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‘Mammoth is just gawd-awful.’ Or not. For some, 40 feet of snow is a winter blast

More than 500 inches have piled up at the Eastern Sierra resort.

The winter that just won’t quit has graced the Eastern Sierra with more than 40 feet of snow, as some Mammoth Lakes workers shovel in as much as $100 an hour in the endless quest to keep shops open and houses accessible in the popular recreational retreat.

Depending on whom you ask, Mammoth’s string of monster snows is either a blessing or a punishment.

“Mammoth is just gawd-awful,” says resident Cynthia Hayes. “It just never stops snowing.”

“It was great,” said visitor Paul Geller, who skied at Mammoth Mountain with his family over the Presidents Day weekend. “All in all, it was a blast.”

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But the challenges — and the snow — continue. Restaurants have had trouble keeping staff, who flee for $100-an-hour snow removal jobs at peak times (the going rate now is about $40).

The winds won’t quit either. Gusty, they’ve pushed icicles at some surreal angles, and the winds prevent homeowners from keeping snow off driveways and walks.

Throughout the town of 8,234, roofs are loaded with 10 feet of water-laden snow, and a Red Cross shelter has been set up at the high school for those displaced by collapses or other storm-related issues.

By and large, though, these are boom times for the Eastern Sierra., where the relentless snow has re-calibrated the local economy.

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“Our wood guy is no longer delivering wood,” Hayes said. “He makes more money using his truck to haul snow for the town. Everyone has turned into entrepreneurs.”

Meanwhile, 20-foot piles of the stuff have turned the town into a fortress. France has Carcassonne; California has Mammoth Lakes, a walled-in city where it’s tough to see around intersections.

“There is a ton of snow in town,” said L.A. resident Jason Northrop, who owns a condo in Mammoth. “Most of the houses between the village and Canyon Lodge had their first floor buried, with some as high as the third floor.”

Even more snow is on the way this weekend, though Friday is expected to provide a sunny window for travelers. Frequent snow is expected Saturday through Monday, but accumulations are not expected to be heavy till Monday.

The Weather Channel’s Mike Bettes told The Times that the spigot may be starting to twist off.

“In the short term, there looks to be one more significant rain and snowstorm for both Southern and Northern California,” Bettes said by email Wednesday. “That should happen Monday. ... After that, the storms appear to shut off, and mild and sunny weather persists through the first several weeks of March, leading up to the dry season.”

Even if the storms soon end, California resorts will have enjoyed a remarkable winter, with more than 40 feet of snow in many areas. In Tahoe, Northstar California, Kirkwood and Heavenly all announced on Wednesday that they would extend their seasons into late April.

Farther south, at China Peak, near Fresno the snow has been a boost and a challenge.

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“We’ve had 31 feet so far, frankly too much for an older resort,” said owner Tim Cohee. “But we’ve been pretty lucky as the super-bad days have almost all fallen on midweek days, so we’re not far off of our plan,  with strong weekend/holiday business.”

Closer to Los Angeles, resorts that have recently struggled with recent droughts have 100% coverage and generous bases. The sister resorts of Bear Mountain and Snow Summit has 3 feet of snow at the base and and 42 at the top. 

With bases from 36 to 48 inches, Snow Valley is enjoying the best season in seven years.

Mountain High, the closest large resort in Greater Los Angeles, is coming off its snowiest January in 10 years, with a 1-foot base at the lodge and 3 feet at the summit.

Travel@latimes.com


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