Mammoth Mountain, California
There are less than a handful of mountains on this vast planet that can claim world-renowned parks coupled with world-class backcountry, but leading the pack of resorts that can is undoubtedly Mammoth Mountain, California. A quick sprint away from So Cal and a short drive from the Reno/Tahoe area, Mammoth is bustling every single weekend and has attracted hundreds of transplants from across the country, be it pro or average Joe. Back in the early mid-2000s, Mammoth was the hotbed of freestyle inblunds riding, spearheaded by The Grenerds, a lively crew to say the least, who moved to Mammoth from the east coast and terrorized the town and the mountain with their debauchery and innate riding abilities. Since then, Mammoth has been at the cutting edge of parks and pipes and it has become one of the most infamous mountains on the globe and this past winter, they received more snowfall than nearly any resort in the world, amassing nearly 700 inches (yes, you read that right) of accumulation from opening day until just a few weeks ago when they shut down the lifts for the season. If you have a yearning to head to Mammoth for a snowboard vacation, pass along this little article and get ready to have the time of your life, because Mammoth certainly has it all for any snowboard enthusiast.
Even on the last day the snow is still good. PHOTO: Javier Silva
The closest airport is right outside of the town of Mammoth Lakes, California, about 6 miles south, and it offers plenty of direct flights from LAX. However, in the winter, wind and weather cause delays and cancellations so if you're planning to fly into Mammoth, check the weather and be prepared to rent a car and drive from LAX, which is about five-and-a-half hours, but a breathtaking drive once you get outside of city limits.
Mammoth had quite the snowfall last season. PHOTO: Peter Morning
Another option is flying into the Reno/Tahoe international airport and driving south about 3 hours and you'll find yourself in Mammoth pretty quickly. This is also a beautiful drive as the Sierras envelop a long, winding road and you pass Yosemite right before you come to Mammoth Lakes.
Brady Lem is ready for Mammoth opening weekend again. PHOTO: Peter Morning
While ticket prices vary throughout the season, Mammoth is on the very reasonable side, with tickets starting as low as $79 (non-holiday season), but there is also the option of purchasing the Cali4nia Pass, a deal that offers a season pass to Mammoth, June Mountain, Bear Mountain and Snow Summit for $849. That's right. $849. If you do the math correctly, it might be worth it if you live in California or if your snowboard vacation is longer than approximately nine days.
There are only two types of weather in Mammoth, sun and snow. PHOTO: Mark Clavin
It also allows you to explore other California resorts if you feel like checking out what The Golden State has to offer. The pass also gives you some really amazing discounts and deals, like 5 Exclusive Early Up events at Mammoth for first tracks and free breakfast, 5 Bring-A-Friend tickets (50% off 1-day lift tickets; 30% off during holiday periods)*, 10% off multi-day rentals (non-holiday) and up to 20% off lodging at Mammoth Lodging Collection properties.
Where to Stay
The beauty of Mammoth is that there are PLENTY of places to stay, but beware, they fill up quick, so be sure to start planning early enough if you wanna get the most options. If you want the feel of a typical ski area village, Mammoth has it, with lodging options right at the base of the gondola to whisk you up on the hill first thing in the morning. The Westin is one of the nicer hotels in the area and if you're willing to spend some extra cash, the amenities and food are incredible. There's also the Mammoth Mountain Inn, a more rustic mountain town hotel right at the base of the resort (whch is located about 6 miles from the village). If you wanna stay in Mammoth Lakes proper and check out the town, try Air BnB, as there are hundreds of options, from multi-bedroom mansions to smaller cabin-style properties. There are your standard, cheap hotels as well, like Motel 6, located right off the main drag and walking distance to shops, grocery stores, restaurants and some pretty fun après spots as well.
There are parks for everyone, even Torstein Horgmo. PHOTO: Mark Clavin
Down in town, there's a handful of restaurants to grab a bite, from super fancy to very affordable and ranging from Mexican and Japanese to American bar-style cuisine. Our top spot for Mexican food is Roberto's. It hosts a relaxed, mountain town vibe, the food is exceptional, and the margaritas are massive. Down in the village, there's also Gomez's that offers really good Mexican and is walking distance to everything village-related. Also in the village is a new spot called 53. While a bit spendier, the food is remarkable and it's a great spot to relax and unwind after a long day of riding and they offer some of the best mixed cocktails in town. If you're in the mood for ramen, the best in town is definitely Ramenyas. A small A-frame cabin located off the main drag, they offer up hot ramen and cold beers to wash it down and the prices are very affordable. For breakfast, check out The Good Life Café. The portions are huge and the prices are great. They have omelettes and hashbrowns that can legitimately quell the worst hangover you've ever had. Hit it up on the way to the hill. This section of the article could go on for about 1,000 more words, as there are dozens of great eateries in Mammoth Lakes, but those are a few of our favorites.
We included Brandon Davis in this story not just because he calls mammoth home for a portion of the season, but also because he is about as hairy as a Mammoth. PHOTO: T. Bird
There's one main shop that has been servicing Mammoth Lakes for decades now. Wave Rave is one of the most iconic snowboard stores still in business. Founded by famed Mammoth local Steve Klassen, Wave Rave is a must-stop shop when in Mammoth, as they have everything you need to keep you warm and dry on the hill. From goggles and gloves to decks and bindings, it's a really good spot to refresh your kit or simply kick it and get a feel for the local scene. The kids who work there are really nice and eager to answer any questions you might have.
For all the action happening on the mountain, there is an equal amount going on in the bar. PHOTO: Dillon Lemarr
Nothing says "après" like a good, old fashioned sun deck, and Mammoth has one of the best in the world (not to mention a TON of sun in the winter). Take a few laps and grab a beer with lunch or ride all day and then untie those tight boots and sip a Bloody Mary. That's what Mammoth's infamous sun deck is best for. It's the stuff dreams are made of. Down in the village, check out The Clocktower Cellar for some after hours debauchery. This place gets loose, as beers are cheap and the crowd is packed intot he basement for a true mountain town bar feel. And then there's Laka Nuki, arguably an establishment as iconic as Mammoth Mountain itself to many a snowboarder. Laka Nuki is usually the after hours spot and the dance floor goes ballistic after midnight on a weekend. We have lost many a brain cell in Laka Nuki and given the chance, we'd do it all over again any day. If you wanna roll a few games, there's a new bowling alley down in town called Mammoth Rock N Bowl and it's a hell of a good time. Pick up a pitcher and start slingin' pins after a long day on the hill. There are a grip of other drinking establishments in Mammoth as well like Rafters, but the village is without a doubt the best après spot.
Explore Your Surroundings
The Mammoth backcountry is absolutely breathtaking. Whether you're going for a hike off the resort or splitboarding the Sierras outside of town, there's some unbelievable terrain to test your mettle on if the snowpack is right (and safe). Again, always be sure to buddy up and carry a beacon, shovel and probe with you and check sierraavalanchecenter.org for the snowpack report. If it all lines up, you're going to score some of the best riding of your life.
In the off-season, hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and skating is Mammoth's bread and butter. You name it, Mammoth has it. If your Mammoth vacation takes place from late March until closing day, know that your day on the hill isn't necessarily done once you're finished riding. The Sierras are some of the most majestic mountains on earth, and they play host to a bevvy of outdoor recreation for anyone that simply enjoys being outdoors, and while it may be a little cold and snowy up on the resort itself, a forty-five minute drive to nearby Bishop might be 70º and sunny, so pack your hiking boots and some active wear, because the surrounding Mammoth area has it all.
Mike Ravelson enjoying the insane JLA Memorial Skatepark. PHOTO: Mary Walsh
Be sure to check out the JLA Memorial Skatepark on your way out of town. It's an all-concrete adult playground for skaters of all abilities and if you're lucky, you might even see local legend Scott Blum ripping the ever living hell out of the park. Another attraction is Devil's Postpile, an outdoor recreation area and national monument that offers amazing hiking and spectacular views. If mountain biking is your thing, do a little research online and you'll find out that the Mammoth Lakes area has world-class biking as well. If you're lucky enough to link up with a local, they'll show you a trail system that rivals anything you've ever seen.