Located on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevadas, Mammoth Mountain boasts a load of elephantine statistics: at 11,053 feet, it’s the tallest ski area in California and has 3,100 vertical feet of skiing across 3,500 skiable acres. With an average of 400 inches of snowfall, 300 days of sunshine per year and seasons that can stretch well into summer, even the weather reports sound like they’re bragging.
The resort’s 28 lifts provide access to the more than 150 named trails, and about 65% are in the beginner and intermediate skill range. More advanced skiers will want to take the Panoramic Gondola up to the top to access the plunging drops at the upper bowl. For an expert-level, terrifying experience, top-tier riders should look to Hangman’s Hollow, a narrow rock-bordered chute whose entry is so sketchy that even the locals won’t ride it without a decent layer of powder to cushion their descent.
Those looking for freestyle terrain won’t have to look hard, as Mammoth sports several terrain parks. Beginners can start with small jumps and boxes, then practice their transitions on the mini pipe. Main Park lies at the other end of the spectrum, with eight to ten oversized jumps, more than a dozen technical jibs and the park’s 22-foot superpipe, all of which is in full view of Chair 6.
For beginners, ski and snowboarding lessons will help you get your bearings amidst all the options. The classes range from age-specific lessons for kids aged three through 12, to beginner group or private lessons for all ages and abilities. For more in-depth instruction, there are multi-day camps and even a ten-week development program available.
Mammoth also offers a variety of on-mountain activities, including more than 19 miles of cross-country and snowshoe terrain, Woolly’s Tube Park and Snow Play area, and Snowmobile Adventure tours. The most luxurious way to see the mountain, however, is on one of Mammoth’s Snowcat Tours. Participants ride in one of Mammoth’s heated snowcats from the Main Lodge to the Minaret Summit with wine, fruit, cheese and an antipasti platter, with waffle sundaes and hot cocoa for the kids.
The resort’s relative isolation (330 miles from San Fran, 165 miles from Tahoe and 310 miles from Vegas) makes this a bona fide destination resort, but you won’t be lacking for après options once you arrive. The Mammoth village feels more like a town about to explode into a full-on city, with plenty of restaurants, nightclubs, an indoor gaming center, full-service day spas, movie theaters and enough shopping to max out your credit cards.
And there’s an event practically every weekend, from hard-charging races to the family-friendly Woolly’s Parade, held each Saturday. Lodging, from the plush environs of the alpine heaven known as the Tamarack Lodge to village accommodations, assure that you’ll find the ideal refuge after you’ve spent a day trying to conquer Mammoth’s vast, varied terrain.
Ideally positioned on the edge of the Ansel Adams Wilderness, the Tamarack Lodge offers private studios or one-, two- or three-bedroom cabins. You don’t get ski-in/out access here, but you do get unfettered access to one of the most pristine landscapes in the country. Skiers can take the free shuttle the 2.5 miles to Mammoth Mountain, or they can go cross-country skiing right out their front door, then head back and warm up by their in-room fireplace.
Located in the Village at Mammoth, the family-run Gomez’s is regarded as one of the best Mexican restaurants in the area, offering Mammoth Margaritas, more than 500 tequila options, veggie burritos and a host of seafood items.