5 Reasons to Plan a Trip to Mammoth Mountain This Winter
Sitting on the eastern edge of California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, Mammoth Mountain has been operating since the mid-1950s and boasts the highest lift-served skiable terrain in the Golden State. Its iconic vistas, excellent snow conditions and diverse trails—from beginner slopes to challenging cornices that start well above the tree line—draw skiers and riders of all levels. But there is plenty to keep non-skiers happy, too, including riding a gondola for scenic views, grabbing a bite to eat at Eleven53 Cafe and snowshoeing Lake Mary Rd to Horseshoe Lake from Tamarack Lodge. Throw in destination restaurants, the best après ski bar in North America along with cozy hotels, and it’s easy to see why Southern Californians love Mammoth.
Mammoth Mountain: Unleash Awesome
There are four separate base areas at Mammoth with terrain for all levels, although Canyon Lodge and Eagle Lodge are good places for beginners. Depending on conditions and time of day, advanced riders and skiers usually make a beeline for the backside via the Upper Panorama Gondola or Chair 23 to access black diamond trails like Climax, Cornice Bowl and Scotty’s. For sweet powder stashes in the trees, head to Avalanche Shoots off Chair 22. The lower mountain chairlifts have great cruisy corduroy-groomed blues and greens like Easy Rider and Wall Street.
Once back in town, shop apparel and accessories from brands like Volcom, Burton and ThirtyTwo, or splurge on a new board and bindings at snowboard mecca Wave Rave. For ski tune-ups, rentals, custom orthotics and boot fittings, head to Footloose Sports. New to Mammoth Mountain this year—and making vacations even more convenient and hassle-free—is the award-winning Ski Butlers equipment delivery service. Their team can bring Rossignol brand rental gear to guests when out skiing and pick it up again once done for the day. Ski and snowboard technicians can also be deployed to hotels and lodges for custom fitting sessions.
Now that you have the lay of the land, here are five reasons to book your trip to Mammoth Mountain this winter and beyond.
Ski Smart With an IKON Pass
It’s no secret that ski trips can get expensive, especially when buying lift tickets. At Mammoth Mountain, beginners will pay $89 for access to Chairs 7, 11, 15 and 17 only, while the average adult ticket window price ranges from $169 to $209, depending on dates. Available from 12:30 p.m. each day, there’s a 25% discount on same-day afternoon tickets, although bundling hotel nights with ski passes is another way to save. For now, the best option is to plan for the 2023-24 season with an IKON Pass. With three different pass levels providing from four to 14 days of unlimited skiing and riding at Mammoth, plus up to 39 different resorts across North America (and depending on the pass, internationally in Japan, Europe and South America), additional IKON perks range from savings on lodging, dining, demos and repairs to activities around town.2/14
Hip Hotels & Ski-In, Ski-Out Resorts
From European-style lodges to modern mountain retreats, Mammoth has somewhere to stay for every type of traveler. While the new Limelight Hotel Mammoth & Residences will bring 151 rooms and 15 luxury residences—plus a restaurant, lounge and club—to Mammoth Village next fall, the Sierra Nevada Resort, an Outbound Hotel, is one of the hottest stays in town this season. The midcentury hotel reopened after a major remodel with a complete refresh of its 179 deluxe rooms and fireplace suites along with a new restaurant and wine bar. Those keen to cross-country skiing or snowshoeing might prefer to book a historic California craftsman style cabin at Tamarack Lodge. Located less than 10 minutes from The Village, its quiet and cozy lakeside setting dials the romance up several notches. For ski-in, ski-out benefits and walkability to shops and restaurants around the gondola, The Westin Monache Resort, Mammoth is a solid choice.
Après Ski & Destination Dining
Mammoth is where people come to ski hard and perhaps party even harder—its beloved old-school dive bar, Clocktower Cellar, boasts one of the best whiskey collections in California and was named the Best Après Ski Bar by USA Today. For a European-style, DJ-led après session, the Canyon Lodge Sundeck is the place to be every Friday and Saturday from 2 to 5 p.m. While no visit to Mammoth would be complete without some beers, tots and a burger at Mammoth Brewing Company, the wine bar at the new-look Sierra Nevada Resort is elevating après with its sommelier-curated wine list, charcuterie boards and champagne “Friday Night Flights.” Easily the buzziest spot to dine out around Mammoth this season, however, is from Food Network stars the Voltaggio Brothers, whose modern Italian-American concept Vulcania promises a hearty menu of thoughtfully reimagined classics from pizza and pasta to salads. For mai tais, margaritas and island vibes amidst the winter wonderland, there’s Lakanuki, whereas Stellar Brew & Natural Cafe is the bomb for wraps, açaí bowls, breakfast burritos and locally roasted coffee.
Because not everyone’s idea of a good time involves getting first tracks or french fry and pizza-ing their way down beginner slopes, Mammoth Mountain has a stack of activities and adventures for those not inclined to ski. Wooly’s Tube Park has renovated and expanded its tubing lanes, added new snowmaking fan guns, sports an elevated conveyor lift and created a larger sledding area. Snowmobile Adventures and scenic Snowcat Tours are a fun way to explore the backcountry while some of the best cross-country skiing in California is at Tamarack Lodge—the monthly full-moon snowshoe trips make a memorable winter wonderland experience. For an afternoon completely off the hill, channel The Dude and “mark it zero” at Mammoth Rock ‘N’ Bowl, which has arcade games, a bar and brasserie. Wellness seekers can book treatments at Double Eagle Spa (which includes access to the Snowcreek Athletic Club, plus use of its steam room, hot tub and swimming pool) or massages and infrared sauna sessions at Body Synergy.
Getting There & Away
With weekly flights from Carlsbad and Burbank, getting to Mammoth has never been both easier or faster thanks to Advanced Airlines. The only carrier flying into Mammoth-Yosemite Airport operates its direct service Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays with prices from $230 one way. But if ditching the car isn’t an option, the drive includes a 260-mile stretch along U.S. Hwy 395—a scenic gateway to the Eastern Sierra Nevadas that leads road-trippers into the heart of Mammoth Lakes. It takes just under seven hours from San Diego and about five from Los Angeles, including stops in charming small towns like Lone Pine or Bishop, which are both great places to grab a bite and look around. Another perk of driving to Mammoth is accessing its famous thermal hot springs; exit Hwy 395 at Benton Crossing Rd and go for a soak at The Rock Hot Tub (the water temps are cooler here, but views are some of the best) or Wild Willy’s.
Mammoth Mountain Stats
Summit: 11,053 feet
Vertical Drop: 3,100 feet
Terrain: 3,500 acres
Named Trails: 175
Parks: 10 (100+ jibs, 50+ jumps, 2 halfpipes)
Lifts: 25 (2 gondolas, 9 express quads, 7 triples, 2 express six-packs)
Average Season Dates: November to Memorial Day—although thanks to a record-breaking snow year in 2019, the season was extended to the Fourth of July.
Local Insight: Same-day Mammoth Ski Area lift tickets are also valid at sister resort June Mountain, which can often be less crowded on weekends and during peak holiday times.
Keri Bridgwater is a freelance writer covering travel and lifestyle. Her work has been featured in Fodor’s Travel, Marie Claire, Matador Network and InsideHook, among other outlets and publications.