To make the most of a winter vacation to Mammoth Mountain please consider these local tips.
Arrive early and stage out of Main Lodge or the Chair 2 parking lot for the best snow. Keep in mind, as you ascend higher in winter, snow conditions generally improve. Cold snow is fast and forgiving, life is too short for boiler plate groomers. And, because you are parked and ready to go by 8 a.m., you can have a choice “ski in/ski out” parking spot which can double as your own personal lunch spot, locker, and beer cooler. More on that later!
Pro tip: bring your own mug for a $1 cup of coffee at main lodge, includes whipped cream if desired. Lifts usually open promptly at 8:30 a.m.
Plan on befriending the following chairs: 1,2,3, Gondola, 6, 23, 12, 13, and 14. Keep in mind the lower numbered chairs open first, followed by a staggered opening of the rest, weather permitting. Grab the Mammoth App for an extra technological advantage, but use your eyes to spot loading chairs from a distance as that can trump electronics. Ride and ski hard for either an early (or late) lunch.
Pro tip: head back to the car for a picnic lunch, or, hit up one of the $9 salad bars and build a meal fit for two. Fresh mountain water is available all over Mammoth, stay hydrated.
Afternoon adventures. Take the upper panorama gondola to the top of Mammoth Mountain, elevation 11,053 feet. While taking in the views of the Los Angeles and San Francisco watersheds, think about a summer visit to a snow-free landscape. Up here one can get lost into the alpine setting, hiking trails literally go for thousands of miles.
From the top of Mammoth Mountain you can access the entire 3,500 acre ski area and beyond. Popular side trips can include a mild hike up the Hemlocks, skiing through a lava tube ala “Hole in the Wall”, attempting to ride all the chairs in numerical order, putting on some comfortable snow boots for a transforming walk along the Minaret Mile, or just a leisurely cruise down Road Runner to end the day safely and in one piece!
Happy hours in Mammoth Lakes can really stretch your dollar and often run from 3-6 p.m. daily. This author has some favorites in Town: Roberto’s, Lakanuki, John’s Pizza, and Morrison’s. Don’t overdo it, at elevation your body may struggle with less oxygen combined with excess alcohol. Later, find a hot tub to soak in, get to bed early, rinse and repeat.
Pro tip: tuned equipment is the fountain of youth. Drop your gear off at Mammoth’s main lodge repair shop and they’ll store it slope-side for you. Hit their tip jar as this article has already put extra cash in your pocket.
Author John C. spends his day building substantial wealth while riding powder on Mammoth. Catch him on chair 12.