No snooty ski vibe or elite alpinism here -- just one big-ass mountain and a California cool-kid crowd that help make Mammoth an almost year-round rager, both on the slopes and off. Destination numero uno for SoCal skiers (it's about a six-hour drive from LA), the 3,500-acre resort not only offers terrain for all levels, but epic spring corn, snowbunnies boarding in bikinis, and après that stretches late into the night.
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When to go: The resort usually has a solid base by mid-November, and you can count on the winter season going through at least Memorial Day. As you'll no doubt be fresh off of watching the Winter Olympics in Sochi, check out America's largest winter biathlon (skiing and shooting!) at the end of March.
How to get around: Ditch the driving and take advantage of Mammoth’s fantastic (and free) shuttle system. The airport shuttle into town is synched up with flight schedules, and puts you at the base in only ten minutes.
Three runs not to miss:
1. On a good powder day, head to Chair 22 for Sunshine Glades, Grizzly, or Shaft (oh, you'll definitely dig it), and tear through some of the Sierra’s best tree skiing.
2. For the more advanced, Dragon’s Tail and Dragon Alley (accessed by the Cloud Nine Express chair) also offer perfect powder, and usually with fewer people.
3. For a beautiful route all the way around the mountain and back down to the base, take the gondola to the top of the Sierra and catch Upper Road Runner to Road Runner to Lower Road Runner -- a fantastic run, even without Wile E. Coyote in pursuit.
Pro tip #1: Don’t be one of those suckers at the ski rental shop squandering prime piste time in line. For a few extra bucks, Black Tie Ski Delivery will bring skis, boots, and boards to your room (delivery is actually free) for a personal fitting. You’ll be carving it up before the rest of the masses have even picked out poles.
Pro tip #2: A well-kept secret for excellent side country is June Mountain, Mammoth’s lesser-known sister, about 20 minutes away; it reopens on December 13 with 500 acres of beginner and intermediate terrain, plus an additional 2,590ft of vertical.
Dining: After years of slogging along with mostly unremarkable restaurants, Mammoth’s culinary scene -- with new chefs and a renewed focus on local and seasonal ingredients -- is finally starting to reflect its California roots. One revamped resto earning rave reviews is The Lakefront, whose seasonal menu features mountain-inspired dishes like trout and venison. In the Village, star chef Mark Estee is pleasing palates with handmade pastas and creative wood-fired pizzas at his recently opened Campo Mammoth. To save a few bucks, or bust a wicked hangover, Roberto’s serves up ridiculous portions of hearty Mexican fare just a few miles away in Mammoth Lakes.
Local brews: Mammoth Brewing Company's the big dog on the mountain, and is right across the street from the Village. From 4-6p daily, score $4 pints of their entire lineup, including the award-winning Double Nut Brown, German-style Fire & Eisbock, and the 5.5% ABV Real McCoy Amber, which in no way will make you want to run away. Oh yea, don't forget to grab a growler of Golden Trout Pilsner for the after-party in your hotel room.
Après: Like the temps, the prevailing post-slope scene at Mammoth watering holes is chill. In the Village, the Clocktower Cellar Pub draws both locals and visitors with a killer selection of whiskeys and microbrews, plus its totchos, a hearty hybrid of tater tots and nachos. Another Village favorite is the recently renovated Yodler, with its Alpine-y vibe and Swiss/ German vittles; did someone say homemade schnitzel? Meanwhile, the no-frills-but-always-fun Tusks appeals to the 20-something set, with killer views of the slopes, slightly overpriced but awesome drinks, and Jager flights built into old skis, aptly dubbed Shotskis.
Nightlife: Mammoth’s nightlife tends to be dictated by whichever in-the-moment hotspot catches the attention of the visiting SoCal snowbunnies. One soon-to-be favorite is Underground Lounge, which opened at the end of last season and has a swanky late-night scene, complete with live tunes and small plates; best wear something dressier than your finest club fleece. As far as trusty standbys, Whiskey Creek draws an après crowd that often lingers into the night thanks to the beer, (cover) bands, and hip-hop. For a down-home locals' joint, The Tap, in Mammoth Lakes, delivers with all the right dive-bar essentials: cheap beer, a pool table, and a rocking jukebox.
Other than skiing/ boarding?
For a wild ride down the mountain that doesn't involve burning quads, hit up Woolly’s Tube Park & Snow Play. Or, just outside of town, the Tamarack XC Ski Center boasts more than 19mi of groomed trails, as well as uber-cool full moon tours on cross-country skis or snowshoes. If you’re visiting with your special lady friend, knock her woolen socks off with a romantic snowcat dinner that includes a heated luxury cat ride (with champagne) up to a pre-fixe meal at Parallax on the mountaintop.
Where to stay: For a pack-‘em-in guys' weekend, the Village Lodge is a solid choice, with suites and one- and two-bedrooms that come with full kitchens, balconies, and fireplaces. Though a bit farther from the nightlife, Mammoth Mountain Inn is your budget play, assuming you don’t mind dated, sometimes shabby décor (Pro tip #3: rooms in the main building are a step up from those in adjoining buildings). The four-diamond Westin Monache Resort Mammoth is the spot for big spenders, though deals can be found in the offseason. Finally, VRBO and Airbnb rentals abound; just make sure to book one close to the Village, especially if you don’t have a rental car.
1. The Lakefront163 Twin Lakes Rd, Mammoth Lakes
2. Campo Mammoth1001 Minaret Rd., Mammoth Lakes
3. Roberto's Cafe271 Old Mammoth Rd., Mammoth Lakes
4. Mammoth Brewing Company94 Berner Street, Mammoth Lakes
5. Clocktower Cellar Pub6080 Minaret Rd., Mammoth Lakes
6. The Yodler10001 Minaret Rd, Mammoth
7. Tusks Bar Mammoth Main Lodge1 Minaret Rd., Mammoth Lakes
8. Underground Lounge6201 Minaret Road, Suite 153, Mammoth Lakes
9. Whiskey Creek Restaurant24 Lake Mary Road, Mammoth Lakes
10. The Tap4599 Main St, Mammoth Lakes
11. Woolly's Adventure Summit Tube Park1 Minaret Rd, Mammoth Lakes
12. Parallax Restaurant1 Minaret Rd at McCoy Station, Mammoth Mountain
13. The Village At Mammoth Lodge Mammoth Lakes1111 Forest Trl, Mammoth Lakes
14. Mammoth Mountain Inn1 Minaret Rd, Mammoth Lakes
15. The Westin Monache Resort50 Hillside Drive, Mammoth Lakes
16. Black Tie Mammoth435 Commerce Circle, Unit B, Mammoth Lakes
17. June Mountain3819 Highway 158, June Lake
18. Tamarack Cross Country Ski Center163 Twin Lakes Rd, Mammoth Lakes
Tamarack Lodge's Lakefront restaurant features a main dining area with ten tables, as well as picturesque views of the Twin Lakes nearby. Have a cup of the cider, made in-house, or other seasonal beverages such as hot mulled wine.
Named one of Esquire Magazine's 'Best New Restaurants in America' in 2012, it's a must-visit for anyone with a stomach.
The real draw of this awesome Mexican resto is its daily 4-6pm happy hour, which includes fish tacos and margaritas.
Less than a Lincoln ($4 to be precise) will score you a year-round beer tasting of eight brews and root beer.
Who could say no to 150 whiskies? 150 whiskies!
Allegedly Bavarian, the closest thing to anything German you'll get is hoisting a Hofbräu in the Biergarten/ deck.
Live music, lots of TVs, shot ski!
This above-ground live music venue is also an excellent French-inspired restaurant.
Steaks here are seasoned with Whiskey Creek's very own rubs and sauces and cooked over massive oak and ash logs on a wood fire grill for one distinctive flavor.
Ever so slightly off the beaten path, this divey bar is a great place to shoot some pool, grab a pitcher or a pint, and unwind after a day of shredding the gnar.
Usually slippery slopes are not a good thing... until you add a tube. Which is the idea behind Woolly's Adventure Summit Tube Park, which has six groomed tubing lanes.
This Mammoth resto's only accessible via luxury snowcat ride, but rest assured, it's worth it. You'll be treated to a gourmet Chef's Table upon arrival, and drift back down the mountain once you're done, snowcat-style.
Smack dab in the middle of everything, it's no wonder that this lodge was among Condé Nast Traveler's Top 50 Ski Resort properties, and one of Away.com'sTop 20 Ski Lodges.
Call it old, call it retro, call it what you will, but this inn has been a local landmark since 1959.
You'll ski downhill at breakneck speeds in order to kick back at this super-stylish and minimalist resort.
This Black Tie franchise brings convenient ski rental services to patrons in the Mammoth Lakes area. Rather than making you trek to their brick-and-mortar location, these guys'll drive the skis to wherever you want em; how cool is that?
This ski resort is packed to the gills with everything you'll need for a truly epic ski vacation. There are stores nearby to pick up supplies, lakes within hiking distance, a restaurant and bar for after-ski refreshments, and, of course, killer powder for the skiing itself.
Ok, so it may look like tipsy skiing, but cross country skiing is hard. Test your mettle at Tamarack, which offers 19+ backcountry miles of freshly groomed skating, classic and snowshoe trails, as well as tours and lessons.