The sun was out, the snow was soft, and the slopes were steep. If you are planning to go skiing in California, Mammoth is the best of the best. Mammoth proudly offers 3,500 acres of ski-able terrain and 150 runs with the longest run being 3 miles! The top of the Mountain is at 11,053 ft and a nice, cozy gondola will take you all the way up; the views are breathtaking and we could even see into the back of Yosemite National Park and Half Dome.
Mammoth Mountain is part of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range that spans 400 miles from North to South and 70 miles from East to West across Central California. The drive time from San Francisco is approximately 5.5 hours and from Los Angeles or Las Vegas it’s about 5 hours depending on road conditions, but for us, the spring road conditions couldn’t have been better. If you are a roadie like we are, the scenery along the way won’t disappoint you. The mountains take a dramatic descent to the desert floor, making for one of the most unique backdrops on the planet. If you’re coming from LA, you will pass through many small towns including Lone Pine and Bishop. Lone Pine is the starting point for those planning to Hike Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the continental United States (more to come on this topic in the future).
There is an abundance of options for lodging in Mammoth, but book early if you are going on a prime weekend during the months of December to March. We stayed in an awesome wooded cabin called Edelweiss Lodge. Make sure you go for a place with a hot tub, there’s nothing like it after a long day on the slopes.
You can easily get from your hotel to the mountain by using the free area transportation. It conveniently makes stops all along the road at marked signs throughout town. If you choose to drive to the base of the ski area, consider parking at the Mill Cafe parking area to avoid congestion and further headaches, as busy weekends bring thousands of people to the area. And when you’re ready to hit the slopes, be sure to check the weather and make sure you’re dressed for the occasion, as conditions can range greatly depending on the season. Oh, and keep in mind that the base of the mountain, at the Main Lodge, can be 15 or 20 degrees warmer because of the clouds and blocked wind. Before getting on the slopes you will need a lift ticket, you can buy them online or at a ticket booth that is located at each of the parking lots for the mountain.
Since the Mountain and Town of Mammoth Lakes sit at such as high elevation, it’s not uncommon for the skiing season to stretch all the way until July. We were there in mid-March and the snow was great, but the best conditions were found by staying on the sunniest part of the slopes; the sun would melt the hard-packed snow and allow for the best shredding.
To get all the way up the mountain take the gondola but if the line is too long go for the express lift, they usually move quicker. With the cool breeze on your face and countless blankets of snow all around, you will feel like you are dreaming and aren’t really there… but don’t worry, it really can be a reality :)
If you want a nice relaxed run from the top, take the Upper Road Runner Run down the back of the mountain, Brittany loved this one. If you’re warmed up and ready for some serious action, take Dave’s Run, Huevo’s Grande (you will need them) or Climax. These runs are not for the novice! I happened to take a bit to much speed into my first approach on Climax and went head over heals, snowballing, and sliding hundreds of feet down the mountain on my face nearly missing a few rocks along the way. It must have been a thrill to onlookers from the gondola above. Once I came to a skidding stop, I had to wipe the snow off my glasses and from my gear, then saddled back up to attempt the same run later in the day. It felt like a great victory to conquer the nerves and the fear I felt when I peaked over the snowy mountain ledge from above. I dutifully went back and gave that large boulder I missed a tap of respect and named him, “Drew’s Rock.” So, not that you have to try this run, but if you have the guts, you won’t be disappointed by what this world class resort has to offer. I can only imagine what it’s like after 2 feet of fresh powder have hit the ground.
Checkout the Mill Cafe for a great watering hole and place to kick it near the fire for some R&R. McCoy Station, midway up the mountain, is another more happening place that is jammed around lunch time. They have an incredible variety of foods to choose from including Mexican, pizza, Chinese, a Salad Bar, Soup Bar, Deli, Bakery and even Waffle Sandwiches! And one of the most popular features is the full bar outside. If weather permits, don’t be shy to ask someone if they are leaving soon or if the unfilled seats are free, you might just score a table in a prime spot, we certainly did!
From this outdoor area you can watch for Snow Bunnies and Boarder Bro’s coming down the hill. There’s plenty of quality people watching to be done, like the chicken suit skier or the grandpa in hot pink jacket and pants, so enjoy!
If you aren’t into the whole skiing thing or maybe you’re nursing an injury, consider taking the gondola up the mountain for the day or seek out other activities in town, such as snowmobiling, tubing, cross country skiing or shopping. Whether you snowboard or ski, are a beginner or an expert, a techie or a foodie, you are going to have a blast at Mammoth. And certainly don’t forget to invite your friends or family because, when it comes to ski trips, the more peeps you have, the greater the adventure!
- Bring Sunglasses for the sunny days and Goggles for the snowy ones.
- Check around online for Discount Lift Tickets. We were able to find a coupon for $20 off per day for a 3-day pass.
- If your driving from Las Vegas, make sure you fuel up before heading out of town there are no gas stations for at least 100 miles.
- Take a pit stop in Lone Pine and enjoy Season’s Restaurant or in Bishop at Erick Schat’s Bakery, they are top favorites.
- In Mammoth, for a cool hip and local vibe, (skier breakfast version of Wahoo’s Taco) head to The Base Camp Cafe. The Biscuits and Gravy are a specialty, we went EVERY morning!