Mammoth Mountain Pond Skim ’09: I Made It Across!

Posted By: Zeke Piestrup on April 20, 2009 10:40 am

The tip of the day came from Mammoth PR Man Extraordinaire Daniel Hansen.  Get there by 11am.  “There” was the sign-up line at Canyon Lodge for the Mammoth Mountain Pond Skim.  I had never skied across water, other than behind a boat, but I had seen all those Warren Miller films of spectacular costumes and crashes into some very cold water.  Today would be my pond skim experience!

I arrived “there” at 10:57 and the line was about 20 people.  By 11:05, the line was over a hundred people vying for only 60 slots.  Good tip, Dan.

After obtaining my wrist band, marked #33, I headed up the mountain.  The spring-skiing at Mammoth right now is beyond ridiculous.  There’s still 15 feet of snow at the top of the mountain, almost burying the famous wooden sign at the summit.  Coverage on the mountain is more extensive than Nancy Grace’s coverage of Caylee Anthony.  That’s extensive!

I made countless laps this weekend down Rock Garden, a run not marked on the trail map, as even in good years sometimes there is not enough snow coverage down the rocky chute.  But here we are in late April and Rock Garden is still firing!  There’s more snow on Mammoth Mountain than that of all the Mexican drug cartels combined.  That’s really extensive!

Perfect sunny conditions mixed with absurd snow pack levels, Mammoth is the place to be right now for the best spring skiing imaginable.  Around 2pm, with a smile on my face, I ventured over to Canyon Lodge for my first pond skim.

The one question I had for all the veteran pond skimmers was the same.  How much does the water “grip”?  I knew my weight would have to be back on my tails, but too far back could throw the tails of my Gotamas out and send me splashing into serious coldness; not back far enough and I’d be sent over the handle bars.  It’s a fine line with weight distribution, but being a rookie I’d have to find out the definitive answer in front of an overflowing crowd at Canyon Lodge.

While waiting my turn, I watched countless skimmers ignore what I thought was the goal (to cross the pond) and instead do their best wake board spray of the audience.  Veteran skimmers scoffed at the notion of simply trying to cross the pond.  But, since this was my first time, I decided not to succumb to peer pressure, as I needed to know the answer to my grip question before I could expand into audience demolition.

I crunched into my best aerodynamic position, back seat touching my back bindings, head tucked between my knees.  Gathering all the speed I cold muster, I hit the water…  And it was not grippy at all!  It felt like a dock start with the old Skurfer on Big Bear Lake.  Fairly smooth and effortless.  I glided across the water and stepped up onto the other side.  No cold water for me!  I was elated.  And then the boos rained down from above.  What had I done?  The MC reprimanded me, “No poles!”  My first pond skim and I had committed a serious faux pas.  Poles could puncture a hole in the plastic lining of the pond and end the competition for all.  I smiled an apology, having been earnestly unaware of the protocol.

Next year I shall step up to veteran pond skim status.  I’m already dreaming up Shane McConkey inspired equipment.  Perhaps a single snow ski with bindings mounted like a slalom water ski.  Or maybe even just use a water ski!  Oh, and no poles.

Zeke Piestrup ( More Posts)

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