Formed by volcanic eruptions a couple hundred thousand years ago, the area was first inhibited by the Paiute. Then in the mid-1800s, miners who had become lost in this region of the Sierras discovered gold. Although it was rumored to be the largest strike outside of Virginia City, a series of misfortunes hindered mining efforts, and after three decades gold lost its appeal. After the turn of the 20th century, folks came to recreate in these picturesque mountains, but it was skiers who pumped new life into the region.
The first permanent rope tow was installed in the mid-1940s, followed ten years later by the first chairlift. Now snowsliders can make their way from the 7,953-foot base elevation to the 11,053-foot summit on a wide variety of uphill conveyances: two six-pack lifts, ten quads (all but one of them high-speed), seven triple and four doubles chairs, three gondolas, three surface lifts, and six carpets.
Forty percent of the terrain is rated intermediate, with runs off all except the very top lifts. From the shoulders of the mountain plummet countless chutes and bowls with a black diamond or double-black diamond designation. The easiest trails, comprising 25 percent of the runs, are clustered near the base areas.
Intermediate-level snowsliders who find themselves atop the Goldrush Express delight in the open slopes of Solitude, transitioning into the gladed run called Lower Dry Creek. These folks also have a selection of trails, chutes and gulleys scattered all over this mammoth area.
Few ski runs, anywhere, can compare with taking skier’s right off the top of the Panorama Gondola, dropping down the bowl known as Dave’s Run, and catching Ricochet, which runs the length of the Cloud Nine Express, a high-speed six-pack which replaced the old double Chair 9 this season. This combination of lines keeps you high and opens up an unbelievable view of the valley and nearby mountains.
Choices for Boarders
Three terrain parks encompass 75 acres and serve all ability levels of snowboarders and freestylers. The Main Park features a 600-foot-long Super-Duper Pipe with 18-foot walls, a Super Pipe with 15-foot walls, and an assortment of unique and creative features for expert and intermediate riders. South Park caters to intermediate riders and includes a boardercross course. Canyon Park offers small features for those just getting the hang of park styling.
A resort this size has need of various base areas, and Mammoth fills this bill. The Main Lodge is a full-service facility with cafeteria, bar, rentals, lessons, childcare and lockers. Here, too, are the Mammoth Mountain Inn, Yodler Bar & Pub, and Snowmobile Adventures outfitter. The Canyon Lodge is a full-service on-slope facility, while the Eagle Lodge, a terrific beginner area, is the closest to the town of Mammoth Lakes. The Mill Café is situated halfway between the Main and Canyon lodges. Its great lunch menu is enhanced with entertainment provided with in-your-face views of sliders negotiating Stump Alley.
Cross-country and snowshoe enthusiasts will find 25 miles of groomed trails, most circling one of the four alpine lakes for which the town is named. Rentals and lessons are available at Tamarack Lodge, where you can also rent cabins.
Located at the base area of the Village Gondola are a choice of accommodations, restaurants and bars, and shops clustered in an area known, appropriately, as The Village. Mammoth runs complimentary shuttle buses that weave together all these locales with the Town of Mammoth Lakes and the Tamarack Lodge & Resort.
An average annual snowfall topping 400 inches means Mammoth Mountain is normally in operation from early November well into May. And with an uphill capacity of 50,000 riders per hour and 3,100 feet of vertical descent, lift lines are seldom a problem.
If you desire a snow-based break from the slopes, try a scenic snowmobile tour to Inyo Crater. Sledheads will find over 75 miles of trails and vast snowplay areas in the Mammoth area. Full Moon Cross-Country tours are a nice alternative, or opt for a snowcat excursion to the mid-mountain Parallax Restaurant for dinner.
Whether it’s an extensive assortment of trails and terrain parks, a wide range of options for dining and lodging, or a diversity of things to do, Mammoth Mountain certainly lives up to its name.
Vicki Andersen is a writer who lives in Portland, Oregon.