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Story and photos by Lynn Rosen and Steve Giordano   February 1, 2012

  Skiing at Mammoth   Closed sign at Mammoth  

Don’t believe everything you read. Not all ski resort weather forecasts should influence your decisions to visit/travel/ski a mountain resort. Predictions and weather reports for our upcoming week at Mammoth Mountain Resort were so dismal for skiing—temps in the 40s and 50s, no snow in weeks, abundant sunshine—that we considered not going. But since we had a prior obligation, we decided we'd just see about renting bikes and enjoy the snowless terrain instead. However, once we arrived, we were persuaded that most runs were open and skiable and to give it a go.

The temps had been cold enough at night so that the mountain's mammoth snow-making network had been pumping out mountains of snow to cover many of the groomer runs and that skiing would be just ducky.

  mammoth plaza   mammoth plaza  
So much sunshine, so few people
  Dave McCoy statue  
Mammoth shopper
Village shopper
Mammoth rental line
Founder, Dave McCoy, “A man bigger than his mountain,” is always watching.
No waiting this morning


Next morning, we all met at the onlyest breakfast gathering spot in the Village, the Old New York Deli & Bagel Co., ( for stacks of pancakes, breakfast burritos, eggbeater omelets and, of course, bagels, before ambling through the empty Village to the Mammoth Mountain Rental Shop just next to the Canyon Gondola. No lines here!

  Big sale at Mammoth   End of day at Mammoth  
Big sales in the Village
End of the day

This was our first sunny, gorgeous bluebird day, and the walk through the village and into the ski shop was a vision out of a sci-fi movie. It was as if the world had stopped and all the people had been moved to another planet. There were no lines, no people, no customers, nobody. The weather, the service, the gear (brand new, fabulous rocker skis), the experience—spectacular. But—no peeps! Just us. Uh-oh. What were we in for?

  Empty Mammoth gondola  
Gondola passengers at Mammoth
Most gondolas were empty
Room to spread out and enjoy the views

Three of us had a ten-person gondola all to ourselves, loaded by a cheerful liftie with good advice on where to ski.

  Skiers at Mammoth   Skiers at Mammoth  
Good day to keep on the main runs

Once up on the mountain at the Canyon Lodge base, the sun shone and the runs above looked well-groomed, quite skiable and empty.

  Canyon Express Lift at Mammoth   Checkin gates at ski lift  
Canyon Express Lift
Checkin gates at lift

There being no lift lines at any of the lifts, we chose the Canyon Express. BTW, Mammoth has the fabulous RFID ticket system: put your lift ticket in a jacket pocket all by itself, wave it in front of a reader bar which opens the gate that lets you pass into position to load onto the lift. No fuss, no muss. And in our case, no waiting.

  Canyons Liftgate at Mammoth   Canyons Lift offload station  
No waiting on aisles one, two, three or four
Canyons Lift offload station at the top
  Lone skier at Mammoth   Playing bean bag at Mammoth Plaza  
Where is everybody?
Oh, playing bean bag toss in the Village
  Burrito crowd at Mammoth   Sarah Sheperd the burrito cat girl at Mammoth  
Or at the Burrito Cat on the hill
Hosted by Sarah Sheperd

How about lunchtime burritos from the ever-popular and legendary Burrito Cat, run by Sarah Shepherd from Whittier, CA. She’s a certified PistenBully driver who takes her modified snow cat from place to place on the mountain and serves THE best ever burritos and beers. Don’t miss her.

  Marines train at Mammoth   The only crowd we saw was a Marine mountain division based at Camp Pendleton bivouacked at Mammoth, training for deployment someplace where the snow flies. They seemed to have no idea where they would be going after Mammoth. For many of them, this was their first day ever on skis.  
  Signage at the top of Mammoth   Monumet to Mammoth patrollers  
Elevation 11,053’ and enough snow to ski to the bottom
Monument to three valiant Mammoth patrollers

We skied most of the mountain for three days, took the gondola to the very top (elevation, 11,053’) to check out the monument to the three ski patrollers who had perished in an unusual accident in a sulfur vent in 2007. Mammoth is a dormant volcano, but still has active vents and three patrollers were caught in one of them.

We could've skied down from the top, but chose to ride the gondola back to the main lodge base, then skied back to the Village from there. Mammoth is, indeed, mammoth.

  Sipping cappucino at Mammoth   40% off sale  
Time to slack back with a latte and some canine company
Dangerous signs for inveterate shoppers

The Village was warm and shopping beckoned. We dropped way too much money at Alpine Approach ( where everything was 30%-40% off, then enjoyed a cappuccino in the sun with our shoes off. Still, no crowds. Just a few dogs and hardy souls who hadn't listened to the weather forecast. Which was sun, sun, sun, sun abundant sun with daytime temps in the 40s & 50s. It was my kind of skiing.

Our off-mountain experiences paralleled the weather and skiing conditions. Our stay at The Village Lodge ( was awesome and it wasn’t just because the staff was so available. Located right in The Village, the Lodge had kitchen units, free wi-fi, outdoor pool, great shuttle service and the most courteous, helpful staff. Not to mention their restaurant, Smokeyard (, where meat truly rules.

  Mammoth Brewing Company bottles   Mammoth Brewery  
The Real McCoy Amber Ale is a local favorite at the Mammoth Brewery
A (root)beer tasting at the Mammoth Brewery is an experience not to be missed

Visits to local bars, restaurants and breweries like the Hyde Lounge ( and Mammoth Brewery (, Gomez ( and The Mountainside Grill (, featuring new gourmet cuisine at the Mammoth Mountain Inn made great endings to great ski days.


BTW, we had an experience early on which you might want to note. One of us forgot a medication. We arrived on a Sunday when no pharmacies were open. However, the Mammoth Hospital ER can prescribe medications from their pharmacy 24/7 if you go in, see a doctor, fill out the paperwork and submit to all the bells and whistles the staff must go through.

Every mountain clinic and/or hospital I’ve ever had (the misfortune) to visit has been staffed by THE best of the best in their league. These folks could go anywhere, but they love snowsports and they know their mountain symptoms, dis-eases and how to deal with them. Besides, they all have great senses of humour! But don’t just get injured to see for yourself. Trust that if you need help with altitude sickness, broken bones, wrenched muscles or forgotten medications, the local ER or clinic is where you’ll be given excellent care. Especially the Mammoth Mountain Hospital and ER (

Another medial tip: Don’t forget when you’re at Mammoth, you’re at “elevation.” The Village, where you’ll most likely sleep, is 8,100.’ Altitude sickness can be minimized by an herbal tablet, Altitude Adjustment. Look for it on the internet at

  Mammoth Hospital Emergency Room  


All this to refill a prescription?

How about the ease of getting to Mammoth?

You can fly right into Mammoth Lakes airport, just spitting distance from the new lower village.

Together with direct flights into Mammoth Lakes airport, the village has given Mammoth Mountain Resort a huge new position on the ski resort hall of fame/ski resort "A" list.

Air service continues from Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose. New additions? Orange County and San Diego! Regardless of what part of California you're flying from, you can get to Mammoth in about an hour. Book your flights here.

Mammoth Mt. knows how to make the proverbial lemonade snow out of some darned disastrous drought conditions. This was some of the sweetest bluebird, cruising skiing ever. No lines, blue skies, warm temps, eager and friendly staff and great camaraderie. Not to mention the skiing was fabulous: smooth groomers and plenty of snow; the sunny weather was to die for and, because there were no lines and very little traffic, we all felt as though we owned Mammoth Mountain. We are all so going back to Mammoth.



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