On the Slopes: Mammoth Mountain: One of the biggest, maybe the best

David Rittenhouse/Special to the Nevada Appea

David Rittenhouse/Special to the Nevada Appea

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It's easy to forget about the big mammoth elephant southwest of Carson City with all the fine skiing and riding at Tahoe resorts " Heavenly, Squaw Valley, Kirkwood, Northstar and the rest of the 15 mountain resorts around us. So, all too often we forget about the big one at Mammoth Lakes. It's a bit smaller than Heavenly " 3,500 acres-plus to Heavenly's 4,000. But the view from the Mammoth Inn at the base of four lifts, including the Gondola to the top of the mountain (11,350 feet), is simply one of a kind.

They're looking on the beginner Discovery lift, the Broadway Express, the Panorama Gondola to the top, the Thunderbowl Express and Stump Alley. Lifts 13 and 14 are on the other side of the mountain and offer beginner to expert terrain, plus additional lifts and parking spaces.

The town of Mammoth Lakes itself is 9 miles down the road and it boasts a complete selection of restaurants (including a fine sushi restaurant). Many visitors stay in the village rather then in the complex of inns at the base lodge of the resort.

Mammoth is a lovely three-hour drive from Carson City, splendid when the weather is nice with snow-clad mountain looming to the west. We made it on one tank of gas and had enough for a couple of days driving around town.

As do all resorts, Mammoth rates its runs green, blue and black or double black, but it's a relative rating; some of Mammoth's blacks are advanced blues to me. David Rittenhouse, my photographer and ski friend, skied all that was open and would have rated the runs less challenging than marked.

Me, I found Stump Alley just fine " about six minutes up and 50 seconds down. In the past I skied the Canyon Express quad (6 minutes plus up) starting at the parking area. At the height of the season the road up is lined with parked cars as there are several base starting points. But at its busiest, Mammoth has plenty of room for the crowd. This year the season will last through May 31 " no Fourth of July skiing or riding, but I once did the Fourth there.

After May 10 when Squaw closes, it'll be Mammoth or hiking, and that's not a bad dilemma.

I've skied Japan, Europe, Korea, North Africa and Scandinavia and Mammoth matches any of them. Now I'm hoping to ski Dubai one of these days when they invite me.

If you've got an extra hour or so either going or coming back from Mammoth, there's a fine hot spring free for the visiting. It's called Buckeye Hot Spring. On the north end of Bridgeport take the road to Twin Lakes, follow the signs to Buckeye Hot Springs and Campground. It's about 10 miles on a good dirt road, crossing over Buckeye Creek. Signs will lead you to a flat parking area overlooking the creek and the hot springs. Two are on the side of the hill, one shallow but the other deeper, both with plus-100 degree temperatures.

It's a steep descent to the creek and the best hot spring on the edge of the creek. Temperatures vary there according to how much creek water is mixed with the hot springs up the hill.

You can exit the area on the same narrow dirt road heading away from Bridgeport and eventually joining Highway 395. Take it slow as this is a winding road with many blind curves but some awesome views.

- Contact Sam Bauman at 841-7818 or sambauman@att.net.


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