More than half a hundred years, Angelinos have flocked to the secluded corner of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains. It’s easy to understand why. Despite the 8,000-foot altitude, homes for sale in mammoth lakes sprawl of splashy condos and strip malls carries a distinct Los Angeles feel. Nevertheless the surrounding frozen lakes and granite peaks, immortalized by the photographer Ansel Adams, are decidedly un-La, and may hold their particular with any landscape in Colorado or Canada. Together with expanded daily flights in the San Francisco Bay area and Los Angeles, not forgetting a flurry of new après-ski offerings, Mammoth is hoping to draw skiers from beyond the Golden State.
1) SIBERIAN SPA
Imagine an enormous white expanse of what seems like frozen Siberian tundra, dotted with natural hot springs and encompassed by soaring peaks. Hilltop Hot Spring is popular with locals, however, you can take part in, too. You will find no formal signs or footpaths – just keep to the S.U.V.’s past the airport 5 minutes east of Mammoth Lakes and savor a steaming soak, cost-free. For further privacy, cross the direction to Wild Willy’s, a more secluded spring, which demands a 20-minute trek and a pair of snowshoes.
2) From The FIREPLACE
On the opposite side of town is Tamarack Lodge and Resort (163 Twin Lakes Road, off Lake Mary Road; 760-934-2442; tamaracklodge.com). The rustic log cabin, featuring its bark-wood ceiling fixtures and 1920s-era fireplace, also happens to have an impressive wine collection and also the area’s best chef: Frederic Pierrel (cheffrederic.com). The intimate Lakefront R Restaurant serves up a combination platter of elk medallions, grilled quail and pork marinated in wine on a bed of spicy mashed potatoes ($30). Prior to being seated, possess a mulled wine ($5) or hot cider ($4) from the fire.
3) PANCAKES AND BISCUITS
Before showing up in the slopes, top off on pancakes and black-and-white memorabilia with the Stove (644 Old Mammoth Road; 760-934-2821), a cozy spot with long wooden booths and old pictures of cattle ranchers on its walls. For over forty years, the Stove has served hearty meals like the Sierra Sunrise (a heap of fried potatoes, peppers, onions and ham topped with eggs and cheese for $9.95). On the way out, pick-up a homemade pie ($13.95) – apple, apricot, cherry. Arrive there early as the place fills up fast.
4) BLACK TIE SKIING
Experts from Black Tie Ski Rentals (760-934-7009; blacktieskis.com) will come for your condo and fit you for skis or snowboards. Heck, if the boots don’t feel snug by midday, Colin Fernie along with his team will meet you on the slopes and exchange your gear, or switch your snowboard for some skis. Not bad for less than $40 (at least for beginner skiers).
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5) FRESH TRACKS
With over 3,500 acres of trails, Mammoth has more variable terrain than most mountains (mammothmountain.com). You will find three lodges: Eagle, Canyon and Main. Skiers trying to find soft powder and fresh-groomed runs begin Eagle and stick to the sun to Main or the backside of your mountain (to prevent lift lines, turn back the order). Or use the gondola from Main towards the summit, 11,053 feet above sea level, where you can find a relaxing destination for hot chocolate. Marvel with the daredevils who ski off Hangman’s Hollow. Or brave the steep and icy chutes of Dave’s Run or Scotty’s. A safer alternative is Santiago, away from the summit’s less crowded backside, which provides scattered glades as well as gorgeous views of the Minarets, a majestic number of jagged granite peaks.
6) SOUTH From The BORDER
Lunch on Mammoth typically involves Mexican fare. If you can’t get the new Roving Mammoth, a bright orange snowcat that doubles being a food cart, serving up burritos ($5.50) – you can even track the snowcat’s whereabouts on Twitter – you can find pulled-pork nachos ($11.42) with the Mill Cafe (760-934-0675), a festive après-ski spot on the base of Chair 2 (in true California fashion, its entrance is scattered with beach chairs). Or, for overflowing plates of nachos and fish tacos, visit the Yodler (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2571), a Swiss-style chalet off the Main Lodge. Gomez’s (100 Canyon Boulevard; 760-924-2693; gomezs.com), a Mexican place with over 200 tequilas and fittingly mammoth margaritas, relocated into a spot in the midst of the village a year ago.
7) ART PARK
Take Chair 10 as much as ski down a number of wide-open runs like Easy Rider or Solitude that stay powdery during the day. Or try Quicksilver, a highly-groomed trail with gently sloped glades and variable terrain. Snowboarders should go to the new terrain Art Park, which made its debut in December and showcases funky artworks affixed to its rails and steel structures. Mammoth also recently opened the Stomping Grounds, a terrain park full of jumps, jibs as well as an Acrobag – which resembles a huge blue moon bounce – to train flips. Nonsnowboarders should take the newly carved Village Ski Back Trail, a scenic path that meanders past pine trees as well as the backyards of condos, linking the mountain with all the village.
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8) GROWLERS AND PASTRIES
Thankfully, après-ski at Mammoth will not involve bad cover bands. If anything, it involves its eponymous microbrew. Insiders make their way to a warehouse converted a few years back into a beer-tasting room for your Mammoth Brewing Company (94 Berner Street; 760-934-7141; mammothbrewingco.com). Still in ski gear, they down free samples before completing their growlers with IPA 395 ($13), the local favorite, or grabbing kegs and cases to go. Another favorite spot among Mammoth’s growing international crowd is Shea Schat’s Bakery (3305 Main Street; 760-934-6055), which feels, and smells, like the on the inside of a gingerbread house. The store serves up steaming hot cocoa and stocks rows of pastries – cinnamon nut bread, ginger cakes and bread pudding.
9) MIDMOUNTAIN DINING
This winter Mammoth remodeled its swanky restaurant Parallax (800-626-6684; mammothmountain.com), that can take up nearly half of your cafeteria at McCoy Station, a midmountain gondola station up in the Main Lodge. Its modern décor and Asian-themed trimmings, including white bark walls, would not look out of place in downtown Manhattan, save, perhaps, to the tacky TV Yule log fireplace. Yet at 9,600 feet, it is actually reachable by only snowcat, which picks people up with the Mammoth Mountain Inn (10001 Minaret Road; 760-934-2581; mammothmountain.com). Hop aboard a heated snowcat that feels like a spaceship when you gaze up with the mammothllakes through its glass roof. Then feast on dishes ranging from a rack newest Zealand lamb to grilled chicken with risotto (foods are prix fixe at $89, including snowcat ride). For optimal views, arrive as night falls.
10) ROCKIES MEETS HOLLYWOOD
Never mind the gondola D.J. booth and vintage lanterns over the bar. Hyde Lounge (6201 Minaret Road; 760-934-0669; sbe.com/hydemammoth) lives as much as its Sunset Boulevard forefather. You will find bottle-service-only booths (from $200), lasers everywhere and Mammoth’s version of your strict door policy (“No snowboard gear”). The audience sipping pricey cocktails is a mix of slovenly clad snowboarders and dressed-to-impress partygoers, all crammed within its fire-engine red walls. Heat by using a burning mango ($12), a jalapeño and vodka concoction, and settle set for an evening of individuals watching.
11) OLYMPIC WORKOUT
In recent years, Mammoth Lakes has changed into a year-round hub for Olympic and pro athletes drawn to the high altitudes and easygoing ethos. A great byproduct may be the state-of-the-art facilities on the Snowcreek Athletic Club, which resembles a giant barn just outside town. The club recently opened the Double Eagle Spa (51 Club Drive; 760-934-8511; snowcreekathleticclub.com), with earthy massage rooms, Vichy showers plus a yoga studio. You could possibly even bump in to the New York Marathon winner Meb Keflezighi hitting the gym inside the weight room.
12) MOUNTAIN MAN
To appreciate the Sierra Nevada range’s jaw-dropping beauty, drop by Vern Clevenger’s gallery (220 Sierra Manor Road; 760-934-5100; vernclevenger.com) around. His color photos (prints start at $149) of nearby canyons, lakes and mountain vistas are ubiquitous out and about, as they are the person himself. Vern’s scruffy yellow jacket and unruly hair have already been a familiar presence at Mammoth considering that the early ’70s. He is a modern day-day version of Ansel Adams, who over anyone put this corner of California on the map.