With snow falling like crazy in California this winter, the ski season at Mammoth Mountain will easily extend into July. What are you waiting for?
As a Colorado family that travels to ski resorts in other regions, we’ve become used to being asked “why are you here?”
While we always have good reasons like “we’re here to ski” or “because this resort is an incredible place,” rarely are the reasons as clear as those for skiing Mammoth Mountain, California.
#1 Because Mountain
I first skied Mammoth in April 2014 and fell in love with the mountain’s terrain, a wonderland of majestic glades, avalanche chutes, high alpine bowls and gentle cruisers. Impressed with what I found, I’ve always wanted to return with my family.
While stats are only a snapshot, they’re are good place to start (as is a trail map).
Mammoth Mountain Stats
3,100+ vertical feet
3,500+ skiable acres
300+ days of annual sunshine
Elevation range from 7,953 to 11,053 feet
Average annual snowfall of 400 inches
150+ named trails
Snowmaking on 46 trails
Terrain: 15% expert, 20% advanced, 40% intermediate, 25% beginner
See that last stat? The one about intermediate terrain? While many Mammoth afficianados focus on the upper bowls and the steep chutes off of lift 22, Mammoth Mountain is truly a mountain for everyone.
#2 Because Snow
If you chase powder, you know that the Sierra Nevada get a lot of snow. While some resorts report powder days every time it snows 3” (I may or may not be exaggerating), snowfall well into double digits is common in the Sierra.
When we arrived it was sunny at the airport but snowing on the mountain. By the next morning, 36” of snow had fallen at the mountain bases with the summit reporting 54”. Two days later it snowed again. In between these enviable dumps, the skies were bluebird and the temperatures were temperate. We brought all of our Colorado layers, but we didn’t need them. What we needed were sunscreen and frequent water breaks.
Several years ago, my younger son and I were at Squaw Valley (another fantastic California Resort about three hours north of Mammoth) when a storm hit. This storm contained the highest-water content snow ever recorded in California. On lower angle terrain it was nearly impossible to ski.
Until now, that was our benchmark for Sierra snow days. What we discovered at Mammoth were three distinct types of west coast snow.
First, “storm day” snow. Count yourself fortunate to ski during a storm, with light, powdery snow and tracks that fill in behind you. As the hours fly by, your legs may tire, but you won’t want to stop. It’s that good.
Tip: With snow falling, Mammoth’s glades are magical, deep and otherworldly. Special doesn’t begin to describe the experience.
Next, week “day after the storm” snow. If you awaken to the sound of avalanche bombs, be patient. Big dumps mean big potential for slides, so the Mammoth Ski Patrol opens the mountain in stages.
Tip: Sierra snow will settle and can be heavy, especially if wind-affected. Head for the steepest slopes that are open that you can handle.
Finally, “in between the storms” snow. Mammoth Mountain is open from 8:30 AM to 4:00 PM and the skiing possibilities, especially in the bowls that rim the mountain top, are abundant. Blown-in areas can be deep, some pistes are groomed and the skiing and riding for all levels is exhilarating. While we had some icy turns on groomed runs from the top of the mountain, the overall snow quality was fantastic two days after each storm.
Tip: Get out early, ski late and on clear days check out the views from the top of the gondola. If you don’t want to ski or ride off the top, download the gondola after taking photos, having lunch or visiting the interpretive center
#3 Because Value
Buy a single day ticket at the window and you’ll pay a relative fortune. If you have an Ikon Pass or buy multi-day advance tickets online, the pricing ranges from free (Ikon Pass) to reasonable.
Having Ikon Passes meant that we skied 6 days during a five-night vacation, scoring a few hours on our arrival and departure days.
Plus, with the Ikon Pass we received 10-15% off food and ski shop purchases at Mammoth Mountain restaurants and retailers.
Tip: Don’t miss lunch at the Yodeler, a Bavarian restaurant at Main Lodge. Prices are reasonable even without the Ikon Pass discount, but become ridiculous with the reduction. The food is delicious, as is the hot chocolate and beer.
The Melt (grilled cheese sandwiches beyond the ordinary) outdoors at the base of lifts 13 and 14 is a sure bet, while if you find yourself hungry at Eagle Lodge, with its limited options, go for the pizza.
#4 Because Easy Travel
United has nonstop flights from Denver to Mammoth Lakes (MMH). These flights arrive and depart in early afternoon and the airport is a quick 10-15 minutes or so from the resort village, base areas and most accommodations. Flights from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego round out the resort’s air service.
We landed around 1:00 pm and were met by Mammoth Taxi (be sure to book!). By 2:15, we were skiing. There aren’t many airports this convenient to the lifts.
Tip: Rent a car at the airport or rely on free buses to get around. For the greatest ease, choose a hotel or condo near the Village, especially if you plan to dine out, as transport is less frequent after dark.
#5 Because Friendly
Both Mammoth Lakes and Mammoth Mountain are noticeably friendly and happy places.
Is it all the snow? The natural beauty? Or maybe the lack of pretension that makes locals and visitors so pleasant?
We don’t know. But we are coming back for more.
For as my husband says, “Mammoth is now definitely one of my top five ski resorts. Or maybe even higher.”
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