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