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by Vicki Andersen




They certainly knew what they were doing when they named this ski and snowboard resort “Mammoth Mountain”. First, there’s the life-size version of a mammoth gracing the area near the Main Lodge, where we had to pose for the requisite photos of us and “woolly.” Then I looked upward and discovered over 3,500 skiable acres spread across a massive mountain ornamented with 29 lifts and 150 named trails and bowls. Actually, I couldn’t begin to see all of it from one vantage point, but it was easy to see the available terrain extending beyond my view. And that’s when I fully realized why it’s “Mammoth”.

Mammoth’s mammoth, located adjacent to the Main Lodge, just begs for a souvenir photo (photo by Vicki Andersen)
Nearly every view is backdropped by beckoning ski trails enticing the snowslider (photo courtesy of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

Formed by volcanic eruptions a couple hundred thousand years ago, the area was first inhibited by the Paiute. Then in the mid 1800s, miners 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 it 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 double chairs, three gondolas, three surface lifts, and six moving carpets.

Just a sample of the runs comprising what is appropriately named Mammoth Mountain (photo courtesy of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

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.

Every lift presents endless choices of routes down the mountain (photo by Vicki Andersen)

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.

Three terrain parks encompass seventy-five 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.

The Main Lodge is a full-service facility housing nearly everything you might need (photo by Vicki Andersen)
A lunch stop at the Mill Café provides the perfect place to savor the morning’s runs (photo by Vicki Andersen)

A resort this size has need of various base areas, and Mammoth does a fine job of filling this need. 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. A great lunch menu at the Mill Café, situated half-way between the Main and Canyon Lodges, is enhanced with entertainment provided by 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.

The Village Gondola transports riders from the Mountain Center to the Canyon Lodge, while the Lower and Upper Panorama Gondolas whisk you from the Main Lodge to the very top of the mountain (photo courtesy of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

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 problematic.

When night falls, enjoy strolling the streets of The Village (photo courtesy of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area)

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. Call them (800-MAMMOTH or 760-934-0745), send them an e-mail (800mammoth@mammoth-mtn.com), or check out their Web site (www.MammothMountain.com).


Vicki Andersen may be reached at: skicat1@comcast.net.


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