Direct flights, roving food trucks, an artsy terrain park, and upgraded nightlife and dining make Mammoth the hottest winter destination around.
Courtesy of Mammoth Lakes Tourism
Guarded by the Sierras, Mammoth Mountain used to be virtually inaccessible to Bay Area skiers in winter unless they wanted to endure a six-and-a-half hour slog—which seems a little silly when the route skims South Lake Tahoe. But with new direct flights from San Jose and San Francisco, this winter playground is now closer than ever. Add upgraded nightlife and activities (not to mention bigger mountains) and you've got a little ski town well worth a visit.
Sunrise Skiing: In Mammoth’s version of “first tracks,” riders take the Panorama Gondola at 7:15 a.m. to the newly renovated Parallax restaurant for breakfast before going to town on the early-morning powder until the gondola officially opens at 8:30 a.m. The Sierra Sunrise Breakfast is offered on select dates through April. mammothmountain.com.
Explore the Backcountry: Discover Mammoth’s pine flanked snowfields and open meadows on a windswept dogsled excursion led by hearty Malamutes or Siberian, Alaskan, or even Mammoth's own breed of Huskies. Or kick it up a notch on a guided snowmobile tour that might take you passed an ancient crater (snowmobiles are also available for rent.) mammothdogteams.com, mammothmountain.com.
New Parks: Imagine an on-slope art gallery and you've got the mountain’s new Art Park, featuring colorfully muraled jumps, boxes, and rails, as well as rotating exhibits by progressive artists. On exhibit now is “I am Snowboarding,” a street art-style ode to Mammoth snowboarder Jeff Anderson who sadly passed away in 2003. Stomping Grounds, which opened Thanksgiving, is the place to practice new tricks with jumps that get progressively harder, padded rails, and two huge inflatable catch pads that let you focus on every thing but the landing. Coaches are on hand for advice and pep talks. mammothmountain.com.
Top of the Sierra: Ride the Panorama Gondola to the resort’s 11,053 summit, for views that stretch from the Central Valley to the peaks of Nevada. While you’re there, check out the interpretive center for interesting factoids about local geography, hydrology, and volcanic history. Then enjoy a panini and steaming bowl of soup at the Top of the Sierra Café, while you study nearby mountains through the glass facade. mammothmountain.com.
Moonlit Memories: Strap on those snow shoes or cross country skis on the next full moon for a guided adventure under the night sky. For a cozier experience, take the Panorama Gondola up to McCoy station for a Full Moon Winemakers Dinner, pairing five courses with wine and starry skies. tamaracklodge.com.
Schat’s Bakery: For a grab-and-go breakfast or lunch, Schat’s hits the spot, with a wide range of pastries, a full sandwich bar, and 23 breads baked daily. erickschatsbakery.com.
Roving Mammoth: The food cart craze has hit the slopes with the resort’s burly new snowcat food truck, where riders can fill up on burritos, snacks, and refreshments between lifts. A second cat, featuring calzones and pastries, will be rolling up the mountain soon. mammothmountain.com.
For the Village People: Like most ski resorts, Mammoth has a Swiss Alps-style village, complete with shops, cafes, and eateries, plus a Mammoth Brewing Company tasting room. New gastronomic additions are Gomez’s, a family run Mexican restaurant (and a popular spot for post-ski margaritas), and Smokeyard Barbecue and Chop Shop, a classic barbecue joint that makes a mean steak. Perhaps the most sophisticated dinner in the village is served at the Westin’s Whitebark, where blonde wood interiors and a popping fire set the mood for hand-rolled sushi and slow roasted pork. mammothmountain.com.
The Lakefront Restaurant: This intimate restaurant at the charming Tamarack Lodge & Resort has long seduced visitors with first-rate French-inspired California cuisine (think seafood terrine paired with local grilled vegetables) and a homey lakefront experience. tamaracklodge.com/dining.
Restaurant Skadi: Be sure to check out this classic alpine restaurant in "Old Mammoth," whose venison, macadamia nuts, avocados, citrus, and herbs are all sourced from Skadi proprietor Peter Busch’s ranch in Santa Paula, California. Maple Leaf Duck, Sausage of Venison, and a Norwegian Style Gravlax are among the staples on a seasonally changing menu. skadirestaurant.com.
The Yodler: Recap the day’s runs at this 50-year-old icon that serves wings, nachos, and famous fish tacos by the old stone fireplace or on the mountainview deck. mammothmountain.com.
Hyde Lounge: Modeled after it’s sister in West Hollywood, the newest addition to Mammoth’s après scene is as LA as a ski town gets with celebrity DJs, neon lit leather booths, and upscale apps and cocktails. mammothmountain.com.
Petra’s Bistro: A dozen full-bodied wines are poured in this casual wine bar that also serves innovative cocktails like the Sonny Carter (cucumber vodka, fresh ginger, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice) and small plates in a living room-style setup warmed by a roaring fire. petrasbistro.com
The Village Lodge: Just steps from Mammoth’s shopping, dining, and nightlife hub, not to mention the Village Gondola, nothing beats the Village Lodge for convenience. Studios and condos offer kitchenettes and other perks, like access to three fitness centers, five hot tubs, and an arcade for the youngsters. mammothmountain.com.
The Westin Monache Resort: Mammoth’s first four-star hotel (also in the village) is a mix of natural and modern elements, with studios and two bedroom condos decked out with Italian porcelain, glass, granite, and oak. Each comes with its own fireplace and dramatic views. mammothmonache.com.
Juniper Springs Resort and Mammoth Mountain Inn are the best picks for ski-in, ski-out accomodations, offering slopeside access to the Eagle and Main lodges respectively. mammothmountain.com/lodging.
Tamarack Lodge & Resort: Just a quick shuttle ride from the ski slopes, this charming property on the shore of Twin Lakes is a romantic hideaway. Choose from hotel rooms or cozy cabins (one of them LEED certified), and open the door to cross-country heaven. tamaracklodge.com.
Snowcreek Resort: The first and largest resort community nestled into the mountains on the outskirts of Mammoth Lakes, Snowcreek rents out condos and craftsman-style homes with access to a nine-hole golf course, The Double Eagle Spa (the only full service option in Mammoth), and the Snowcreek Athletic Club. snowcreekresort.com.