There’s a ski hill in California’s central Sierra Nevada that’s so big they have a word for it:
And with 3,100 feet of vertical and 3,500 acres of skiable terrain accessed by an efficient lift system (a two-stage gondola and 22 chairs lifts, 10 of them of the high-speed detachable type), Mammoth Mountain certainly does live up to its name.
But how does a newcomer navigate such a massive ski resort without getting in over their head?
For that answer, we turn to Colin Fernie, the proprietor of Black Tie Rentals of Mammoth.
Easily Available Terrain
“The mountain has three base areas — Eagle, Canyon and Main,” Fernie says. “And every base area has a great mix of beginner, intermediate and advance/expert terrain that is easily available.”
On a storm day — and there are quite a few of those as Mammoth averages more than 400 inches of snow each season — it’s a good idea to head to the Eagle or Canyon bases, whose pods of lifts generally stay below the tree line.
For a blue bird day, head over to the Main Lodge complex, where the gondola will take you to Mammoth Mountain’s 11,053-foot summit and its wide-open, often wind-buffed snow fields.
Perhaps the easiest, most hassle-free way to access the mountain — particularly for those staying in the town of Mammoth Lakes — is through the Eagle Lodge. It also provides the best entry point for an orientation tour of the hill.
“Take a few laps on (chairs) 25 and 9 (a.k.a., Cloud Nine Express), then move up and across toward the Canyon Lodge,” Fernie suggests. “Take a few laps off 16 (Canyon Express) and 22, then head over to the Main Lodge area, where you can finish up on the gondola and chair 23.”
This route, which essentially follows the sun, is advisable only for skiers and snowboarders who can negotiate upper intermediate and harder terrain. However, there are plenty of places for newbies to get a great taste of Mammoth, such as the flat, wide boulevards off the Discovery Chair out of the Main Lodge or the slightly more challenging runs off Chair 17 at the Canyon Lodge.
“There is so much variety here,” Fernie says. “That’s the beauty of Mammoth. No matter what type of skiing you’re looking for — park, trees, steeps, groomers — you can find it out of each base area.”
Apres … and Beyond
When the lifts close, check out the European-style apres experience at the slope-side Yodler, or sample the great whiskey selection at the dive-barish Clocktower Cellar, or, later in the evening, check out Lakanuki for DJs and karaoke.
The Mammoth area has a large selection of restaurant choices to please just about any palate. Try Campo Mammoth for seasonal Italian and wood-fired pizzas, or the Lakefront restaurant at Tamarack Lodge for rustic fine dining, or Petra’s Bistro and Wine Bar for upscale bistro fare, or Noodle-Ly for Thai, Vietnamese and Chinese cuisine, or Elixir Superfood and Juice for organic salads, rice bowls, smoothies and cold-pressed juice.