In the 1980s’, there were a few drought years across the country that had a severe impact on the North American ski industry. Without snow, the ski-tourism economy was suffering.
Mammoth has always been famous for its early-season snow and it just wasn’t there. People everywhere were talking about shutting down ski resorts but Mammoth wasn’t going to let that happen.
That’s when, in 1991, we faced a dilemma: We had to really get into the business, or get out. I wasn’t about to get out, so we made the decision to invest heavily into snowmaking.
We had been playing around with it towards the bottom of the mountain for a while, but building the reservoir to supply the snow guns was our first step toward guaranteeing sufficient snow by Thanksgiving, and often earlier.
This system, which cost almost 5 million dollars, allowed us to handle 12,000 skiers without any natural snow.
That’s me driving the loader.
Before we built the reservoir, the area just east of Mid Chalet (Canyon Lodge) was nothing more than a pumice flat. We saw potential to capture the runoff from Chair 3 and store it in that area. It was a good place to base the snow making, as it is a midpoint on the mountain and an ideal location to distribute water in all directions. We built pump houses and had compressors down by Chair 10. We dug several trenches to pipe water out and by that fall it was ready to operate.
The real fun happened when we finally laid the liner in and filled it with water. We brought the crane in and swung people off into the pond. Everybody was diving and swimming and enjoying the summer’s hard work.
Hopefully we’ll come across more from this, including shots from the day of celebration. When we find them we’ll put them up here.