As an employee of Mammoth Mountain’s Host Department, I work closely with our skiing mascot Woolly the mammoth. As such, I get the insider information on his antics and will occasionally share them here, that is when they’re appropriate to print (Woolly’s been known to drop a filthy strip club story in the locker room when he gets back from a weekend in Reno).
After the big snow of mid-January, the 24th was the first real bluebird groomer day. The ‘cats had had their chance to comb most of the runs, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and wind was low- conditions were perfect for Woolly to put on a clinic and have a ripper of a day.
He started off with two cups of Café Corazon coffee; a special blend infused with something aptly named the Mad Man bean- packing triple potency and carrying a warning not to be drunk straight.
By the time he was riding the gondola to his dressing cave at Canyon Lodge, his heart was already pumping nearly twice resting rate and his giant pupils were dilating to the size of tires.
The gondola swayed to a halt and Woolly squeezed out of the tiny door. He took the long way to his cave, stopping by the rental shop and then photography office to hit on the girls working there and there respectively. For an anthropomorphic animal who can’t talk, that guy sure does have swagger.
Down in the host office Woolly learned he’d be riding with Rick, a fast skier from Ohio and one of his favorite guides. They suited and booted, made their way through the mob of kids and tourists clamoring with photos of the famous pachyderm and headed for Chair Sixteen.
But making it up the first lift ahead of schedule, Rick asked Woolly where he wanted to go.
“Wind doesn’t look bad on Chair Five… think you could get down Solitude?”
Woolly reckoned he could.
At the top of Five the wind was howling. Woolly held his ears to avoid getting shot down a precipice while he posed for pictures. When the crowd died Rick pointed down the hill and yelled through the bluster;
“HEAD FOR CHAIR TWO! LET’S GO!”
Woolly hung his skis over the run and waited for wind.
Then after a five-second eternity a beastly gust blew Woolly’s body forward and his fur back. He took off like a shot, guzzling air and calories to accelerate harder. Tucking down to assemble some semblance of aerodynamics he pressed his shins against the front of his boots to hold a carve.
Woolly was amassing speed like a runaway locomotive. Giant ears pinned back, eyes starting to tear, he stared unblinking as he searched for bumps in the snow to unweight and turn on.
BANG! Woolly caught a lip and was airborne and twisting, re-arranging his skis to shoot off at a forty-degree angle.
Behind him, a faint but familiar voice screamed in desperation;
“WOOLLY! LEFT! LEFT! LEFT!”
Woolly had half a second to decide if that meant to go left or that there was an obstacle to the left. Unable to move his massive head for fear of wind resistance overcoming his weight and throwing him to the ground he went with Option C and straightlined it.
A hundred meters later the warning became clear- he was to turn left at the intersection he was bearing down on at full noise.
Woolly re-weighted again and leaned into a long, satisfying carve that would have impressed a GS racer. He was riding a pair of Line Mavericks- too skinny for powder but plenty grippy for a groomer day like this.
At the bottom of Chair Two Woolly was out of breath, and had to lean on the seven year old getting their picture taken with him to keep from falling.
Woolly rode up Two and danced around for his scheduled photo appearance. But he had only been there a few minutes when the East Sierra Disabled Sports team stopped by with a group of Wounded Warriors- U.S. Military veterans who had sustained injuries in combat, but were beastly enough to have a go at skiing anyway.
One in particular got a kick out of Woolly and fancied a race. Sitting in a basket with a ski mounted to the bottom, this man may have lost his legs but he most certainly had not lost his badass disposition.
“He’s only been on that thing four days,” said one of his companions as he rocked from side to side in preparation for what Woolly knew was about to be one hell of a show.
“Woolly, can we ride together? Let’s race Stump Alley!”
One of the attendants leaned over to Rick and his mammoth.
“We were going to head back to Two, can Woolly make it down there? ‘Cause we’ve had some Woollys who were good and some, uh, a bit shaky.”
Woolly, unable to talk of course, just made the brush-off-own-shoulder expression to respond that he did not belong to the latter category.
Rick laughed to himself as he imagined Woolly’s anger at his skills being questioned.
“Oh, I think he’ll make it just fine.”
Now twice-motivated Woolly took off riding switch (backwards) and beckoned the entourage to chase him with a big, exaggerated wave.
The adaptive-skier followed suit and upped the ante, ripping a 360 in his basket and tossing snow on Woolly’s fur. Worse yet, Woolly caught somebody taping the action with a GoPro.
Everyone knows a camera to a mammoth is a red rag to a bull… shit was about to go down.
The ad-ski took off and Woolly pulled downhill with a quick spin.
They were flat-out now, laying down crisscrossed carves and overtaking gapers who were left living up to their name in speechless paralysis.
But once they got into the straights, Woolly’s crippling air-brake ears held him back from matching the ad-ski’s tuck. The legless skier took off and picked up ten, twenty kilometers an hour on the mammoth and skidded to a halt in a tsunami of clumpy snow.
Woolly was coming in hot close behind, and it occurred to him to roost the seated skier- but thinking it unwise to potentially insult an American hero he opted for a 720 spin-stop followed by an exaggerated bow, to the cheers of lifties and five-year-olds in the lift line.