Terrain park worth the trek south
MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. — Bob Dylan’s “Nashville Skyline” mixed well with my truck’s heater and the chill outside.
I was on my way to Mammoth Mountain, a place I had wanted to visit after seeing the resort featured in Warren Miller movies.
I drove over Monitor Pass, still open in early December because the heavy snow hadn’t come yet. The road winds through the mountains along the Carson River. Areas burned in last summer’s Walker fire are evident.
It took me 2 1/2 hours to get there from Tahoe. The drive was not painful. Sights like black cattle eating yellow grass against purple mountains filled the trip.
I checked in at Motel 6, asking the desk clerk for the nearest bar. “Whiskey River,” he said.
I found it about a mile up Main Street, a five-lane road that is Mammoth Lakes. My shrimp fajitas and apple bread pudding were excellent. So were the Double Nut Brown microbrews.
Next morning, I was up early ready to ski, uncertain what the conditions would be. I found packed dry snow, steep terrain and an efficient gondola.
The mountain has an 11,000-foot peak accessed by a gondola at the main lodge. It has other smaller peaks, too, which spread out and run left from the main lodge. Much of the mountain sits above treeline.
From the peak looking northwest, the jagged Minarets of the Ansel Adams Wilderness stand tall. Looking due east, a large valley is filled with pines. The edge of Mono Lake is in the distance.
Not far from the main lodge and the gondola is the terrain park —
Unbound. It has everything, including a stereo system blasting all day. If Tahoe residents do travel to Mammoth, it’s often for its park.
“Tons of pros come down from Tahoe, especially early season,” said Kellie Hines, spokeswoman at Mammoth.
The mountain is large but easy to get around because its lifts are well placed. The three lodges have a modern design, and recycling bins are everywhere.
Mammoth is similar to South Lake Tahoe in the sense that it revolves around a five-lane highway. It even has a Chart House, a Ski Renter and a Nick ‘n’ Willie’s Take and Bake, like South Lake Tahoe.
One couple at Mammoth bought a house at Incline Village last year, but then sold it and bought one at Mammoth Lakes.
Great Britain natives Charlie and Sue Day, who live full time in Los Angeles, said they made the move because the snow is drier and the resort has a more European feel than Tahoe’s.
“Lake Tahoe is beautiful, but here you can go to the hot springs,” Sue Day said. “And the bus system is fantastic. It’s more like a European resort. Tahoe is isolated. This is more like coming to a year-round resort.”
Elevation: 11,053 feet
Vertical rise: 3,100 feet
Snowmaking: on 46 trails
Skiable acres: more than 3,500
Midweek ticket: $57
Weekend ticket: $60
Season pass: About $400, if bought it early