THE LAB: With a summit elevation of 11,053 feet, Mammoth Mountain is the highest ski area in the Sierras. The altitude helps Southern California’s premiere resort retain much of its 400 annual inches far into the spring. It also provides perfect conditions for soft, evenly-spaced, impossibly long late-season bump fields. From the double-black diamond pitches off the summit to milder pine-lined slopes lower on the mountain, Mammoth consistently offers moguls for every ability. The resort almost always stays open through Memorial Day, sometimes through the Fourth of July, and averages 300 days of sunshine annually.
THE CURRICULUM: After a couple warm-up runs on intermediate groomers, the groups—instructor-to-student ratios of 1-to-5 are typical—head to the moderately sized bumps in Mammoth’s West Bowl (skipping to the front of the lift line, of course), where they run group drills in the bumps and on the flats. For most students, mastering the key skill of actively pushing into the mogul through the entire turn requires drills in the bumps, on the corduroy—even lying on the ground with an instructor pushing on their boot soles from above. On the last afternoon, each student gets a final one-on-one video analysis and advice on exercises and strategies for ongoing improvement.
THE INSTRUCTORS: Mammoth’s instructors spend the rest of the ski season teaching daily group and private lessons, so the extended, specialized bump clinic is an opportunity to bond with and see multiday improvements in their students. They all share the philosophy that solid form on groomed terrain is a crucial first step to mastering the moguls. Whether tackling the bumps is your first step—or maybe your last—to becoming an all-mountain skier, a week watching and learning from instructors who spend every day on these trails is undeniably great motivation.
THE VIBE: Most campers are from California, and the majority are Mammoth passholders, but the camp fosters a friendly, noncompetitive atmosphere that makes anyone feel welcome. Most groups eat lunch together, but even that’s not a requirement. And don’t expect intensive off-slope bonding. People may informally grab an après beer on the sunny deck of Mammoth’s Tusks bar, but there are no organized social events. Then again, after six-plus hours lapping the bumps, you may be more than ready to shut it down for the night.
DATES: Designed for upper intermediate and expert skiers, but lifelong bump-phobes are welcome. March 5-7, April 9-11, and May 29-31, 2010.
PRICE: $379 includes three full days of instruction and video analysis. Lift tickets are not included. (A three-day lift pass is $212 during the regular season.) Lodging packages are available.
INFO: mammothmountain.com; 800-626-6684